Friday, 13 January 2012

My attempt to be funny

Oh it really the 13th of January???  I can't believe I haven't blogged for that long!!!

Are you still there?  Hope you are.  I haven't disappeared.  Just really didn't have anything to say since Christmas.

A friend told me awhile ago that I don't post much about my writing.  I do, don't I? I don't?  Really?  Okay, to prove you wrong, I'm posting a writing exercise that I've done with a writer friend quite recently.  I have never tried humour before and she insisted that I should.  She gave me two sentences - one to be used as my beginning and the other as my ending.

Here are the two sentences:

It worked a treat, stopping for tea
The thought made her itch

Here's what I came up with:

My Nanny Knickers
by Len Lambert

It worked a treat, stopping for tea.  But it sure added at least two inches to her waistline.  She starved herself to death for a week to lose weight and now probably gained twice as much as she had lost in the last seven days.

Katie wanted to look good again for Pierce so today she bought six new pairs of G-string in different colours.  She had decided to try one on and now she looked at herself in the mirror.  Not bad, just a few more pounds to lose.  Tummy still bulging.  Hmmm.  Of course, she had just gulped down fish and chips at Lisa’s.  Must lose more tomorrow by not eating besides carrots.  That would do the same trick.

In the drawer, she looked at her old nanny knickers which almost went up to her chest due to their size.  But she must admit, they were comfortable.  She had gathered them altogether so she could throw them away.  That cleared her drawer, making room for the G-strings.  But she needed more so she promised herself to get a few more pairs at lunchtime at work.
Katie sniffed and sneezed, this cold she couldn’t shake off for three days now.  She went into the loo with all her old knickers.  She blew her nose in a tissue and sneezed once more.  She looked at her colourful nanny knickers.  Why am I feeling so gloomy over these?  They’re only knickers for Pete’s sake.  After a good few minutes looking at them, she folded them altogether and chucked them in the bin.  Once again, she looked in the mirror and pulled a face at her reflection.  She was never satisfied with her weight.

When she returned into the bedroom, her six-year old daughter Emma sat on the bed, scissors in hand.
“Mum, why are you walking around in baby knickers?  Don’t you know they’re way too small for you now?  You know that, don’t you?”

It was only then that Katie realised that she was still in her G-strings and a T-shirt, nothing else.  It took a few more seconds for her to see that Emma was holding scissors!  What was she doing with scissors? 

“They’re too small for you, Mum, but too big for Barbie so I’ve got to make them smaller to fit her.  You don’t mind, Mum, do you?”  Emma turned to look at her mother waiting for an answer but Kate just looked with mouth open, taking in what was happening.  Her new G-strings were cut in small pieces on her bed!

Without saying a word, she ran back to the loo and grabbed the rubbish bin under the sink. But as she crouched low, she felt the sharpness of the strings slice like a knife!  But something was more important.  She pulled her old nanny knickers out of the bin only to find out that they had gone all gooey with all the tissue and her own mucus stuck on each of them. 

“What am I supposed to wear tomorrow?”

She stared at the sickening sight in front of her.             

How am I going to wear these again?

The thought made her itch.


I write MG and women's fiction and have never tried humour.  This was honestly the first time.  And I am open to all kinds of criticism, as long as it is not rude.

Tell me what you think.  Have you tried writing different kinds of genre?  I'm still trying to find my voice in my writing.  I know that soon, I will have to decide what to focus on.

If you aren't published yet, have you found your "voice" in your writing? If you are a published author, did you try different genres before settling on one specific genre?


Old Kitty said...

Knickers should always be a central theme! LOL!! I always thought g-strings looks the most uncomfy things ever! Poor Katie - hope there's an useful M&S nearby!

This was a really fun read, thank you - I didn't expect little Emma and her barbie dolls - so that was totally funny! Thanks for sharing! Take care

Karen Lange said...

This writing exercise is a wonderful idea, what a great way to stretch ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

Jim Murdoch said...

