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The Order of Oddfish


Secrets of Story Episode 28: Does The Order of Odd-Fish Follow Matt Bird’s Rules?

June 2, 2021

Look at this amazing Order of Odd-Fish art by Isa—that is, Bellaboutime on Instagram! I’m awed by Isa’s depiction of the All-Devouring Mother’s multifarious and terrifying eyes, its multiple slavering mouths, and the fascinating way it unravels and collapses. Every inch of the monster-goddess is packed with beautifully gruesome detail (I love the bits of gristle hurtling out of its maw!). And the way Ian and his ostrich are silhouetted against the smoldering red sky is epic. Gorgeous and impressive!

Wait, why am I posting Order of Odd-Fish fan art? Well, one reason is because I started an Instagram of the many pieces of Odd-Fish fan art that I’ve received over the years. Another reason? Matt Bird and I recorded a brand-new episode of our Secrets of Story podcast . . . and it’s all about Odd-Fish!

Matt and I have been debating storytelling techniques for years, both in real life and on his Secrets of Story blog (which led to his useful, successful, and highly recommended Secrets of Story book).

There are two other great episodes that Matt and I recorded with writer Lou Anders, but I haven’t officially posted about them on this blog yet. But I’ll get around to them soon! But I wanted to post about this episode while it’s still fresh.

On his blog, Matt has been advancing his theory that to suck us into a story, the writer needs to make the reader Believe, Care, and Invest. That is, the reader must be made to Believe in the world of the book (usually through some oddly specific details), Care for the hero’s situation (often because the hero suffers some unmerited or disproportionate insult or injury), and Invest in the hero (by demonstrating that the hero has it in them to solve the problems of this story).

Matt annotated the first chapter of Odd-Fish in this post on his blog, and did a Believe-Care-Invest test in this other post on his blog. Both of his posts are worth reading if you’re curious to see the nuts-and-bolts of how the first chapter of Odd-Fish works!

And if you’re interested in how Odd-Fish holds up against Matt’s storytelling best-practices advice, here’s the episode of the podcast:

In the episode, I mentioned the fan art gallery show / costumed dance party we did for Odd-Fish way back in the day. It was a wild night, the costumes were glamorous, the dance-fights were spectacular, the art was top-notch! Lurid pictures, shocking video, and the total low-down on that party can be found here.

Also in the episode, Matt and I refer to a chart that interrelates the nine major characters of Odd-Fish‘s ensemble. You can see it below! Our hero Jo is in the middle, and you can see how she is related to each supporting character by how they bring out a certain aspect of Jo through being a negation of some aspect of her character (for instance, Jo has a plain style and doesn’t want to be notorious or in the spotlight; the opposite of Sefino, who has a foppish style and craves notoriety and the spotlight). And those supporting characters are related to each other as negations of similars: for instance, Sefino is a silly dandy while Ken Kiang is a dangerous dandy. I didn’t start writing Odd-Fish with a chart like this in hand, but a chart like this was being built throughout the writing of the book, and it helped to sharpen and distinguish the different characters.

Click the chart for a larger, easier-to-read version:

Matt and I also talked about whether Odd-Fish polarizes characters into Head, Heart, and Gut, as many stories do, an interesting phenomenon we discuss in Episode 23. That kind of polarization does kind of work for Odd-Fish, but not as tightly as I expected it would. So I thought about it, and I realized that Odd-Fish has its own character archetypes . . . and maybe the challenge for every author is to figure out our own archetypes that are natural for us to write, and not just mechanically repeat archetypes that we see elsewhere. Anyway, here are the bespoke archetypes I figured out for Odd-Fish:

All right, that’s enough about The Order of Odd-Fish for now! After all, I’ve got that brand new book coming out in September!