Saturday, December 17, 2011

Writing, from a comedic point of view

So I was thinking...

(Not always a good thing, but necessary, nonetheless.)

...That the format for telling jokes and penning books is quite similar.

First: There's The Premise. 

Essentially the whole basis for the story or joke. What topic, subject, or person are you going to focus on throughout?

Second: The Setup.

How are you going to introduce readers or listeners to the characters and story you're telling? No pressure, but if this isn't good, you might as well nix the next step and start from scratch.

Third: The Buildup.

Once the foundation is set, what's the best way to prepare for the upcoming dramatic or comedic arc? How will you grab people's attention and make it stay there? You've got the interest part down, but since timing is everything, it's all about the tension now.

The best comedians and writers know how to drag out that anticipation juuuust long enough before delivering the goods. Too soon and you lose the momentum; too long and, yup, you lose the momentum.

Momentum, good.

Zero momentum, bad.

Fourth: The Punchline/Delivery.

Otherwise known as The Payoff, where everyone is supposed to laugh.

Or cry, having learned: Gasp! The hero and heroine can never be together since he has been harboring a lunatic wife in the attic these past fifteen years. Scoundrel! And then there's a fire, blindness ensues-

Fifth: The Kicker/End/Grand Finale.

Now that we've (hopefully) moved people to chuckles or tears, the end is at last firmly in sight. The bumpy part is over and it's time for a smooth landing. "Dramedy" needs to fix whatever mess they've gotten themselves into before the last five pages run out; or too many rotten eggs are thrown onstage at some poor sap who failed to make the audience laugh long enough, loud enough, or maybe even once.

It's now or never.

And suddenly when all seems lost, a glimmer of hope. That one last sentence which turns the tide of mediocre smiles to belly shaking guffaws. That final paragraph in which the two star crossed lovers realize crazy ex-spouses, burned mansions, and blistered eyes can never extinguish true love.

(Ha, fooled you, reader!)

Sixth: Exiting on a high note.

Leaving the audience wanting more. Because there's nothing worse than overstaying your welcome. Or over punching your punchline. Or rambling too much and losing the momentum you've so carefully constructed.

Rambling can be a terrible thing. Rambling leads to bunny trails, bunny trails turn into rabbit holes, and before you know it, you're approaching Alice in Wonderland territory, where the Mad Hatter resides with his array of unusual hats and perpetual tea parties...

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