cartoon writing wording

I love words.

And it’s a good thing since writing is really the crux of the whole cartoonist thing. You can be the greatest artist in the world, but if your writing stinks, believe you me, nobody is going to be buying.

One of my favorite tricks when I’m stumped is to hit the books. Actually, a few specific books. I’ve got a number of different reference volumes to kick start the writing process:

So if I’ve got a specific topic in mind, say for a custom cartoon, I’ll obviously start by looking for that specific word. Each book is organized a little differently, but they all make finding related content fairly easy.

If I’m just writing to write, however, I love to just leaf through and see what strikes my brain’s fancy. I try not to linger too long on any specific page, I just quickly skim and see if anything pops.

A favorite trick of mine is to look at phrases about and/or containing a word and seeing if there’s some way to combine them. It doesn’t always end up in a successful cartoon, but, if nothing else, you’re priming the cartoon writing pump.

Now remember, these books aren’t going to solve all of your problems. Nothing beats just sitting yourself down regularly, staring down a blank piece of paper and actively writing cartoons. (You’d be surprised how often I hear budding cartoonists complain about waiting for their muse to visit.) But used judiciously, they’re all great tools to have in your gag writing toolbox.

It looks like a few might already be out of print, but you should be able to pick them up cheaply on Ebay or Amazon.

Word up!


Ran across The Don Martin Dictionary a while ago, and with the Mad’s Greatest Artists: The Completely Mad Don Martin on the way, I’m glad to have such a comprehensive resource at my command.

Plus it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

Some examples:

  • “SHKLIZORTCH” – Water Squirting Out Of A Telephone Handset – MAD #231, June 1982, Page 31
  • “TOOMP, FWOP, FWIFFFFFF” – Car Hitting Inflated Man,Who Bounces Into The Air Continuing To Inflate – MAD #255 June 1985 Page 27
  • “FURSHGLURK” – Yecch Monster Dropping Into Giant Toilet – MAD #164, Jan 1974, Page 32

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