My first thought about this piece of writing is that it reads more like an anecdote than a story. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation. It’s not bad but it didn’t really surprise me. I think that was the main thing that didn’t work for me. Humour is a complex subject but it really boils down to saying things that are funny or saying things in a funny way, usually a combination of the two. Since we’re talking about the written word we don’t have the benefit of timing or facial gestures; all we have is language and so we need to choose our words carefully. Most humour depends on the unexpected. If we see the punch line coming then it’s not very funny. I sent my latest novel, Milligan and Murphy out to a couple of beta readers and one of them wrote me back and said that as he was reading the following paragraph he actually burst out laughing. It’s describing a man in a church:

“Father…” Murphy scuttled along the aisle a few paces and then thought the better of approaching the man and held back; you never steal up behind a cow or a priest.

I have to say it still makes me smile. Christ knows what I was thinking when I wrote it. It’s preposterous. But look at the word ‘scuttled’—it’s so evocative—whereas, in your story, the daughter simply ‘cuts’ the G-strings, the woman simply ‘runs’ to the bathroom. These aren’t very funny words. Here’s another paragraph from Milligan and Murphy:

Milligan and Murphy were both forty though they could have passed for fifty at a pinch. This is not to imply that they had led hard lives. In point of fact the opposite was truer. They simply did not weather well. Perhaps it was the boredom that had surrounded them from infancy. There was precious little to do in Lissoy apart from work (when you couldn’t wangle your way out of it), drink (when you could persuade some soft touch to buy you it) or grow old and die (as if you might somehow convince Death you weren’t worth the bother).

This isn’t laugh-out-loud funny but it is humorous. And this is typical of the writing style throughout the book. All my books are leavened with humour like this. It’s not enough to communicate. You need to get your message over in an interesting fashion. On the plus side your premise is good, you don’t milk it, but you just need to spice it up a bit. You say she bought “six new pairs of G-string in different colours” and that’s fine—personally I would have used “assorted colours”—but what colours? Pastels? Fluorescents? Lacey? Frilly? Was it a six-pack from the local supermarket or did she fork out for some designer undies? It’s worth reworking.

To answer your question about genre I never gave genre a second thought when I wrote any of my novels. In my innocence I didn’t imagine many authors—other than science fiction, horror or romance writers—did. I said what I had to say in the way that felt most natural and it wasn’t until I started thinking about marketing the first one did I realise that it didn’t fit neatly into any genre and the same goes for the following four books although the third and the fourth veer more towards the literary end of the spectrum.

I found my voice on page one of my first novel though. I write as I think. I have a weakness for longer sentences with lots of asides and I’m fond of unusual words; I gave a character wind once just so I had an excuse to use the word ‘borborygmi’. It’s not enough for me to tell a story. I need to tell it in an interesting way. Language is very important to me. I find it very hard to be serious on the page—despite being a serious individual in real life—and so I allow that humour to come out on the page. There is humour in every situation; it’s just a matter of letting it out.

You can read the opening chapter of Milligan and Murphy here; it might give you some ideas.

Glynis said...

You made me laugh, Len. I love my granny knickers, especially in the winter. Brilliantly done!

I think I have found my seem to think so. ;D X

Jules said...

LOL, g-strings don't fit mommy! :) Loved the exercise.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

Oh knickers...too funny. It's also clever so I like it.

I'm kind of all over the place with my writing. I have a young adult protagonist, yet wrote an adult story. I write science-fiction, fantasy, and then took a break and wrote a 500-word children's picture book story for Christmas.

I'm a publishing nightmare. I can't figure out what I like to write and just write whatever the hell I want to.

Gina Blechman said...

I love writing different genres when I do writing exercises, just to test myself and try something different. Nice story you've got here. Questions though: why does she need quite so many g-strings?

<3 Gina Blechman

Beth Stilborn said...

That was fun. I'm wondering if Jim missed the point that it was a writing exercise? Certainly there are always bits and pieces that we can hone and refine in any piece of writing, but it definitely struck me as funny. Fairly skewed-to-women's-experience funny, but there's no problem with that.

As for genre, I either haven't found my niche, or I have several different niches (the latter is my preferred way of thinking about it). I'm a pre-published writer of picture books, middle grade novels, and adult fiction.

I recently did a post about "genre-identity" that you might find interesting. (Also did a brief one about humor. The consensus in the comments seemed to be that humor has to happen organically, it can't be forced.) The genre-identity one is here:

Theresa Milstein said...

I remember reading this one before. Too funny! Nothing like being a mother to realize it's an uphill battle to be sexy on many fronts!

Glad you posted this piece.

Ann Cash said...

You are really a great writer! I am inspired by your piece!