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Archive for November, 2010

Three Methods For Writing Humor

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Humor is one of the toughest things to translate into writing.

To be fair, writers are hamstrung: we can’t use intonation, hand gestures, or other visual/audial cues to help convey that we’re joking.

We only have words.  Yet, there are some writers who are able to make us laugh seemingly without effort.  How do they do it?

Yes, and…

In improv acting, one of the basic techniques that actors use is to never say “no”.  Denying what someone else has said or done is rarely funny.  Accepting a statement and taking it in a new direction can be hilarious.  This is often used in pickup line jokes.

Man:  “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

Woman:  “Yes, and that’s why I don’t go there any more.”

Ouch!  This one wasn’t written by me–if anyone has a reliable source for its origin, let me know.  I’ll gladly attribute it.

Surprise twist

One of the most common methods for a joke is to offer a twist that sends your reader down one path, then switches up expectations at the last moment.  Try out this poem (written by yours truly):

Today I ran, first time in a while,
At first does it hurt, but I know it’s worthwhile,
I jump over logs, show my own unique style.

Pain is caused by weeks (months) of neglect,
Push through it, I must, to improve the effect
For improving my health, which I must protect.

More bushes appear, I bound right on through,
Legs pumping, arms swinging on cue,
I run, though I know not where to.

Sweat pours down my face, my neck, and my back,
Though tired, found strength that I feared that I lack.
What motivation, when a bear wants you as a snack.

On a second read through, the poem takes on a completely different meaning, doesn’t it?

Multiple meanings

This method relies heavily on the language being used, and in this case, the ambiguity of the English language.  The hardest to translate, this technique can upset your reader’s expectations through careful use of emphasis.

“I was walking down the street yesterday, and I saw a jogger.  She was smokin‘.”

“Pretty hot, eh?”

“No.  She stopped, pulled out a cigarette, and started to smoke.  Couldn’t believe my eyes!”

Using these techniques can help you turn solemn dialogue into a vibrant conversation.

Think you can show us up?  What techniques do you use to add humor?  Do you have better examples of jokes you’ve written?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

5 Blogs No Writer Should Miss

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Over the past two weeks, I have been reexamining WritAnon’s approach to blogging.  Frankly, we want to make sure we’re posting relevant information that helps authors regardless of their stage in their writing life.

This post is the first in our new approach.  We welcome comments on both our approach and other noteworthy blogs.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the helpful blogs available, but these are the blogs that we at WritAnon agree no writer should miss.  We highly recommend subscribing to these blogs in an RSS reader like RSSOwl or Google Reader.  This way, you’re notified when there’s a new blog entry, and can save more time for writing.

1.  There Are No Rules

There Are No Rules is a blog run by former Writers Digest editor Jane Friedman.  She posts lots of useful tips, entries from guest authors, and a weekly “Best Tweets for Writers” article each Sunday.

Jane gives no-nonsense tips, and has posted controversial articles like How to Ensure 75% of Agents Will Request Your Material or useful tips like 4 Ways to Improve Narrative Drive in Your Story.  The information published on her blog is always useful and relevant to writers today.

2.  SlushPile Hell

SlushPile Hell is written by a self-described “grumpy literary agent” who uses sarcasm and humor to point out mistakes authors make in their query letters.

There are two big advantages to this blog:

  1. The entries are always quick reads
  2. The lessons you learn from his (or her) biting criticism will help improve your own query letter mistakes

3.  Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund recently debuted as the author of The Preacher’s Bride, but she has been blogging for quite a while.

What I enjoy most about her blog is the way she always writes concise, relevant entries that maintain a tight focus.  It was actually stumbling across her blog that convinced me that our approach needed to change.

Jody, if you’re reading this, thanks for giving us a great example of a way to do blogging right!

4.  The Bane of Your Resistance

The Bane of Your Resistance is written by Roseanne Bane, a creativity coach and author who specializes in unleashing the brain’s potential through science.

One of the neatest articles I’ve seen from Roseanne is how the brain moves from the limbic system (“mammilian” brain) to the cerebral cortex (where most human creative thought occurs).  Another favorite is where she talks about distraction in Squirrel!

Roseanne’s tips can help you break out of writing resistance, start writing more regularly, and get more done when you do write.

5.  Nathan Bransford

I almost pulled Nathan Bransford’s blog from this list due to late breaking news on Friday.  Nathan is (or rather was, in the “changing jobs” sense) a literary agent, but is moving on to the world of social media (see his announcement here).

However Nathan’s past entries are full of good information, and I expect his focus on social media going forward will continue to include relevant writing tips. If nothing else, the blog archives are something that writers should read through for their own education.

What blogs do you never miss?  Do you agree with our selections?  What else might you recommend?

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