With the debut of my side-splitting story, “Orc Legal” and the recent sell of my satire piece, “Fight Finale From the Near Future!” to Unidentified Funny Objects, some of you out there may be wondering, “How do you do it, Beamon? Where do you come up with this crazy ish?! What makes you so funny?”
I was forged in fire, which means a childhood where I was simultaneously lacking in physical stature and saddled with second hand clothing and inch thick glasses. The only thing that kept other kids from heckling and dry roasting me into fine powder every day was a quick wit. That’ll turn your low-jinks into comedy hijinks if nothing will. You learn to take jokes and give some yourself.
But some of you out there grew up privileged, and if you didn’t have silver spoons in your mouths it was at least silver plated flatware, well etched enough to fool burglars. Now you’re thinking, “Damn, my parents loved me. They sprang for expensive labels, put me in schools where I had to write essays to attend. Now I’m all grown up and as serious as the IRS on April 1st. They screwed me!”
Well, yeah, no going back in time to learn the sink or swim method. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write humor. Don’t get me wrong, it helps to be funny… it helps a lot. But I’d like to think that most people are funny in their own way. The first key to writing humor is to identify what kind of funny are you. When people get to laughing because of your antics what are you doing? Are you describing your day at work with gusto? Paraphrasing a conversation with aplomb? When are you in rare form?
Understand if 9 times out of 10 they’re laughing because you’re pushing your belly out to where you look impregnated while walking around in a diaper yelling “Ruffles got Ridges!” then you’re probably not suited to writing humor. Take your antics to Hollywood or, more accessibly, Youtube. You may have a career behind the camera. Slapstick doesn’t play well in writing, simply because what you see well in your mind has to get translated to text for someone to read who then has to reconstruct it as a visual. Can you see the ridges on my ruffles?
Feel free to disagree with my perspective on it, but I’ll include examples so you can see where I’m coming from. To be humorous in writing, you have to play to the strength of the medium. The power of story comedy lies in dialogue and narration.
Dialogue makes good use of misunderstandings between two or more people. Rather than trying to explain all day, a great story I read that used this as a comedic vehicle was “The Abilene Abduction” by James Francis Keegan III, published in Reflection’s Edge.
Narration involves using turns of phrase and witty observations that can make everyday occurrences seem hilarious. Again, I figure why explain til I’m blue in the face when you can see an example in “Destiny, with a Blackberry Sauce” by David J. Schwartz, published in Strange Horizons.
One of these is a well worn science fiction trope, the other fantasy. That just goes to show you that comedy can be done in familiar territory, so you don’t necessarily have to wrack your brain thinking of new and creative plots that have never before been seen. All comedy arises from the situation… that’s where you do the bulk of your creative mulling.
And, of course, you can use both of narration and dialogue to funny effect. Here’s where I shamelessly plug my own story, Orc Legal, because 1) it’s really one of the funniest, if not the funniest story I’ve ever written, 2) It really does blend comedic narration and dialogue well 3) I get paid a percentage for everyone who spends $5.00 bucks on Nine Issue 2 which means you all can collectively send me home to my wife and son early if you cough up the 5 bucks, read it and laugh, then go and tell your friends they need to stop being cheapskates and drop 5 damn dollars to support a cat in Afghanistan.
Totally not a shameful plug.