Thursday, October 26, 2023

A Thought On My Most Recent Humor Publication: Be Specific

It would be tough to be George Eliot today.
Today Jane Austen's Wastebasket, a humor site on the Medium platform that features literary humor,  published my piece Some Thoughts Regarding Your 800-page Submission About a Couple of Bad Marriages: An internet editor's notes to George Eliot on Middlemarch. I like to think that over the last few years, while I've been writing what I call short-form humor, I've learned a little bit about how to do it. I can tell you exactly what I learned while writing Some Thoughts Regarding Your 800-page Submission

Though George Eliot and Middlemarch feature prominently in the subtitle to this bit of writing, they were not part of the original idea. What I was first interested in writing about was readers (primarily this reader?) becoming very taken with shorter types of writing. This is probably a result of many of us doing a lot of our reading on-line. Medium and other sites categorize the articles they publish by the number of minutes it takes to read them. And I do find myself using that information to make decisions about how much time and energy I want to commit to reading about various topics or titles. 

Thus, I thought it would be funny to write about readers' willingness to read 10 minutes about X or 6 minutes about Y, but no way would they read more than 4 minutes about Z. And will anyone be willing to spend more than 20 minutes reading about anything?

Be Specific

Humor, I find, is a lot easier to write once you're found an angle. This might be the equivalent of voice, in fiction. Point-of-view characters are far easier to write once you have a voice for them. 

Early on, I was having trouble coming up with an angle for what I was calling my timed reading piece. Because that's what it was about, remember. Timed reading. There was no George Eliot.

Then I read somewhere to make humor specific. Stay away from generalizations. If you watch standup acts, comics don't talk about "boyfriends" as a generalized subject. They talk about their boyfriends. They don't talk about "travel." They talk about their awful trip to Niagara Falls. And to be more specific, they may add who they were traveling with. And when.

I needed to come up with something specific to use in my timed writing piece. Since I am a big fan of the incongruity theory of humor, I began thinking about the incongruity involved with short internet writing and nineteenth-century novels, which are notorious for being long. Since I'd just read about being specific with humor writing, I needed a specific, long nineteenth-century novel. I went with George Eliot's Middlemarch, because I've read it. 

Yes, I've read Middlemarch. Years ago. For a book club I belonged to. I was recovering from surgery, so I couldn't go anywhere. I have a vague recollection of unhappily married people. Don't anyone ask me any questions about it.

My favorite nineteenth century book is Jane Eyre, not Middlemarch. I went specifically with Middlemarch instead of Jane Eyre, because Middlemarch is longer. It would make the incongruity humor I was going for work better.

Middlemarch, specifically, would make the incongruity humor I was going for work better.

No comments: