by Ray Fields – Someone who probably missed his time while writing for golf publications, newspapers, and Harvey for Loving People magazine, has honed his act at bus terminals and dank barroom basements around the country lets us in on
Five Tips On Writing Humor.
– An obvious fundamental applies to writing humor: don’t put anything in there that isn’t funny. Merciless self-judgment is essential to allowing your imagination take flight while helping ensure a successful landing. So, let ruthlessness be your co-pilot, whether it’s making sure the piece you’ve started on is on the right track, or reviewing that first draft for signs of corniness or banality.
You already know that pitiless partner — the tough editor sitting on your shoulder or simmering in your heart. It can be especially difficult to call on this intractable spirit right after 750 hilarious words have flowed onto your screen in a burst of rip-roaring hilarity, but it’s got to be done. Some things your inner critic might suggest:
1. Think about outlining:
It’s great when a piece emerges fully-fledged, but those of us who aren’t Mark Twain are seldom that lucky. If once you’ve embarked you find you’re not really sure, work through an outline and save yourself spending an hour or two on something you’ll only have to discard later. And once you flesh out the structure you may be surprised by entertaining solutions that appear: you might even discover that the best way to save that caustic screed about your noisy neighbor is to turn it into a thoughtful reflection on the salutary benefits of peace and quiet.
2. It’s not them – it’s you:
Beware the aggrieved riff. It can feel great when you’re giving voice to just what an awful morning you had at the recycling center or why you’re never speaking to your BF’s spouse again, but it’s a weak point of view, plus will often cause a reader to question whether you’re in fact the problem here.
3. Short and sweet:
A joke is a beautiful shortcut – the shortest distance between your thought and someone else getting it. When I was performing standup comedy regularly, I remember thinking there was a joke in the fact drugs and alcohol were less fun, and seemed to make me dull company – was it just the process of getting older? In my forties, substances no longer had the same magic.
Here’s the resulting bit:
“At my age I don’t need drugs anymore — I don’t need to smoke pot to hang around my house feeling tired and smug. I don’t need to drink to forget. And, not to brag or anything but I don’t need cocaine to poop my pants.”
Now, you may not be telling jokes – but you should trust to your story which, if it’s well-chosen, will more or less generate funny asides as it unfolds itself. (This is in keeping with a peculiar corollary of the best comedic stories: in contrast to other sorts of narratives, they tell – they don’t show.)
4. You’ve got rhythm:
The best humor writing shifts between the familiar and the surprising, the old and the new. Accomplished humorists are capable of shifting gears with almost imperceptible subtlety, or stepping on the throttle with reckless abandon; alternating the excursive with the snappy. Knowing how to chance styles and word choices to vary the pace and surprise the reader isn’t simply a trick of the trade, it’s a good way to stimulate your imagination.
5. Try not to try:
Eschew circumlocution. Lining up words you picked up from the thesaurus to affect a mock-intellectual tone — we’ve seen it before, so please forbear pedantry.
On the other hand, never be afraid to try something new. Just be sure to have another look the next day.