Wocka Wocka! These are the jokes, folks!
Last night, I gave an odd and wandering (as is my wont) little talk about infusing humor into one’s writing for The Hook’s Write Night. I had Fozzie Bear along. I read the introduction to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I told a Sarah Tiana joke (which, it perhaps goes without saying, she tells better than I do).
None of this helped me write a new scene for The Sequel. But in the interest of not forgetting my own advice, here are the things I said were important to consider when trying to be funny on the page:
- Think about what/who you think is funny. Then think hard about why you find that material/person funny. What is the mechanism at work? How can you replicate it?
- The setup is at least as important as the punchline. Screw up the setup and you can’t land the joke, no matter how good the punchline is.
- Give some thought to the purpose of the humor. What are you trying to do — and why?
- Context is important. Some humor only works if the people reacting to it have enough context to get the joke. This goes well beyond a good setup; this is about knowing to whom your talking.
Oh, and then I read a snippet of Murder by the Slice that I’m pretty sure I’ve never read in public before. Happy to say: it got a laugh.
So far this year, I’ve written over 3,100 words for this blog.
So far this year, I’ve written 0 words for It’s All About the Dough.
This is, perhaps, not a winning strategy for completing the book.
Back on January 11, my friend and fellow author A.R. Miller gave a shout out to my blog. The entry she linked to was hardly an entry at all. But she is clearly influential, because my readership numbers spiked. In my stats, it looks like a skyscraper among split level homes.
Which is to say, this blog post referring my 5 loyal readers (I’m rounding up) to her blog, is unlikely to have an equivalent impact for her. But, hey, she’s looking for something new to read, so weigh in, if you’re so inclined. And while you’re there, check out her books. (My review of Disenchanted ran in the Iowa Source, but doesn’t seem to be online.)
I suggested Underground Airlines by Ben Winters. (Which, by the by, calls to mind Memoirs of a Dead White Chick by fellow Writing Lad Lennox Randon.)
I’m sitting at a table in the Marion Pubic Library, and from my seat I can see Murder by the Slice on the shelf. It’s just a few books down from Enter Pale Death and a few books up from Murder in the Hearse Degree.
To be honest, I think Murder by the Slice is a better title than either of those. I’ve noted here before that titles may be the only thing I’m actually good at writing.
But that’s the not the important thing, of course.
The important thing is this: I wrote that book over there.
A case could be made that I should be able to write another one.
Heck, from where I sit, I can see a shelf that is two-thirds full with books by Richard Castle.
People, Richard Castle isn’t even a real person.
Bringing all the powers of my philosophy degree to bear, I’m willing to suggest that I am a real person. Thanks, Descartes!
So, to recap: I’m a real person who has written a real book. You can check it out from the Marion Public Library.
Sometimes, there’s no replacement for good old fashioned research.
I carried this out of a pizza joint, drove it home in my car, and ate a significant portion of it. (That last part was frowned upon when I was delivery driver.)
Listen, I may be having trouble getting my plot to come together, but I can’t claim it’s for lack of material from which to draw. There’s my own pizza delivery career, of course, but that’s just the tip of the pizza slice.
Here’s a quick roundup of just some of the stories one finds when one googles “pizza delivery news story.”
Fulfilling special requests
Facing down danger
On the wrong side of history
Delivering to people stuck on public transportation
Folks, I do a lot of freelance writing about a wide array of things. Today, I am writing articles about curling, figure skating, and hockey.
There is no pizza involved. Sigh.
Yesterday’s post was pretty gloomy — which is no way to get a novel written.
So today, something more upbeat. I’ve been signing copies of Murder by the Slice — and Slices, too — lately.
I’ve been signing them for my kids’ friends. I’ve signed some that folks have given as gifts. I’ve signed several for my friends who are taking a chance on the book.
I gotta tell ya: I love signing books.
This is probably because I love having books signed. My home is filled with books with authors’ signatures inside, collected at readings and author interviews. I have a few books that I’ve purchased signed (though I prefer not to do that while an author is still living). I have books signed by the famous and the obscure in rare first editions and in beat-up paperbacks. I have personal inscriptions and unreadable scrawls. I have books I love signed and I have books I didn’t particularly like signed.
All of them are important to me.
And so when I have the opportunity to sign a book for someone, I always feel as though it is a great privilege. I know not everyone values signed books the way I do (witness all the signed books — my own included — that end up in used bookstores), but signing something I’ve written is nonetheless validating.
It would be mighty nice to sign copies of It’s All About the Dough someday.
This week, Mr. Zuckerberg and his groovy “memories” feature have been reminding me that Murder by the Slice came out five years ago. And as I’ve noted here, I quickly had 30,000 words of The Sequel written and all seemed right in the world.
But, of course, the book went off the rails, and I’ve struggled mightily to get it back on track. I remember a long streak of writing every day without making anything better. I remember The Writing Lads doing everything they could to encourage me and to help me find the path through the book. Today, I’ve been thinking about how almost exactly a year ago — as my son headed back to college — I took to Mr. Zuckerberg’s site and announced I’d have a finished draft by the time he came home for the summer.
He heads back to school again in a couple of days, and here I am, trying again. Writing this blog each day — which forces me to at least think about the book day after day but which isn’t the same as writing the book itself.
All of this is to say: today I’m feeling discouraged about the project. Again. Or still.
But there has been some good news today: fellow Writing Lad Dennis Green was working on the third book in his trilogy today. He used an octothorpe (a word he almost certainly would not let me use in my books) to let folks looking at Mr. Zuckerberg’s site know he was writing.
I hope to do the same soon.
From today’s Corridor Business Journal Morning Rush email:
Pizza Hut says driverless cars might boost employment
Countering conventional wisdom that an automated future will force large numbers of workers to retrain or switch fields, Pizza Hut is claiming its new fleet of driverless delivery vehicles could actually increase the need for human workers. A company official suggested driverless vans would require the chain to hire more workers to monitor vehicles, ensure they’re running properly and answer customer questions on delivery status, the Washington Post reported. Economists and analysts have warned self-driving vehicles and other advances in automation could displace millions of workers – about 1 in 9, according to a U.S. Commerce Department study – but a new Forbes Insight survey of more than 300 executives suggests the threat may be overblown, with automation instead “elevating the tasks of first-line workers and allowing them to focus more time on higher-value activities.”
Hmm. Maybe Passable Pizza gets a prototype driverless car…and mayhem ensues? Maybe a Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel sort of thing?