Sunday, May 17, 2009

Revelation and Epiphanies

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." -- Peter Ustinov

I don't trust revelations and epiphanies. I don't believe they happen in real life. I don't know anyone who looked in the mirror one day and suddenly realized... anything, except possibly, "I need a shave." If that's a revelation, then I have one every morning.

However, I'm gradually coming to a conclusion that is relevatory in its content if not its form: writing a funny story is a skill I do not yet have.

Oh, I can write funny things. Given a topic, I don't have much trouble seeing and giving voice to the absurdity inherent in it. But building a story is something quite different and considerably more involved. I've been trying, stretching and exercising by way of anecdotes and vignettes, some of which have been dumped here in leiu of better-quality content. I've been trying, but I haven't been succeeding. I'm getting laughs from readers, but in the end they set down the pieces and forget about them. There's no story there to hold them. There are characters and events, but no meaningful changes and no plot to spur their interest.

It's all very frustrating.

It can be done. I have my Pratchett addiction to prove that a humorous spin can be applied to a serious topic in such a way as to make readers laugh and think at the same time. I just don't seem to have the knack. Yet.

So I think for a time, I'll abandon trying to be funny in my work and concentrate simply on telling a good story. I'm sure humor will crop up in places. The way my mind works, it's inevitable.


csmith said...

Re: Epiphanies - can't comment.

Re: Funny writing - I find that I'm telling a story and characters do things that amuse me. But I don't set out to write an amusing story. I mean, look at pratchett, if you wrote a summary of most of his books, they'd read more like a thriller or an adventure story than something that set out purposely to be humorous. It's the layering on top of that, the coincidences and droll humour that really make it so amusing! So don't worry.

Ulysses said...

My problem, if I think of it that way, is that I can't treat a serious story humorously. I can't tell a serious story in a humorous way.

Quite frustrating, as I said.

slcard said...

But you take serious topics and speak on them with humor. That's a sign of something.

I have been hesitant to comment on this post. I am one of those who laugh and I've said so, on more than one occasion. I really enjoy your humor (not the gastrointestinal bits, but that's presently irrelevant). However, I also really appreciate your work when it is serious. I think you could succeed either way, but I do think you have a unique and wonderful ability to gently spotlight human folly and weakness, and this is when I am always most impressed with your work. Your reference to child rearing on May 11th is, in my opinion, a perfect recent example. It was honest, and something I'm sure most of us have felt and could relate to. I notice you did not label that post Bring The Funny. Perhaps you are funniest when you don't mean to be?

I'm not trying to say you should continue to force yourself to try and be funny; you should write whatever you are inspired to write. I just want to say that maybe you are being too critical and analytical of your work. Maybe it would be easier if you gave your voice freedom from your mind. Not too much freedom, of course, because then you might turn into me, and you've seen how messy that can be.

I think your quote says it all perfectly, and I also think csmith is correct is suggesting (if I'm reading the above comment correctly) you should tell your serious story and let your voice give it the humor that will allow us to laugh.

Good luck with your efforts either way.

Ulysses said...

Thank you both for your thoughts.

Further bulletins as events warrant.