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Showing posts from April, 2017

#Fridayreads Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad

In keeping with our April theme of humor, I have another fun book to recommend. Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad Linda Swain Bethea and Kathleen Holdaway Swain File Size: 2101 KB Print Length: 263 pages Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited Publisher: Weaverback Press (July 21, 2016) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC Language: English ASIN: B01IVUXROQ BOOK BLURB -  Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family. She's determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.  Just as she's about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. This is true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire yo

Make It a Comedy

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr When I was growing up, my grandfather used to crack a lot of corny jokes. We’d always give him a hard time about it, but he would say, “Better to make ‘em laugh than to make ‘em cry, right?” “Right,” I would say. And the older I get, the more I realize just how right he was. The popularity of recent comic series on TV like Orange is the New Black, Divorce, and Breaking Bad points to the possibility that as a society, we are taking things less seriously these days. We seem to have evolved to a point where we are now able to laugh at tragedy in the face, without belittling it of course, but simply to show that even things as sad and terrible as prison, divorce, or drug dealing can all be seen through a comic lens. Finding that comic lens often takes a great deal of perspective and distance. We need to have the ability to “laugh it off.” There’s a saying among filmmakers when they’re deciding on the tone of a story: “If it’s painful make

Comedy is a Serious Business

I have always been first and foremost an actor. Yes, I’m writing this but I’m an actor who writes. To be precise a comedic actor. I am never happier than when I’ve earned the audience’s laughter; it’s a giant hug of warmth. Comedy isn’t easy. It’s all about timing. Say the line too fast and you lose your laugh. Say it too slow and you get the same result. Not getting an expected laugh is rather like tripping; you’re not hurt, but you feel rather foolish. That said (or wrote, I suppose), every audience is different. Although smaller audiences are less likely to laugh, once they get started, they’re fine. The getting started part may take time, though. Everyone is afraid they’ll be the only ones laughing. I’ve known actors who get people to come and laugh so the risk of being the first to laugh is taken off the table. Seriously. People do this. It’s a thing. You also can’t get a laugh by yourself (unless you’re doing stand-up, of course, which is a unicorn of a completely di

#Fridayreads Home Country by Slim Randles

Since this month has been focused on humor here at The Blood-Red Pencil, I thought I would give a shout-out for humorist, Slim Randles. He has written a weekly column, Home Country , that has been syndicated in hundreds of newspapers across the country, and several years ago the best of the best of those columns were collected into a book of the same name. He has also been a frequent contributor here with stories   about his friend, Dud, the writer who struggles like the rest of us with finishing his novel. I first met Slim when he was a contributor to, and online magazine where I was the Managing Editor for a number of years. I've always had a special affinity for humor writing - that's where I got my start as a writer - and I believe that humor helps the days pass in a much more enjoyable way than if we never got to laugh. When the online magazine closed down, Slim was kind enough to still share his columns with me to post on my blog, It's Not

Art Analysis

Image by M4D Group , via Flickr When I ghostwrite memoirs, I often ask my clients to tell me the movies they loved when they were young teenagers, say between the ages of 12 and 15. Young adolescents are very impressionable, and it’s at this time in our lives when we start paying attention to the world outside our family, and making decisions about what is good and bad, and how we fit into that world. Our decision-making ability is in its infancy so we often draw the wrong conclusions, or conclusions that are too black and white, but the movies we’re exposed to during this time often color our personality, beliefs, and even deeds for our entire lives. So when we remember those movies from our early teens, the results are always illuminating and help me to “get” my client’s personality so I can write as them. This works when you do this for yourself, too, in order to explore who you are. It’s an easy form of self-analysis. When I did this for myself I googled which movies were pop

Drop It on the (Comedic) Beat

I am a lover of most things comedy: stories, movies, and TV shows. For me, comedic writing is one of the toughest genres to write. So many of us (new and old writers) try too hard to be funny, and in the end, it sounds forced and… well, just plain not funny. Comedies entertain me, and they also make me think. Slapstick, ridiculous comedies (sometimes fused with drama) like Psych ; genre-shifting, parody-laden, bawdy comedies like Archer  (my fave show on TV); and comedies that speak harsh truths to social issues, such as Chappelle's Show all speak to my funny bone. As a writer, I like thinking about the comedic writers' ability to make comedy integral to a story, not forced but fluid. The biggest takeaway I get from good comedic writing is TIMING, and to that end, comedy has a lot to do with music; it, too, has rhythm, tempo, beat. Those stories, movies, and TV shows that infuse comedy in a fluid way, making it integral to the storyline, have a rhythm to the sto

Humor, Satire, and Wit

Humor in literature depends on what people find funny. That sounds simplistic, but what tickles one person might not cause a twitch of the lip to another. Writing can feature many different forms of humor. Books can be belly-laugh funny, subtle, satirical, dry, ethnic, screwball farce, neurotic, slapstick, political, absurd, and probably a dozen more. Each style causes a different reaction to different readers. I’m going to feature a few humorists and some writers known for their wit. Writer Dorothy Parker was one of the wittiest satirists ever. Here are a few of her priceless comments I find funny: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” “I hate writing, I love having written.” “There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is sim

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mailbox...

Photo by Eduardo Arenas Sometimes it's not the tale, but the telling. Descriptions add flavor and depth and humor to an otherwise boring story, like the time I pulled a sword on a newspaper customer. Okay, so maybe it doesn't sound all that  boring, but compare that single line with the fully-detailed version: ***THE FOLLOWING IS 100 PERCENT ABSOLUTELY TRUE*** See, I used to have a paper route. Not the nice and tidy kind that involves a bicycle and a few city blocks. No, this was one hundred twenty miles a day, six days a week, on gravel roads. When the weather was good, my job was very, very good. When the weather was bad, it sucked. I inherited the job from a lady who quit without notice. I got a list of names and addresses, plus a lovely BLANK county map. Here, blank means "without any kind of house markings," but it might also mean a swear. Actually, yeah. It made me swear a lot. My first day on the job took nine hours. Nine stinking

Injecting Humor

You don't have to write a Comedy to take advantage of humor in your fiction. Whether reading Young Adult fiction or murder mysteries, I love reading a passage that tickles my funny bone. People do tend to look at me as if I am crazy when I laugh out loud while sitting in an airport or in a physician's waiting room. However, a well-written passage can leave a smile on my face for days. So what are some ways to inject comedy into your story? 1. Colorful Characters No matter the genre, you can insert fun secondary characters. They are often the most memorable. Don't insert them for just for color (every character should serve a purpose) and avoid clich é s. 2. Playful Banter There have to be resting beats between tense or emotional crises in a story. Injecting a little clever back and forth dialogue can provide that relief. 3. Absurdities There are funny things in daily life readers relate to. From pet humor to dealing with toddlers, we can all appreciate life

Comedy, Humor, and Laughter

Do you enjoy April Fool's Day? I admit, prank humor isn't my favorite. But I do love to laugh, and I particularly enjoy reading books of any genre that, somewhere in the course of the novel, make me shed a tear and make me laugh out loud. The best story characters will do that to you. I'm currently working my way through all the J.D. Robb In Death books, and every single title has dialogue between characters that makes me chuckle. Here's an example: "I vote the classic crime of passion." Peabody, once again wrapped up like a woman facing the Ice Age, walked out of the building with Eve. "Jewelry, cash, credits, plastic, electronics, fancy sports equipment still on premises, no sign of break-in, obvious signs of hanky-panky." "How does hanky-panky translate to sex? Who comes up with words like that?"  What are some books you enjoy for their touch of humor? Name an author who excels at comedy writing. Is there a certain type of hu