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How to Write a Humorous, Bizarre Story
I've often been accused of transforming an otherwise linear story into a farcical odyssey that leaves the reader in a state of profound confusion. I pride myself highly (even if I am the only one to do so) on my ability to steer clear of the trodden path, and confront the wavering chaos that lurks just below my consciousness.
On a quasi-serious note, humorous writing is never an easy task, but remains a noble one. Not only are you decimating the boundaries of your creativity, you are also entertaining (and as far as I'm concerned there is no nobler task than prompting a smile). This article is my subjective take on how to transmute fleeting creativity into something concrete, and humorous. Writing a bizarre story should, as a rule, follow few guidelines. But I do feel that there are a few rules worth adhering to while fist-fighting your latest literative jewel.
Contrast Is Key
At the heart of every humorous character or plot lies a wealth of contrast. Even when characters seem superficially identical, the subtle differences between them are what makes them memorable. Furthermore, you can make character traits naturally clash so that the contrast becomes even greater! Consider these examples:
- Contrast can be aesthetic. Everyone remembers Papa smurf! Do you remember him because of his character or simply because he was red?
- Excess contrast is innately funny. While, yes, it can be overdone, contrasting characters are fertile grounds for humor. Most successful creative literature involves colorful contrast between a hero (of sorts), a side-kick and an antagonist (the bad guy). The greater the contrast however, the greater the need to focus on the reasons that keep them all glued together. It's a juggling act from hell folks!
- Avoid stereotypes. Contrast is often overdone and repeated in the world of story-writing. What's funnier; a seven foot brain dead barbarian wielding an eight foot axe, or a seven foot intellectual wielding an eight foot axe? If you want to delve into the truly bizarre, turn stereotypes on their head as often as possible!
- Less is more. Throwing a constant barrage of well-crafted one-liners at your readers is a perfect way to trivialize the genius of the punchlines. By spreading them out, and focusing a little on the buildup, you are making them more powerful! Resist the urge to include every little humorous quip you can think of. Try instead to only include those that can be integrated seamlessly into your writing. Your jokes should fit the story, not the other way around!
Bend But Don't Break
There is a thin line between cojones-out creativity and alienating your readers. Humor writing should be personalized and have voice, but should have a base in a reality so that your readers can relate to both the story and the characters.
Most readers will subconsciously expect three distinct acts interspersed with creeping climactic sequences and anti-climactic slides. I honestly feel it is best not to re-invent the wheel with regards to plot structure itself. But then again, it has been done successfully in the past so please take this aside with a few grains of salt.
Dialogue Versus Description
Making humor consistently compelling involves playing to your personal strengths. Do you prefer injecting humor into dialogue rather than into description? Go for it! It is potentially every bit as successful. If you don't feel you have a preference as of yet, consider what you find most funny, and use that as your starting point.
Some popular humor writers such as Terry Pratchett rely almost entirely on the dialogue between their immense and colorful world of distinct characters when it comes to entertaining the reader. The is no real need to spend hours editing an evocative, luscious description in order to catalyze laughter, unless you are absolutely hell-bent on it.
Drop The Pretense
Perhaps the greatest drain on humor is taking our literative world, and its contents, just a little too seriously. Self-irony is a fantastic source of endearment and allows you to approach difficult subjects without raising too many eyebrows. There's a reason why the traditional British tragi-comic style is so popular. Yes, taboos are fun! It is also, funnily enough, yet another example of contrast.
As most successful stand-up comedians teach us, walking the taboo tight-rope is fun. If done correctly you can begin to shock and offend your readers in a way that will make them adore you. Your new-found ability to elicit sharp reactions from your readers is one of the most powerful tools a writer can have! Revel in it, but drop all semblance of self-righteousness before you begin or the house of cards will come tumbling down.