Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Gift to our Readers!

New invention…the drinking fountain. You’ll never have to carry bottled water again. And it costs nothing. That’s right. It’s free. It’s clean (according to the FDA anyway). And it’s convenient. Free water! And fountains are going in everywhere. Enjoy some H2O courtesy of Chiseled in Rock!

In my last posting about writing humor, I just barely touched on a couple of character archetypes. Tricksters and comic reliefs. I also made a distinction between writing an all out comedy title, or having satirical elements in a manuscript. I’ll expound on writing the comedy novel in later postings. Today, we’re going to look at more easy ways to lighten up your otherwise serious story.

Let’s just say that you feel like you suck at humor. It’s okay. I know a few comedians who assess themselves the same way. Triggering a laugh is tough. But one of the things to remember about the broad category of humor is that it doesn’t always have to be knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud until someone busts a gut. Sometimes it can just be colorful. There are plenty of comedians and authors who rely on this standard.

Remember Francis Ford Coppola’s remake of Dracula? Not intended to be a funny movie, right? But there was an element in the film that lightened the mood at the right times. It was Professor Van Helsing played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. In this screenplay, the writer created a character that was part comic relief and mostly mentor. Right after an intense scene, the camera cuts to Van Helsing slamming a cleaver into a hunk of roast meat—which immediately backed off all of the drama. He, Mina, and Jonathan Harker are at dinner discussing the manner in which the professor dispatched one of the vampires. He said something like, “Yeah, yeah and we chopped her head off and drove a stake through her heart.”

The audience roared with laughter. Yes, in the horror film Dracula.

Why did this work so well? Van Helsing was developed from the start as a colorful eccentric. As a writer, you can have so much fun making up a character that doesn’t quite fit in a run-of-the mill, off-the-shelf package. The cool thing is, as you create this whack job, crazy things will strike you for the character’s dialogue.

In The Fugitive, Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) leaps out of a culvert in a dam. Instead of using the word jumped, the U.S. Marshall (Tommy Lee Jones) said, “That guy just did a Peter Pan right here of this here dam.” Just one word, changed to something colorful, tickled us. Voila. Funny.

Gusto Dave

No comments: