Humor Writing, and a Challenge

Yesterday I attended a workshop on humor writing. I learned new things, practiced new things, came away with new things. It was all good, because, y’know: new things.

I’ve taught humor writing workshops to middle grade and high school kids. Back then, I explained just twelve types of humor (examples and props included) and allowed writing and sharing time – all within one hour. Yesterday’s workshop leader gave us three humor points, with examples, and then our own writing and sharing times – all within two hours. And now I’m spending even more hours processing it all.

I like to sprinkle humor into my writing. It’s rarely a LOL or ROFL type of funny, and it’s not even in every chapter. But I know I’ve been subtly suggestive with some lightness when my Canadian on-line critique partner comments on a humorous line when none of my US critique partners do.

There is some humor I find disgusting and not at all funny, like bathroom humor or when people get injured, even though I know writers make lots of money feeding readers with these types of humor.

Everyone has a different funny bone. My writing challenge for you this week is to find three examples in literature which have tickled your own funny bone. Write a scene or paragraph using a similar humor, but twisted to be your own characters and own settings.

Merry writing.

The Writer’s Journey – Baby Steps

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler is a terrific craft book for writers on characters and plot. My own Writer’s Journey is made up of more mundane baby steps.

I am presently in revision mode. It’s not that I’ve finished this third book in the series yet, which is what (finishing your rough draft) is highly recommended, but it’s been a while since I’ve worked on it.

So I reread what I wrote. Then I naturally revise or rewrite what I wrote. This process takes me about an hour per chapter, and were I to go back over it for another look, I’d still find ways to improve the writing. I’m certain I could revise much faster if I were going through it one point at a time, e.g., finding any missed passive voices, or reading through for plot inconsistencies only. But I need to finish the entire story first.

So today’s baby step in writing is revising chapter by chapter until the words start to blur.

I force a few real life steps at the conclusion of each chapter – stretch those ole legs every hour, rip out a few weeds while I walk around the yard, grab a fresh cup of tea, then dive back in.

I want to scream, “UGH! This is so hard!” But my tea’s ready, so I must return.

Baby steps. One step at a time. One chapter or scene at a time.

Summer Solstice – Merging of Opposite Characters

I love the Summer Solstice. Full moon. Longest day(light) of the year. It makes me feel happy and dance-y. I also feel the opposite, for I get sad knowing from this point until late December, the day(light) will become less and less.

I love the light. In fact, I told that very thing to my husband at supper yesterday. He stared at me in disbelief and replied, “No, you don’t.” As if someone else (even someone I’ve been married to for nearly four decades) can tell me what I do or don’t like. Thing is, we were both right. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that even after nearly four decades, we still have this communication problem. Like the old married couple who went in for counseling and the counselor asking the husband, “Do you have a grudge?” and the man answered, “Yes…a two-car one attached to the house.” The counselor then turned to the woman and asked softly, “Does he beat you up?” the wife answered, “No…I’m usually the early riser every morning.” After a few more questions, the flustered counselor asked them both, “So why have you come to see me?” “We just don’t seem to be able to communicate,” they answered.

In our own marital case, last evening as the sun was high during our supper hour, my husband’s view of me not liking light came from me turning off the ceiling light in the dining room, where I was thinking of how bright it was outside, just like mid-day. Electrical lights – blah. Natural light – yay.  Communication – eh.

So like on a summer solstice, when opposites come together, let your character’s voice be strong, and sometimes maybe her words not be expressed exactly like how her opposite hears them.

Happy writing.

The Chipmunk Horrors of Honey Lane

If you are anything like me, you might be of the opinion that chipmunks are very cute. They are perfectly striped critters, with amusing antics. They’re small and darling enough to hold in your hand if you could. When gathering seeds, they can stuff their chunky little cheeks full with nearly their body weight right in their mouths. It’s also fun to watch them in early summer, quickly darting and zigzagging, chasing each other around in early summer.

(Plot twist: the cute transformed to horror.)

These cute little creatures just chased me out of my backyard, into our house.

I find it very unsettling when normally wild creatures, who really ought to be terrified of giant humans hundreds times their size, come within a few feet of said giant, weave around you faster than you can follow them, and even charge at you, running along the fence tops or pausing in the bushes next to you. You saw it go into and climb the bush, watched the branches move, and then freeze at eye-level, your eye-level.

There used to be squirrels in our backyard. We had lots. There were your typical Battle Creek black squirrels as well as the more common grays or browns. But since the 20 or so chipmunks have invaded this year, I’ve not seen a single squirrel here…nor a single strawberry from our ample-leafed patch.

Black squirrels used to be the most aggressive rodents in our backyard animal menagerie; well, and blue jays on the feathered front. That distinction has now been passed on to those cute little chipmunk horrors. At least the squirrels and birds scattered whenever I went outside.

My concerned husband went online to identify humane ways to rid one of chipmunks. Our jar of fox urine (fox = natural predator to rodents) arrived after a couple of days. I sprinkled the elixir around their most popular haunts, as well as near the entrance to their holes in the ground. This appeared to do the trick. For two days. Until it rained and washed away our magic potion. So I redid the ritual, naturally singing softly, “What does a Fox Say?” It wasn’t forecast to rain that night, but it did. Chipmunks! Again!

Further scientific observation made me realize I’d only spotted one or two of these furry little things in our front yard. The difference? Let’s just say that for the next week or two I hope our birdies are not offended, but smart enough to find food elsewhere. After all, it’s partly their fault. You see, our feathered friends like to share the wealth, or they are messy eaters, or perhaps picky eaters, dropping the seeds they do not like. Whatever the case, this scientist will not feed wildlife of any sort for a while. Now to think about how to protect my fruits and veggies growing back there when the little chimpies search for other food.

Wish me luck.

Are You Still Writing?

At a wedding dinner this past weekend, someone at my table asked me: “Are you still writing?” I responded quickly and without thought: “Always.”

In actuality, the month of May was an unusual off-writing month, except for some revisions. I was busy with three trips and a wedding weekend (12 hours), and included the Anniversary-BBQ weekend. Yet, I am always writing, even when it’s not working with the words of the story. A couple of examples:

During the outside rehearsal time when I was not needed, I took a walk with a boyfriend of one of the bridesmaids. He grew up in the Philippines. I grew up outside. I pointed out a mint plant, crushed and tasted it, pointed out the square stem and told him a story involving mint where I nearly died. I told him history, too, but mostly when I spoke (there was a lot of silently enjoying nature), it was about the land…about flora and fauna. On that walk I was a teacher, a storyteller, a writer in disguise.

Last month I drew and thought a lot about a large-scale map of my fantasy world, including lands and peoples not even incorporated into my tales. I find it interesting how the landscape can “make” a people. People living in milder climate next to a sea are a different sort from those  who live in the mountains with their warm days spent gathering enough food for their long and cold days. Desert dwellers. River folk. Animal farmers. Crop farmers. Each set of people are different, with the land forming who the people are.  I didn’t do much revisions, nor any raw writing at all this past month, but I was working on it, thinking about it, drawing it. That’s writing, too.

There was also new people interactions, which is always handy references for characterizations.

Am I still writing? Always. How about you?


Competent Businesswoman v.s.Fool

There are many times in this writing and publishing business I feel like a competent businesswoman. After all, I write and publish, started my own company, created my own social media platform, and do my own taxes – none of which I ever dreamed I was capable of doing myself, say, even ten years ago. So here I am, tooling away, feeling good and competent, and then one tired morning when I’m far from my mental best, I morph from competent businesswoman to fool.

PayPal is a lovely way of making and receiving transactions. So on that tired morning a couple weeks ago, when I received an email from PayPal that someone has made unauthorized use of my account, I clicked the link. (Note: Competent Businesswoman would have hit the spam button followed with a “Ha!”.) Consequently, after I’d typed in my password and answered two security questions, I still could not get  into my account. Why? Because I was a fool! I’d just given away my PW and security answers to a hacker-spammer.

Just today I had an email of an automatic payment from my PayPal account made to Photobucket for a couple hundred dollars. At least I wasn’t fool enough this time to click the “cancel form” button. I don’t think any money changed hands.

Ah, where is that Competent Businesswoman who will sort this all out in an hour or two?

Warning to all writers: be competent and sure of yourself!

National Parks Birthday This Summer – Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park

Writing settings. What a glorious way to experience settings, and then be able to write about them, than by visiting our varied US National Parks.

Here is Stu the Rabbit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenery is stunning with foggy (and clear) wooded mountains for as far as the eye can see, sprinkled with waterfalls and other vistas.

One thing to mind, if going here in the summer time, is that it can be crowded – crowded with both people and with mosquitoes. While in your car, it can be bumper to bumper through the park. While out hiking a trail, you could be covered with the bitty insects if you don’t keep moving and swishing your bandana about your head. But it is all truly worth it. I imagine anytime but summer is less crowded, except for the gorgeous fall.

Wherever you live, get out there and experience our National Parks. Be sure to take detailed notes of the landscape – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel – for possible settings in your own stories.

Keep on writing.

National Parks Birthday This Summer – Badlands, SD

The USA National Parks are great places to experience setting (for others besides just writers). Here is Stu the Rabbit in Badlands National Park in Western South Dakota.

Hiking the landscape is like walking on a solid rainbow – so many layers of vibrant colors, with little flora or fauna. However, mule deer, magpies, and rattle snakes are often seen within the park.

Once upon a time the government gave acres of this land to homesteaders who failed to raise crops except upon the occasional mesa. Even the Lakota avoided this area. The White River flowing through it is thick with (white) lime. Early frontierspeople tossed cactus leaves into a bucket which make much of the lime sink to the bottom, making it drinkable for their horses, but not humans.

The Badlands are beautiful, but not quite livable for humans.


Badlands 01

National Parks Birthday This Summer – Sleeping Bear Dunes

100 years ago this August, Teddy Roosevelt starting designating places as National Parks.

Here is Stu the Rabbit at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan.

The land is mostly sandy, covered in woods. Some of the dunes going down to Lake Michigan are hundreds of feet tall. Most are gradual, wood-covered sand hills, until some dune grass, then sand only at the water. There are miles of beach, some rocky, most sandy. Some of the beaches are deserted (by humans) even in the height of summer tourist season.

Enjoy your National Parks this summer.

Encouring Writers of All Ages

Today I attended the KDL Grand Rapids Writers Conference, 90 minute’s drive north. I’ve attended this conference twice before, once as a speaker. Not quite sure why I was going since it’s usually for unpublished or one-book-published folk. But I had the day free, and it was a writers conference!

After registration, I carefully picked my seat…because I could. I sat in front of a young girl and her mother. I turned first to the girl and asked, “Are you the writer?” (Nailed it!) A 10-year-old who has finished her first book (of four chapters), “and no one will publish it.” “It takes a while,” I tried to assure her. I found out she had a choice of auditioning for a musical or attending this writers conference. Bless the dedicated heart of a kid choosing the writers conference.

The first speaker was an author who spoke about writing to a daily word count and to have a hook, either provocative or violent. I wanted to turn around to the one person under 18 in the crowd, shake my head, and whisper, “Not for every book.” I didn’t.

One of the speakers said that she wrote 30 books only seven of them have been published and that he had over 100 rejections for his first novel.

During the break between the first three and last three speakers, and before she decided to leave, I encouraged her to continue writing, telling her that when I was her age I used to write stories about my friends and they were very interested in reading of our fictional adventures. I didn’t say, “And none of them got published either.” I assured her once again that “it takes a while.”

If I was unsure before going there today of why I attended that conference, I now think I know why. It was to encourage a 10-year-old writer.