Lesson the Last – The Joke that fell with Egg on it’s face. (Ooops that wasn’t funny!)

There are several tried and trusted methods for making your joke flop faster than a monk denied Viagra. There are also several tried and busted methods for making your readers laugh their heads off, when you write something totally serious and deep. Here are the main pick of the crop… (These are examples from books I’ve read but for the sake of saving embarrassment I’m going to keep the titles secret.)

Naughty Nouns: Naughty nouns are the names of things/people which are put into place to add a personalize touch to a scene or dialogue, but fail badly because the author wasn’t able to see the scene from outside their own perspective. (God, Do I love Beta readers for catching stuff like this.) How about this one.

The hero and heroine are hip deep (almost) in a hot, heavy kissing session in the hero’s Board Room. She’s squashed up against the table and desperate to see what he looks like naked. So to indicate her desire she says the one thing that is going to drive her hero and the audience crazy with love. She looks at him in a sultry way as she groans.

“Does Mr. Winky want to come out and play?”

Naming body parts has it’s uses, but use this knowledge wisely . Also try to avoid names like the Victorian hero, Master Bates; the Sailor, Seaman Staynes; and a choice of other nice nounians that we all know and love. Of course, if you want the name to be funny then feel free to use them.

Sentient Body Parts: Sentient body parts, like Naughty Nouns, can immediately take a reader out of a tense, fraught or impassioned situation right into the realms of loony tunes. And, sadly enough, to an author while we write these things, they actually sound damn good.

Hazel eyes rolling across the floor (don’t they get dusty?);
He waved his hand at her (damn when did that fall off?);
His intrepid fingers sought out the heat of her sex (I’d like to keep my fingers under my own control thank you!)

The hard part of avoiding Sentient Body Parts is that they seem so logical, and fall in to the story so nicely they are very hard to spot. If a Beta reader or Editor suggests to you you might want to change one of these, seriously consider changing it. Not all readers will spot them, but the ones that do general like to talk about it. Normally over a few beers and with medics standing by to revive them from a laughtatonic coma.

Bad Taste Humor: Is one of those jokes that you really have to be able to target your market with. They do exist in humorous literature, and Comics like Mad, and others have used these to great success. Mainly because their readers are expecting this form of humor.

If you’re not sure of your market and who’s going to be reading your books, avoid “hot” subjects. Putting down weak sectors of our culture, racist jokes, jokes which rely heavily on bodily excrement functions (things that go gross in the night) are a few of the must be avoided subjects.

Pasty Pacing: Timing and pacing your joke is also vitally important. The most common mistakes for n00b comic writers is to make a joke either too long, misplace the punchline, or letting the reader know at the beginning of the joke what the punchline will be.

Too long-
A dog limped into the old western bar dragging his leg as he sat on the barstool and asked for a beer. Unused to seeing a dog, well, any talking animal in the bar the bartender handed over the beer.
“So, what brings you to town?” he asked the dog, curious to hear the answer.>>
The dog swigged his beer, grimacing at the sour taste and answered. “I’ve come here to kill the man who shot my paw.”

Misplaced Punchline-
A dog limped into the bar and asked for a beer. Unused to seeing a dog talking in the bar the bartender handed over the beer.
“So, what brings you to town?” he asked the dog.
“I’m after the man who shot my paw.” The dog answered, swigging his beer.

Telegraphing the Joke-
A dog with a bullet hole in his paw limped into the bar and asked for a beer. Unused to seeing a talking canine the bartender handed over the beer.
“So, what brings you to town?” he asked the dog.
The dog swigged his beer and answered. “I’m after the man who shot my paw.”

Better-
A dog limped into the saloon and asked for a beer. Unused to seeing a talking canine the bartender handed over the beer.
“So, what brings you to town?” he asked the dog.
The dog swigged his beer and answered. “I’m after the man who shot my paw.”

Incredible Imagery: Again, related very closely to Sentient Body Parts, these seem dangerously okay when we first write them. We would never laugh at heated descriptions like these, all of them were meant to be deadly serious occassions…

His rocket propelled fingers made her explode into climax.

The zit on her face winked at her in all its ugly victory.

Jonah looked so forlorn at her decision he was like a little boy who’d lost his weiner.

Overall, a lot of these mishumors are hard to spot when you write alone. Typically, as writers, we get so close to our work we often read the words that we expect to see and not the words as they actually sit on the page. The best cure for these kinds of error is good, in-your-face, beta readers who aren’t afraid to tell you when something stinks. If your beta readers never find anything wrong with your work, then it might be time to find some more. I don’t believe any work of fiction is perfect first time through, no matter how good the author.