Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Fine Art of Writing Humor...No Matter What

Imagine this. You’re an actor. You’re up for a serious role. You’ve researched the part. You know the plot inside and out. You’re prepared. Confident. You get up to audition. And someone passes gas in an unusually loud manner and you begin to laugh. And you laugh and you laugh and you laugh. And you can’t even stop long enough to deliver the lines you have studied so diligently. Can’t perform your audition. Can’t engage in your craft. You leave the audition telling yourself, “If only it had been a comedy…”

Sometimes as a writer of humor, I feel that way. Only in reverse. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing stories with a comedic tone. But we all know real life is rift with moments that are far from fun. Or funny. Yet, in spite of the slings and arrows life shoots, comedy and humor writers still have to think--and write--funny. No matter what.

For example. I had great hopes of finishing the last fifty pages of my latest Calamity Jayne caper this past weekend. What happened? Oh come on. By now, you all should know the answer to that question. That’s right. SNOW! Heavy, wet, back-breaking SNOW. Now, for someone who has forgotten what it feels like not to wear a set of thermals beneath her clothing, who has had to shovel snow off the roof in a freaking blizzard, and who is already openly at war with Mother Nature, another snow event tends to make that person rather grumpy.

So Sunday afternoon I donned my Michael Myers coveralls once again, went out and shoveled my guts out, came back in overheated, my hair plastered to my head, my lips muttering some not-nice things about Iowa. In my office, Tressa Turner called out via an open Word file, “Get in here and help me solve this bloody mystery!” I made an about face and headed to the kitchen to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

Monday morning I awoke, determined to make up for lost time. I had just made a cup of decaf coffee and sat down at the computer when one of my daughters tracked me down.

“I can’t get into my car,” she said. “The doors are frozen shut.”

“All four of them?” I asked.

She nodded.

I pull on the old coveralls (it’s like -25 wind chill) and grab a great big honking screwdriver and go out to break into a car. Unfortunately, I discover not only have the doors frozen shut, but the locks, as well. Two hours later I managed to get the car unlocked, pried open one of the doors, got in and turned the key, and--you guessed it. Nothing.

I went back into the house. Tressa Jayne was still nagging me to write a funny, romantic scene for her and Ranger Rick. Meanwhile, I looked out the front door and discovered the city snow plow had buried my sidewalk under chunks of heavy ice and snow. Again. (See photographic proof)

I took my shovel and went back out and clear what I’d cleared before, shaking my shovel rather than a fist at the city snow plow operator as he drove by on the other side of the street burying my neighbors’ walks this time around.

Still fifty pages from ‘the end’ I sat down at the computer.

“Well?” Tressa said. “I’m waiting.”

“Me, too,” I told her.

“For what?” Tressa asked.

“To feel funny,” I said.

“Get over it,” Tressa ordered. “I want my friggin’ love scene. Get to it or I’ll snarf your Godiva chocolate and hide your cuddle duds.”

Now that’s what you call motivation.

So, when life is giving you a hard time, what tips do you have to help lighten the mood?

Chocolate is a given…

~Bullet Hole Bacus~


terrio said...

Yet another reason I DO NOT miss living up north. Three blizzards in Pittsburgh in 18 months and I was outta there. That was 14 years ago and I'm not going back. More power to you for sticking it out.

This reminds me of when I went through my divorce. I was a disc jockey on the air five hours a day, five days a week. Talk about not feeling light-hearted. It was so hard to keep smiling and be witty and perk everyone up while listening to Brooks & Dunn sing about the end of a relationship.

I hear smiling (whether you feel like it or not) can work wonders. Other than that, a large poster of a sandy beach maybe? One big enough to cover the entire wall behind your computer. Think that might help?

Keri Ford said...

I take a shower. Bath's don't work, has to be a shower. I'm guessing it's the water hitting me over the head, I don't know, but it works everytime to get me in the mood to sit and write, no matter how the day's been.

It's queit, the water noise covers every other sound in the house that been nonstop beating on my ears and gives me a chance to think. I couldn't tell you how many times I've jotted notes in the steam on the shower doors :O)

Now if only I could figure out how to go straight from the shower to the computer without dripping water over my keyboard and sitting on my furniture naked. the whole drying/combing hair/dressing part flicks my creative flow out of line

Kathy Bacus said...

Great ideas, Terrio! And wow! You were a radio DJ? How cool is that?

I realize the petty crap I blogged about today is insignificant compared to huge issues such as illness, deaths in the family, divorce, family crises, etc. Which makes me wonder, how do others carry on 'as usual' when they're in such a dark, sad, place in real lives? Sheer guts, I guess.

I also keep a serial killer or slasher story handy for those times I just can't do funny. You'd be amazed at how cathartic it can be to immerse yourself in a dark, scary place and create madness and mayhem for a while.

~Bullet Hole who is taking Terrio's advice and is running to Wally's World for a poster of some warm, sunny spot~

Kathy Bacus said...

I do think there is something to the shower thing, Keri. I know I've had some of my best plot breakthrough moments in the shower. For some reason, the ideas seem to flow right along with the water and break through a story's logjam.

Laugh, but I keep a notepad and pencil in the loo to save ideas before they evaporate!

Great mental picture there, huh?

~Bullet Hole~

Keri Ford said...

I have a small hotwater tank (I guess people who design a trailer decided it's inhabitants didn't like long showers, another story for another day), so I can't stay in long and my notes disappear. So I have to wait for the water to get hot so I can steam my walls back up to see my notes.I wonder if dry erase markers will write and erase markers will come off a shower wall? the walls (which are not tile) feel the same. I have to try this...




HOLY COW, IT WORKS! I'll be keeping a marker in my shower from now and can see my hubby's face to this idea. not only is their hair stuck to the walls, but now notes are going every where!

Leslie Langtry said...

Ahhhh. Memories. You know, you can't really claim you live in Iowa until you've had to pry open a car using a screwdriver. I remember those days! That means I have an attached garage now, but I still carry extra long jumper cables in my trunk. And with -27 last night - it's pretty hard to be funny!

Love the post!


Keri Ford said...

"I wonder if dry erase markers will write and erase markers will come off a shower wall?"

Um, what? should be: I wonder if dry erase markers will write and erase off my shower walls?

Kathy Bacus said...

I LOVE IT!!! Dry erase markers in the shower! Necessity is truly the mother of invention, Keri!

And about the hubby's face--just think what it will look like when one of those dry erase shower ideas brings you beau coup bucks!!!!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

I'm about ready to give up any claim to Iowa right about now, Les.

And absolutely nothing is melting. I went out to get in my Jimmy the other day, opened my driver's door, slipped on the ice and slid 3/4 of the way under the truck. All that was sticking out was my head and shoulders.

Enough already.

~Bullet Hole~

Christie Craig said...


I don't know why you didn't feel like writing humor, I thought the whole frozen car, frozen locks were good for a laugh. (Smile) Okay, I totally can relate. Life can bite, humor writers have to bite back.

When ever I'm in a situation that I don't think is funny, generally, later, upon reflection, I see the whole episode with fresh eyes and I can laugh about things.

Of course, not everything is funny, and it's tough when those things hit. Ahh, but we manage. And you've never let us down in your books. Thanks for that, by the way.

Crime Scene Christie

Kathy Bacus said...

>And you've never let us down in >your books.

Gee Crime Scene. Just when I was determined to never forgive you for spring having sprung in your neck of the woods you go and say something so doggone nice. Thank you.

Your "bite back" comment also brings to mind a quote Lucille Ball once made. "I'm not funny," she said. "I'm brave."

Write on!

~Bullet Hole~

terrio said...

Bullet Hole,

I was a DJ for 8 years and had a blast but that was enough. I'd like to be able to make a nice living so I had to venture back to office work.

The hardest part was 9/11. Luckily no one expected funny that day but when we were supposed to return to normal two days later, that was hard.

Hope the poster helps. And maybe one of those sun lamps. They sell those in Iowa?

Tori Lennox said...

I used to get lots of fun ideas in the shower. Not so much these days. It's very disapointing.

And I don't envy you your weather at all. I am so over winter and I haven't had to deal with nearly as much as you have!

Estella said...

A bubble bath and a good book work for me!

Beth said...

I always say we pay extra for good weather in Southern California! And it's worth every penny.
When I need to clear my mind and get it back on track I take a bath. Candles, music, deep hot water-it works everytime!

Kathy Bacus said...

I do plan to invest in one of those lamps before next winter, Terrio. So many folks have mentioned those to me.

Hope the ideas start to come for you again. Maybe estella's bubble bath idea might help.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Oops! I meant Tori on that last comment. Need more chocolate!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

I'm looking forward to settling down with a book (or four or five)when I finish writing my latest, estella.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

One more vote for a hot bath, music, and candles from Beth. Yay!

~Bullet Hole~

Angie Fox said...

LOL I knew I'd find validation here. St. Louis is also in the middle of a huge winter ice storm. I just fell on my rear while attempting to get the mail and I don't feel like writing either. Nope. I feel like blogging, even though I promised myself I wouldn't start until book two is done. So I came here, instead!

Your picture was like looking out my window, minus my butt marks in the snow. I like the idea of food therapy - your chocolate oatmeal cookie solution sounds just about right. A hot shower couldn't hurt either. Or maybe just a quick nap...

Kathy Bacus said...

Validation, indeed, Angie. I'm ready to pay a member of 'The Assassin's' Bombay family to take care of a certain groundhog.

Feel free to chip in!

~Bullet Hole who just made a run to Mickey D's for more comfort a/k/a avoidance food (french fries and ketchup!)~

danetteb said...

A nice peppermint feet soak and a cup of Earl Grey.

Hugs, Danette

Angie Fox said...

Now why didn't I think of that? Heck, while she's at it, maybe Gin could bring over some Death by Chocolate.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I'm a little late commenting on this - don't hate me because I'm in Dubai visiting friends and it's terrific weather here right now.

Seems to me that you wrote funny just fine - your blog post was hysterical :)

Stay warm and have some hot chocolate!