Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Man walks into a bar . ..

Everybody says that humor is one of the hardest things for a writer to do properly, but I believe that it is a skill that can be learned should one have the patience and inclination.*  I expounded on this in my Laugh Lines article The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction from Dragon Moon Press. and which relies on the title line of this blog.

Humor requires not only a structured delivery mechanism that works, but also careful attention to phrasing to maximize the impact of the punch line.  In Laugh Lines I tried to reduce writing effective humor to a set of simple rules one could follow in getting from the set up to delivery.  I illustrated each with sprinkles of my own wit** caged from my Sam Boone stories, all of which were written in fits of exuberance and then edited to death to get the funny parts just right. 

Writing an entirely humorous story is not the point of the rules. Instead the various rules can be cherry picked to serve whatever ends the writer pleases.  Some of these rules came from articles, a few from random conversations, some were learned through many, many failed attempts, but most are so obvious it is amazing that they are ever overlooked e.g. Never tell the punch line before you start seems so obvious, yet time after time I see this being played out in novels and short stories as well as at well-lubricated convention parties.  

I'd like to say that my own brand of humor stems from my usual sunny disposition and positive outlook on life, that it is an expression of happiness at life; an optimistic  celebration, as it were.  But that is not an attitude that should be at the fore when the first draft is finished.  Editing requires a far different and often brutally humorless outlook.  Nearly all of my best pieces were edited when I was depressed, angry, or generally deflated about my writing and at my most critical. That frame of mind made me concentrate on the mechanics of the "jokes" and sharpen the humor.  In the end, both creation and editing states of mind involved a lot of hard work. For me, writing publishable humor has never been easy. 

Oh, and the title is from that classic tale of monkeys, beer, and the narrow focus of piano players.

*A sunny disposition and bottle of Scotch might help as well, but that's off the point.
** Hey, this is my blog and I can brag if I want to!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, this just reminded me to buy the Kindle version of your Sam Boone collection!


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