Santa Monica, California, USA
A Tale for Jenn: OR
How to use Humor, Satire, Sarcasm Lunacy, and Story-telling at the same time. The Story is in qoutes, not the original boldface, didn't show up in the box.
THE GREAT NEMATODE CAPER
(1.) Start with a silly sounding title. Other examples include “Moby Dick.”
"Burrell Weeks was tired of living in the poor folks home."
(2) Pick an odd name (“Ahab” comes to mind) and set the stage in the first line.
"For one thing, everybody else in the poor folks home was old and white to boot."
(3) Distinguish the character immediately from the rest of the characters who are likely to crop up in the story (“Pequod” comes to mind.)
(4) Write in the vernacular if your character is going to speak in the vernacular, and keep your sentences short. Use stupid notes like these to interject an element of satire.
(5) Avoid the temptation to drift into sarcasm too early in the tale. Don’t say something like:
"Not only were they old and white, but they were Jewish on top of it, and ate a lot of lox, which was, as far as Burrell could tell, the waste of a perfectly good piece of fish."
(5a) Your reader isn’t nearly ready for a sarcastic whomp, and will probably think you are a Jew-baiting racist (satire), unless your reader is Jewish, in which he/she will recognize this as a joke (sarcasm, except it doesn’t have anything to do with the story, and the sentence contains too many subordinate clauses, which tends to interfere with humor unless you happen to be a genius like John Barth or Woody Allen (humor.) So be a genius. (humor)
"And the view wasn’t too hot, either."
6: Two things accomplished here: You’ve expanded the set-up, giving another reason why Burrell is unhappy, and firmly establishing that the story is going to be told from Burrell’s point of view for those who couldn’t get it from the first line (sarcasm).
“Solly” Burrell asked, “What do you see when you look across the street?”
7. You can’t start throwing in dialog too soon. (“Call me Ishmael” comes to mind. (satire).
"Burrell and Solly were sitting on the front steps of poor folks home, killing themselves with cigarettes, which not only kept away the bat-sized Miami mosquitoes, but discouraged the blue haired old ladies from sitting out there too."
8. Ah, here you get to break the rule about subordinate clauses while introducing a “buddy.” Every good comic story has a buddy. Where would Dobie Gillis (note funny name) be without Maynard G. Krebs? (note funny name). Technically speaking, the “buddy” is often known as the “Foil”) (more story telling mechanics). Not only that, but by saying Miami, you’ve used a cultural reference to explain why
“Hmm,” Solly said. “Looks like the ugly-ass-end of a K-Mart where they pile up the junk”
“Well, yeah,” Burrell agreed, but what do you see before that?”
“Big old empty lot.”
“Right,” Burrell, said “And what do people do with big old empty lots”
“Put up cardboard shacks and sleep in them?”
9. This is an important exchange. First, it establishes that Burrell has at least one friend, whose name Solly indicates he’s a Jewish guy, and it sets up the black guy/white guy equality thing (sarcasm) which works in comedy because, after all these years, we still don’t really expect it (more sarcasm). And Second, it lets the reader know that the buddy is going to get some of the good lines too (story telling).
“No, man, they grow plants on’em and then they sell’em."
10: Here, you’re teasing out the premise…
“Why’d you want to do that?”
“So I can make some money and get out of this damned poorhouse!"
11: There’s the motivation (storytelling) and you’re still on page one. Good job!
“I thought you had money?”
“I do have money! I got enough money to BUY this roach ranch. But I can’t get ahold of it!" …
12: Ah, THE CONFLICT!
… “But when I stroked out, what, eight years ago, my damned daughter-in-law, Margarethe, she got Conservatized and she’s been Conservatizing my cash ever since! Put me in the poor house! And I ain’t stroked no more! I’m just broke!”
13: Ah, the antagonist! Every story has to have one!
“So how do you buy plants?”
“We don’t. We steal’em! And we blame in on Margarethe!
14. And now you have THE CAPER, the basis of the funny story.
There’s an old Hollywood saw about how a story works: First, you chase a monkey up a tree. Then you shake the tree. Then you figure out how to get the monkey back down.
Hope you seriously didn’t think I was going to tell you the whole story, but here’s one way to work out act two (story telling) Burrell “invents the DADE COUNTY AGRICULTURAL COMMISSION NEMATODE CONTROL PROJECT, prints up some t-shirts, badges and official looking documents, “signed “ by the phony Commissioner, Margarethe herself, and proceeds to appropriate nursery stock from every wholesale nursery, retail outlet, and landscaped parking lot he and Solly can find, for nematode research, of course.
Now, you have to shake the tree pretty hard, that’s called the “plot,” and then you have to get Burrell and Solly out of the tree, and you have to imagine all the comic complications that might ensue.
I mean that. You HAVE to imaging the comic complications. That’s what makes it a funny story. And, once you get rolling, you can be as satiric, sarcastic, or just plain looney as you want.
Well, that pretty much killed my day, but none of my favorite college football teams are on TV until later.
PS: I alsmost forgot: The "Lunacy" part is using "Moby Dick" as an example of comic writing.
[This message has been edited by oceanvu2 (10-12-2008 09:53 AM).]