I decided it was about time to write about writing again. I’ve been staying away from posts about my writing because, for the most part, there’s not much to tell. It’s not that I haven’t been writing—on the contrary, I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger the last couple months, it’s just that there’s not a lot to show for it right now. I’ve got about six or eight short stories submitted to various magazines and whatnot for publication hoping somebody bites soon, and I’m on the second draft of a novel while another sits, patiently waiting for me to start its second draft as well. So what did I do? Why, started another project altogether, of course.
I’m barely underway, just a few thousand words so far, but it feels good; I’m excited about it. There is, however, a catch: I want it to be funny. Not an out and out comedy, but with plenty of humor and funny elements. I won’t go into too much detail about it, but basically it’s a heist story with a band of incompetent criminals. What I’m aspiring to is something like if Pineapple Express had been crossed with Reservoir Dogs and written by Elmore Leonard. Violence, stupidity, double-crosses, and laughs. Piece of cake, right?
Here’s the thing: am I funny? How am I funny?
Can I write something that will make other people laugh?
Now, I’m a fairly modest guy, but I think I’m hilarious. Really, ask anyone. Well no, better yet, don’t. See, that’s the problem—I know my sense of humor veers toward the odd, the dry, the sarcastic. Things that are funny to me aren’t always funny to other people. When I make jokes at work, it’s really a crap shoot as to how the joke will go over. Sometimes I can get an entire room of people laughing, sometimes I get blank stares and awkward silence. That makes me nervous; if people don’t get your jokes, they don’t necessarily think you’re merely unfunny. They may think you’re just an idiot.
Mr. Leonard was one of the masters of blending humor with action and intensity, and, it appears, so is the author of the book I’m currently reading: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. Non-writers probably haven’t heard of him, but for the other aspiring authors on the internet, he’s like our Neo from The Matrix. He’s Harry Potter. He’s Yoda. He started out just like us and actually made it, publishing book after book and now living off his writing. His website terribleminds.com is bookmarked by every writer, ever (*citation needed), and now that I’m finally reading one of his books I see what all the fuss is about.
Blackbirds is not exactly a comedy, but it’s funny as hell thanks to its clever wordplay, living, breathing characters, and original plot: Miriam Black has a gift (or a curse). With the mere touch of skin on skin, she can see when and how you’re going to die. It’s how she chooses to use that gift that’s so original and refreshing, and quite an appropriate book for me to be reading as I strive to inject humor into my work.
So, I’m curious—how often do you guys put humor into your writing? A lot of my stories tend to have a smartass remark here, a sarcastic comeback there, but this will be an attempt to go one step beyond. Have you tried to do anything like that? How’d it work out?