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Humor Writing - How to Change DOH! To Dough
by Phil Truman

If you have your sights set writing humor, you should get used to questions like this - "Do you ever do any serious writing?"

There are two implications to this question, and those like it. One is the obvious – humor writing is frivolous, and therefore not important writing. The second says, if you’re a humor writer, you’re somehow second class to the rest of the literati. We class clowns have always been tolerated for our entertainment value, but our efforts couldn’t be put on the same plateau with those who write in serious genres like mystery or romance or suspense or westerns or… gasp (I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy)… literary pieces.

Now let’s don’t kid ourselves. We don’t and won’t get paid a lot for our humor writing, but we’ll have a better chance of taking it to the bank than we will writing a story about a big white whale named Ishmael and a crazy sea captain named Dick Moby played by Gregory Peck. In fact, humor by itself usually has the following pay scale: Minimum: Nothing; Maximum: Next to Nothing. Far be it for me to recommend that you try to become a humor writer in order to make a living. I recommend writing magazine or e-zine articles if you want to make money as a writer. Just remember, not all articles need to be dead serious. Inject your humor skills into them and you’ll have a better chance of selling them.

I don’t like journalism majors. Back in my college days I was bitten by a journalism major, and I’ve never gotten over it. However, I’ll have to admit they have a point. Yes, it’s true most of them are uncombed and have horns, but when it comes to writing for money they are more better at it than us English majors.

Journalism majors adhere to two very sound writer rules – one, don’t write for free, and two, don’t be so uppity if an editor wants to change what you’ve written, especially if they still want to pay you for it. I hate to admit that makes them smarter than me (journalism majors, not editors), but it does on that score.

The purpose here isn’t to tell you how to write magazine articles. But I do want to emphasize that magazine article writing is far more lucrative than just writing your basic humor. There’s no law, however, that says you can’t include one with the other.

But back to the question about serious writing versus humor writing. Writing humor is very hard and very serious, and if you don’t believe that, you’re a dope-smoking journalism monkey. The ability to write so that your readers find it funny is not an easy thing to accomplish. It takes practice and keen instincts toward knowing how to use techniques that can generate amusement ranging from a wry smile to falling down, knee-slapping, hiccup-generating, snort-inducing, flatulence-forcing laughter.

Don’t kid yourself, writing of any kind is hard work. However, writing humor isn’t something anybody can do. There is a certain talent to it, true, but like that obscure actor who played Robert Redford’s dad in The Natural said to the young Roy Hobbs, "You really should see somebody about that wart on your face."

No, wait, that was Redford’s agent. The line in the movie was, "You have a gift, Roy, but that’s not enough." And just like in baseball, when it comes to hitting and fielding and spitting and scratching in humor writing, talent isn’t enough. You have to build the skills; you have to develop the craft.

Now I would be the first to admit that I’m no Roy Hobbs when it comes to hitting homeruns at the ballpark of humor; I’m no Sundance Kid when it comes to robbing the banks of laughter; I’m no…whatever his character’s name was in The Sting when it comes to… uh… I forgot what my point was…Oh yeah, I may not be the definitive source for humor writing knowledge, but I do know some things, I have learned some things, that I don’t mind passing along, and that’s all I’m trying to do here. It’s like my psychiatrist says, "Every little bit helps."

So if you don’t have a sense of humor, get one. There’s humor all around you if you just look for it. You’re already a writer, now all you have to do is twist your article around until you can make your readers (and editors) laugh at what you laugh at. When you can do that, it will probably sell.

© Copyright 2003, Phil Truman

Phil Truman's website is philtrumanink.com.

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