So You Want To: Write An Abridged Series
Although abridged series work best when it's So Bad, It's Good, any animated show can potentially be abridged well, (eg. Mirai Nikki). It's been popular ever since the genre's Trope Maker, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, was created (although the concept of abridging works goes back for a while). If you want to take a shot at joining the parodies yourself, look no further than the advice below. (Side note: Although abridged series are generally allowed as far as legal matters are concerned, due to being parodies, the use of copyrighted material pits them against the DMCA. Because of this, YouTube has a habit of having abridged series pulled down and the channels suspended. So don't be surprised if your own Abridged Series gets taken down as well.)
- Humor. While necessary in any abridged series, keep in mind that the number one reason abridged series fail is because they try too hard to be funny. If you can't think of something truly humorous (get independent feedback); you can get by using Non Sequiturs, pointing out Plot Holes, or sometimes just playing it how the original did and letting its' weirdness/terribleness shine through. If you really want to, you can add a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer caption with it.
- Clip editing. The entire point of The Abridged Series to spoof a visual work's pre-existing material, so you'll need to have a general knowledge of how to splice and use clips. You may also need a good editing program, such as Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere Elements. There are free ones, but they tend to be less user-friendly.
- Audio and clip quality. When making an abridged series, make sure your viewers will be able to make out what's going on and hear what the characters are saying. We're not asking you get the best of the best, but it'd be nice to make it at least somewhat clear. Decent USB microphones can be had for under $100 these days, and decent recording software does exist in freeware: check out Audacity to start with. Also, weirdly enough, Guitar Hero has a really good microphone.
- Voice acting. You'll need to get a few other people on board to provide voices for the characters, unless you're a Man of a Thousand Voices who can do it yourself. Most of us aren't, so don't hesitate to look for fellow thespians.
- Knowledge of the series you're spoofing. What's the point of making an abridged series if you don't know your source material? You don't have to be an obsessive, die-hard fan of the source material, but you need to at least have a grasp of what it's about and its flaws in order to lampoon it. Otherwise, you'll miss opportunities for jokes and Lampshade Hanging. Watch each episode extremely carefully before you abridge it and look for odd visual moments you can make fun of.
Choices, ChoicesThe general idea of an abridged series is to keep fairly close to the original plot, but much quicker - about a quarter of the original length seems to work best. Some abridged episodes completely change the plot, and some run nearly as long as the original. While these may not be true abridged series, there's nothing wrong with them - however, keep in mind you're only making things harder on yourself. When in doubt, just stay true to the original and let the humor come from what they say and do.
- Characters. There are several ways to approach character, and it's usually not best to go at each one the same way.
- Flanderization- Take one character trait and make it their entire character, a variation of this is to keep one character trait from the canon, and change every other (Edgeworth in Bullshit Evoloved keeps his snobbishness but alters nearly everything else).
- Altered Voice- Making the one American character Texan, or giving the tomboy a man's voice, are common examples of this.
- Humor Style - Restricting yourself to one style isn't usually necessary, but a fairly lighthearted style is usually good.
- Running Gag - A good running joke can be the best part of an abridged series; don't worry too much about the original joke being funny, sometimes a lame joke can grow funny over time and vice versa, but you should make sure each time you use the joke it works and makes some amount of sense. One thing many people don't realise is that anything that can be done to a trope can be done to a running gag; subverting, lampshading, etc.
- References - The ideal reference gag works whether someone gets the reference or not. Make sure you don't alienate the fanbase your show is targeting, and if you are going to use them, make sure to share the wealth - if half your references are to the same show, it's going to make people question what series they're actually watching a parody of.
- Extra Credit - Adding animation or background music can take your series to the next level, but make sure you know what you're doing and are adding to your series, not cluttering.
PitfallsSince The Abridged Series is subject to Sturgeon's Law, there are quite a few.
- First off, Schedule Slip is a big danger here. Working on each episode of an abridged series takes at least several hours, and a lot of people don't have time for it. If you're really, truly interested in committing yourself to an abridged series, make sure you have a few hours to spare in your free time to update on at least a semi-consistent basis.
- Bad audio and clip quality.
- Not being funny. But nobody can help you with that.
- It might be wise to have some idea of where you're going. It's not easy to turn out multiple jokes on command, and Writer's Block can contribute to Schedule Slip. With this in mind, feel free to ask for help. Most television comedies have an entire writing staff, because two heads are better than one. You don't have to One-Man Army it.
- Overzealous copyright protection. One the one hand, that's good—if the source material's lawyers feel threatened by your product, it means you're doing something right. On the other hand, it keeps anyone from seeing your product... and YouTube has a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy when it comes to copyright violation, Fair Use: Parody or not. The alternative is, of course, other hosting sites; many abridgers migrated to blip.tv precisely because they are less hot-headed about copyvio. ...Well, were less hot-headed. The new mecca for abridging has yet to arise.