Wanna Write Funny? The Six Steps To Slayin’ ‘Em

wwfNo matter how absurd one of my stories may be, it will contain authentic details the reader will recognize that help him or her to visualize a particular scene. This in turn makes the scene ‘all the more humorous and “real” to the reader.

Here’s my list for writing for the funny:

1) Use the reader’s imagination. The idea here is to provide a few clues about a scene or situation and then let the reader fill in the rest of the details. Here is a writing exercise I picked up somewhere many years ago. I “create” a complete house with these six words: “tarnished walnut paneling on the stairs.” I then ask my students to describe the upstairs of the house, …

Fear, Hope And A Way To Behave

fbwlhWhen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are sent by Claudius to discover what ails Hamlet, the prince guesses at once what they are up to:

You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass.

But Hamlet will have none of it:

Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

Hamlet does not want to be understood in this instrumental fashion by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or by anybody else for that matter: as which of us would?

Nevertheless, …

Laugh It Up And Learn: Plus A Quiz!

wulfsYou wake up late for school. You barely make the bus. Then you see that you’re wearing your sister’s socks–the ones with the purple and pink stripes! Just then the school bully looks at you. He smiles and points to your feet. Then he says, “Look! Someone’s mommy bought him some new socks. Did she get you polka-dot ones too?” The bully and half the people on the bus break out laughing.

Life isn’t easy. But laughing can make the tough times easier. Instead of feeling bad about yourself when someone makes fun of you, say something funny back. It might make you feel better. You could even catch the person by surprise. That would put the joke on him or her! …

Cancer Jokes: Keeping Me Alive!

cancerjSo recently, my doctor suggested I get a biopsy. So I did.

“I have good news and bad news,” the doctor told me later, when he got the results. “The bad news is that you have cancer. It’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The good news is that it’s aggressive.”

I’m like, “Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma? Just my luck, I don’t even get the brand named after the guy. I get the generic. And it’s aggressive.” But he explained to me that in this case aggressive was good–it meant that the cells were dividing quickly. And cells are at their weakest–and easiest to kill–when they’re dividing.

He also told me the cancer was at stage three, meaning it had spread beyond the lymph nodes–in my case, into …

Stress Is For Fools, Y’All

sffStress is a peculiar thing. For some people it can be extremely tough to handle. For others it’s what keeps them going. I’ve read articles about good stress and bad stress, and I’m sure we all know individuals who seem to thrive under pressure.

It all depends on personality and attitude. If you think of a task as an ordeal, it probably will be. If you view it as a challenge, it is quite a different experience. We all remember cramming for an exam or a presentation. For some of us that is pure agony; for others it is exhilarating.

The most critical element of stress management is to know thyself. For instance, know how you’ll react to certain situations. The better …

Tales Of The Rude: Your Comments!

refeorudeWhen we asked readers for examples of rude encounters they’d suffered through, we got an earful:

“I was unloading my wagon in the supermarket when the woman behind me said, `Can’t you move any faster?’ I said, `I just had a back operation.’ Instead of saying, `I’m sorry, can I help?’ she said, `Oh, everybody has a bad back. That’s no excuse for taking all day.’ I left seething, but gradually realized that she must have emotional problems–I felt sorry for her.” –MaryAnne; * Morristown, New Jersey

“Three months after my daughter was born, I saw my obstetrician at a garden party. I smiled, waved, and waited for him to come admire my adorable new baby. After all, he brought her into …

Stop Being Rude, Bitches!

suvcleSitting at a traffic light in my little Mazda, I had no choice but to read the bumper sticker plastered on the sport-utility vehicle in front of me: “My kid can beat up your honor student.” As I was absorbing that bit of information, another driver blared his horn at a pedestrian on crutches, trapped in the crosswalk. The next morning, at church, the inevitable cell phone rang smack in the middle of the sermon. “If that’s for me, just tell them I’m busy,” said my minister, which is his stock response.

For quite a while now, I’ve been wondering, whatever happened to civility? After September 11, there was talk of a profound change in America. Cynicism, nastiness, and, yes, rudeness were …