Need Writing Tips? Don’t Be Brian Griffin
The iconic cartoon family dog is everything I don’t want to be as a writer.
“Family Guy” is notorious for poking fun at every and any demographic, including writers. I’ve been a long time fan of the sitcom since the early 2000’s, and I’ve noticed a majority of the main characters have had a negative character arch over the past 18 seasons. Peter Griffin went from being a lovable and whimsical adult to being a downright idiot, Joe Swanson went from being a courageous officer to a depressed paraplegic. But in my opinion, the character that has had the worst development over the years is Brian Griffin.
Brian started out as the wise voice of reason for Peter’s issues, but has now fully become a pretentious, deluded liberal. He constantly holds himself on a higher standard from the rest of his family, but in the sense that he thinks he is far more intelligent than everyone else. An accurate depiction of why Brian has become a more unlikable character is in this clip from Season 8, Episode 7 where Glenn Quagmire tells Brian all of the reasons why he hates him.
However, what makes Brian one of the most laughable characters is his writing career and the mindset he has towards it. With that being said, I wanted to take the time to break down one of my favorite episodes (“Brian Writes a Bestseller” from Season 9, Epsiode 6) and talk about every way Brian encapsulates himself as a terrible writer. Hopefully, you can take away these points and integrate them the right way in your own writing.
Brian Gives Up After Writing One Novel.
A recurring joke throughout the series is Brian wrote an original novel titled “Faster Than the Speed of Love”. The book is periodically made fun of by the Griffin family for being cliche, unoriginal, and selling almost zero copies.
At the beginning of “Brian Writes a Bestseller”, hundreds of packages come in for Brian containing all of the unsold copies of his book, packaged in shredded up pieces of his book. After realizing how much his book flopped, Brian said he wants to completely give up on writing. His reasoning for this is he continuously “puts his heart out in his writing and it keeps getting stomped on”.
As a college student who is trying to get a jump start in writing , I can sympathize with Brian’s feelings, but not his actions based on them. Being a writer is an extremely vulnerable career, as it requires opening up and exposing the most raw parts of your mind and soul to the public. On the other hand, in any creative job, there is going to be far more rejection than acceptance. Anything that involves honing some kind of craft (such as writing, painting, acting, etc.) will push the artist to grow thicker skin. If you truly cared about your work rather than the reception of it, you wouldn’t quit after some criticism from your first project.
There’s going to be times where you pour your heart out into a piece, only for it to either get no views, rejections from publications, or no curations, and that’s okay. Be consistent and keep writing. Giving up after one loss is not going to advance you or your career.
His Bestseller Has No Passion Behind It.
Despite “quitting” writing, Brian decides to write his second book (that later becomes his “Bestseller”) out of spite after seeing in a newspaper the recent New York Times Bestseller is a self help book written by Pauly Shore. The reviews of it claims to be “chicken soup for the soul” and gives readers a “purpose driven life”.
So Brian, being the arrogant intellectual he is, decides to write his own self help book entitled “Wish It. Want It. Do It.” as a way to prove the public will read any low quality writing if it claims to “improve their life”. Overall, this clearly shows Brian is not writing his new book because he’s passionate about the cause, but just to see if he can truly fool the masses into thinking his piece has any worth. He even clearly states he cared about writing “Faster Than the Speed of Love” but doesn’t care about “Wish It. Want It. Do It.”
To add to that, this book has little to no writing in it. After one afternoon of writing, Brian starts the book asking the reader what their biggest dreams and fulfillments are, and then provides 50 blank pages for the readers to write out their desires. He does this in order to “make the readers do all of the work” and so they can fall into the illusion that the author did it for them.
“If people want crap, I’ll give them crap.”
This writing isn't to teach, inspire, or support a reader, this is writing to manipulate people for your own personal gain. If that’s truly the reason why you’re writing, you might want to consider a different career path. On the other hand, a good writer doesn’t make the reader “do all of the work”. Good writing makes reading almost effortless. A piece is well written when the words flow perfectly together and the reader never has to take very long to process each sentence. A structured piece combined with passion makes for good quality writing.
Brian Knows His Book Isn’t Good.
I think one of the worst parts of this episode is Brian is fully aware in the beginning his book holds no value and isn’t good. When Stewie is able to get his book published, Brian’s initial reaction is “You’re kidding, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever written”.
As a writer, you should be proud of the work you write. I can speak for myself and most writers when I say I can spend up to a week or more writing a story; starting with a rough draft, reading through it several times, editing it for hours, and then spending a day or two to write the headline and insert good photos. By the time your story is polished and done, you should want to show it off. If I’m not proud of my writing, I either won’t publish it at all, or edit it until it’s good.
I think what makes this mindset worse than simply just knowing his work isn’t good, is once Brian sees the overwhelming positive reaction to his book, he goes along with the masses and also claims it is innovative and profound. (This later comes back to haunt him at the end of the episode when he is featured on Real Time with Bill Maher.) He thinks he is above the system, and gains a sense of power from it.
Writers don’t “half-ass” their work, writers are perfectionists. What we initially write may be an in-cohesive stream of thoughts, but it eventually is edited to be a well structured story. Personally, I don’t publish my stories until I think every part is the best it can possibly be. Rushing out work to publish it as soon as possible will only make you look unprofessional. This is because it can lead to your work being full of typos and choppy. It’s important to read your work over (especially out loud if you can) and sit with it for some time before hitting the publish button.
Despite Being a Self Help Book, Brian’s Piece is Shallow.
Towards the end of the episode, Brian is featured as a guest on “Real Time with Bill Maher” with Dana Gould and Arianna Huffington and they discuss his new book. Although Brian was able to fool the public masses into think his work was insightful and deep, these live guests are able to see through Brian’s lies.
Dana Gould makes the comment that the readers can “wish it or do it, but only if you have the educational advantages or the societal advantages that five percent of the country has”. Bill Maher then elaborates to ask how this book may help people overcoming cancer or other terminal illnesses. Brian then says, and I quote:
“It’s not really for them, it’s for like if you want a car.”
This is one of the biggest ways you can sabotage your own writing, the act of only connecting with a finite or specific group of people. As a writer, your goal should be to resonate with as many people as possible regardless of their own background. If you want to be a successful writer, you have to make your writing an inclusive experience.
Sure, as a writer you may not have the answers to everything, but you have the ability to use a platform to help others find their internal answers. If you’re able to help someone either as emotional support or inspiring them, then you’ve done your job.
This should be obvious, but at the end of this episode, Brian’s success from his bestseller crashes and fails. And while everything he does is for satirical purposes, it is worth taking a look at Brian Griffin from a writer’s perspective. Brian is the leading example of everything you’re not supposed to do as a writer. Overall, despite the fact “Family Guy” is mostly just slapstick comedy, this episode taught me a lot about writing, and I hope you got to take something away from this episode as well.