Tag Archives: laughter

SNOW DAYS AND WRITING

~Sia McKye~snowfall

When I was a kid, snow days were the thing to look forward to.  A time for laugher and fun.  No school, snowball fights, snow forts, and using the shovels—after we had shoveled the driveway—and making snow paths in the yard.  We used these as trenches in our warfare games.  The not so fun part of snow days was my mom and her list of chores.  I now know this was self-defense on her part.  It was a way keep six rambunctious kids occupied.  Needless to say, we didn’t often whine, “I’m bored and I’ve got nothing to do.”  Lord, big mistake and The List came out.

 

Snow days at my house are a bit different.  First, I don’t have six kids, thank God, to keep occupied.  Back then we stayed outside or found adventures of “lets pretend that…” in our bedroom or the third story attic.  I have one child. Uno only goes so far.  Snowboarding outside takes up a few hours, if I’m lucky.  Snowball fights still happen but it’s the kid and me. He has TV, movies, 360 Xbox, paper and art supplies, and shelf full of books.  I have a computer and projects to get done.  Articles to write, books to finish, books to edit.  Did I mention editing? 

 

This is a normal workweek for me. I’m trying to keep to my schedule. Four days of no school and a husband who can’t get to work either. It’s vacation time for them.  I’m in a groove and I have not one but two housebound males wandering around bored.  I am not bored.  I have plenty to do.  I get up from the computer for a short fifteen-minute break and stretch out my tight muscles, go to the bathroom and get a cup a coffee. My mind is on what I’m writing, working out the kinks mentally, and walk back into my office and there’s my husband checking out Fox Sports.  We do have a working TV.

 

 “Oh, I thought you were done?”

 

I’m dumbfounded.  You can tell, dropped jaw, wide eyes, standing frozen in the doorway.

 

He can tell.  “You’re not done?”

 

“Sweetheart, what part of five open tabs on the computer monitor makes you think I’m done?”  I always try for the sweet, reasonable approach first. 

 

So I decide to take out the dog, clear my head in the cold outside air and rid myself of frustration.  It’s beautiful outside.  The type of day that brings back echoes of laughing kids, snowball fights and snow forts.  I feel a pull on the leash and bring my mind back to today just in time to see my poor Great Dane trying to do her business and ever so slowly slide down the incline.  This is her first winter and she’s still learning her way on this white stuff. The look on her face is priceless and I can’t help but laugh. It feels good.  I’m feeling better, which is a good thing.

 

I walk back into the house; breathe a sigh of relief when I see my husband watching TV.  I walk into my office.  And there is my fourteen-year-old son.  At my computer.

 

            “Oh, I thought you were done?”

 

Oh, yeah, it’s gonna be a long week.  Sigh.

 

 

december-2008-jake-and-momI’m married to a spitzy Italian. We have a ranch out beyond the back 40 where I raise kids, dogs, horses, cats, and have been known to raise a bit of hell, now and then. I have a good sense of humor and am an observer of life and a bit of a philosopher. I see the nuances—they intrigue me.

I’m a Marketing Rep by profession and a creative writer. I have written several mainstream Romance novels one of which I’ve out on a partial request.  I’ve written and published various articles on Promotion and Publicity, Marketing, Writing, and the Publishing industry.

Aside from conducting various writing discussions and doing numerous guest blogging engagements, I write a blog, Over Coffee, http://siamckye.blogspot.com/  Each week I promote and share authors’ stories, on the laughter, glitches, triumphs, and fun that writers and authors face in pursuit of their ambition to write—Over Coffee.

 

 

 

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Writing Laughter for Hard Times

~Sia McKye~

 

Laughter isn’t just the best medicine — it’s life’s saving grace.

 

Laughter is the ultimate stress buster during hard times. When times are rough, people need something to de-stress their life and lighten the load-even if it’s only for a short time. I think this is why during the 1930’s, during the Great Depression and as Europe was gearing up for WWII, some of the greatest comedy teams were born: Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, and Laurel and Hardy. Abbot and Costello were popular on radio. Remember, during this time period, radio shows were the main form of entertainment. The movies of the time featured a variety of comedies, from silly slapstick to romantic comedies.

The styles were different but they achieved their purpose. Making people laugh and forget for a time their troubles. The subject/premise of comedies were either light and fluffy or dealt with darker issues with an overlay of comedy. Parroting life, you could say. What made them work? A reasonable, though many times an improbable, premise. Good dialog, fast paced, proper build up of tension, and comedic timing.

For example, Laurel and Hardy’s Sons of the Desert (actually most of their movies) was a balance of laugh-out-loud dialogue, plus fast-paced slapstick. Every frame of the script and dialog built up to and led into the next, and comedic timing. This was the pattern taken up by Jackie Gleason and Art Carney and later Seinfeld used the same sort of humor. Monk and Psych, seen on TV today, borrow from this general style. It works.

Romantic comedies like Bringing up Baby, with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn were popular. The premise was improbable but it worked. Main characters were well drawn, a straight-laced paleontologist trying to raise money for a museum and an impulsive and beautiful heiress, and their adventures. This was pure madcap comedy. I think an improbable premise works well for comedy. What made the comedy work are good dialog, fast pacing, and impeccable comedic timing.

The Thin Man is a classic and based on a novel by Dashiell Hammet. This was really a dark tale of solving multiple murders. Yet the movie makes you laugh. The dialog is sharp and clever, a combination of dry wit and unexpected silliness. It’s fast paced and never allows your attention to wander. The main characters are well developed; glamorous, stylish, intelligent, and they have tremendous fun as they work together to tracked down the murderer. From this style of light and dark, humor and danger, sprang many movies, TV shows, and books…Magnum, P.I., Remington Steel, and Burn Notice. Even Robert B Parker’s Spencer books are a blue-collar take on the Thin Man.

In the past eight years we’ve seen a lot of tragedy and hard times and they haven’t ended. Like in the 1930’s and 1940’s, people are facing attacks on the American people, subsequent wars, and economic hard times. People are looking for laughter and diversion. For example, just recently, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James was #1 at the box office. So, its no surprise that updated versions of old styled comedies are again popular. Movies like The Mummy trilogy and the Rush Hour trilogy also balance fast paced dialog, laugh out loud humor, and the physical fight scenes-today’s form of slapstick. The Meet the Parents movie has well placed comic moments, but within the gags and the shock humor is a nice little romance story.

Romantic comedies like What Women Want and Two Weeks Notice are throwbacks to the screwball comedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s with witty repartee between characters, a rather improbable premise, well-paced comedic timing, and some gags/physical humor.

Many of these comedies were scripts; a few were based on novels. Setting up a premise, crafting your scenes, and writing dialog for a thriller or suspense are different than writing dialog for comedy. The same holds true if you write Romance-romantic suspense as opposed to romantic comedy. A different mind-set is required.

There is a market for laughter and well-developed comedy in today’s hard times. Romantic comedies are popular and authors like Janet Evanovich and Toni Blake have successfully filled that need.

To be successful in writing comedy one must first have a solid premise. As we’ve seen, it doesn’t have to be particularly realistic, in fact being slightly improbable works well. Well developed characters and from the examples we’ve looked at here, having a straight man and the comic, are necessary elements in writing a good comedy. Tightly written scenes that build one on the other pull your reader forward. Sharp, fast paced dialog. Use of gags or physical slapstick and this can be fight scenes or situations. One of the most important aspects of writing good comedy is having impeccable comedic timing.

What do you think is the secret to writing comedy? How do you set up your scenes? Do you feel a story can have a blend of both serious aspects and comedy, and be successful? What authors have you read that seem to do comedy well? And why?

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