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Why Doesn't The Jeff Formula Work (And How To Fix It)

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I've read and made fun of many bad stories. Quite a few of those stories follow the so-called "Jeff Formula". Don't know what that is? Well, to summarize, it goes like this:

1) Main character is bullied/abused/has something tragic happen to him/her, and goes insane (or is insane to start with).

2) Character gets powers, be it actual powers or bad writing.

3) Character goes on a killing spree.

The stories that follow this formula usually aren't very good -cough- "Clockwork", "Jeff the Killer", "Jane the Killer", multiple Jeff knockoffs -cough- Sorry, got something in my throat. However, I have to wonder if that's the fault of the formula or the writer. To figure that out, let's take a look at some of the stories that follow the "Jeff Formula", and point out their flaws.

1) Characters

A lot of "Jeff Formula" stories have very poorly written characters. Usually the main character has the most characterization, but even then that basically amounts to "troubled teenager with a crappy life". That's basically the best description of both Jeff the Killer and Clockwork as characters. We really don't know them as characters, and they really aren't very likable. At least give them a sense of humor outside of forced puns. If you want to make them sympathetic, make them likable. It's a lot easier to care about someone you like than someone you hate or don't know much about.

The side characters have even worse characterization, usually ending up as one-dimensional characters who have no other attributes outside of whatever purpose they're supposed to fulfill. The bullies from Jeff's story are a perfect example of this. They have no redeeming qualities or characteristics. They're just very cliché bullies. Now, granted, these are side characters, so they don't need a ton of characterization. However, if they're too cliché or one-dimensional, you just end up being annoyed by them. If you're going to make the parents abusive or uncaring, give a reason why they are. Did the parents not want a child? Are they alcoholic? Do they blame the kid for ruining their lives? Those are legitimate questions that could help make better characters. As for characters like bullies, I can buy them being one-dimensional. But if they say very cliché bully things, then it gets annoying.

2) Spelling and Grammar

A lot of stories that follow the "Jeff Formula" have pretty bad spelling and grammar. "Jeff the Killer", "Clockwork", "Jane the Killer", "Bloody Painter", hell, even "Ticci Toby", which isn't a terrible story all have bad spelling and grammar. This definitely isn't the fault of the Formula. It's more writer error than anything.

3) Plot

The plots of these stories are very similar, actually. But that's just owing to the Formula itself. That being said, I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to do something different with the plot or something. Maybe add something else to the plot, like sub-plots or something. However, most writers don't do that.

4) The Main Character

I already talked a bit about this in section one, but I'm going to talk about it again here. The main characters really don't have much characterization. However, from an aesthetic standpoint, they are pretty unique for the most part. Clockwork has a clock sewn into her eye (stupid, I'll admit, but unique); Rae the Killer is a cyborg; Ticci Toby has an interesting look; Jeff the Killer has that well-known smile that's basically become a cliché at this point. Honestly, on their own, these could be pretty good and interesting characters. The biggest flaw is that, well, they're only created to be Jeff knock-offs. Hell, some of them have their own corny catchphrases to make them distinguishable from other Jeff knockoffs. I think this needs to be stressed: when creating a character, make them a character. Focus on who they are, why they are, and how they are instead of corny catchphrases or who you're going to ship them with. The biggest problem is that a lot of writers don't do that when using the "Jeff Formula." They just want to make a Jeff knockoff or a person to ship someone else with. That's a rather idiotic thing to do and just creates yet another bad story.

So, based on these elements, it seems that, for the most part, it isn't the Formula that's at fault here. No, it's the writers. A lot of the elements that make the story suck is writer error: characters, spelling and grammar, and the main character. The plot, I'll admit, is mostly the fault of the Formula. However, I'm willing to overlook a plot like that if it's well written and has good characters.

The "Jeff Formula" itself isn't really a bad thing. It can be used to make good characters. Hell, I'm pretty sure some well-known comic villains were created through it. The biggest problem is the writers. A lot of people who use it shouldn't write. In the hands of a talented writer, the "Jeff Formula" can be used to great effect, creating great and memorable characters. In the hands of a bad writer, we get a story that I should Riff on my site.

Now, I'm not saying that making it so that the "Jeff Formula" being banned from the Wiki is a bad thing. It isn't, and I completely understand why it was done. Besides, if you want to use it, there's a reason the Jeff the Killer and Spinpasta Wikis exist. What I am saying is that if you want to use it, concentrate on making good characters. Don't think, "Gee, who am I going to ship my character with?" Think more along the lines of, "How can I make a good character?" Don't focus on how the fanart is going to look. Focus on your spelling and grammar. Don't worry about what the main character's catchphrase should be. Worry about making the character likable, sympathetic, and believable. If you do that, you should get a pretty good story.

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