Comedy and the Lack Thereof

Growing up without cable, my cultural education has always been somewhat lacking.  For instance, I had never seen a single episode of The Twilight Zone.  Obviously, this is a travesty.  I started watching the series on Amazon Prime, but they didn’t have the fourth season, so I went back to Hulu for that.  This means that I ended my viewing mission on a low, blatty note entitled “The Bard”.

If you share my deficiencies, you may think of The Twilight Zone as that old, creepy show, which is mostly true.  But there were a few “funny” episodes in there as well.  In this particular case, the scare quotes on “funny” could be seen from orbit.  Truly grating and obnoxious main character, a soundtrack that called out every remotely funny moment by pausing for a tuba, and an ending that robs us of the usual Twilight Zone brand of poetic justice ensuring that horrible people meet horrible fates.

There was actually one moment I found genuinely hilarious, one which escaped the attentions of the psychotic wind section.  Starting at 35:41, Burt Reynolds does a flawless impression of Marlon Brando:

But I suppose this highlights one of the reasons that it’s so hard to do comedy.  Comedy is not only heavily contextual, but also heavily cultural.  Perhaps audiences fifty years ago would have found Julius Moomer hysterical, perhaps not.  And hell, the Brando impression wouldn’t be funny to someone who hadn’t seen any of his films of that era.  It seems rather appropriate that this observation comes from an episode featuring Shakespeare.  The actual Bard was one funny fucker, but at 400 years’ remove, most of us need heavy annotation to understand the dick and fart jokes.  That might be why the only comedy remembered by anyone but scholars is the one where the guy gets a donkey head, while his tragedies have found much more enduring fame.  Similarly, none of the “funny” Twilight Zone episodes have had nearly the same cultural impact as the dramatic ones.

It’s true what they say: Tragedy is easy.  Comedy is hard.

Still a Virgin

So the second round of the Like a Virgin contest has been announced, and yours truly isn’t in it.

I’m not disheartened, though.  Limited number of slots, not everyone can make it and all.  I only got a couple of comments on my entry, but they were very good.  Both suggested ways that I could tighten up the query, including a point that I’d been too close to the story to notice.  The genesis of this novel was a particular premise (paranormal romance 20 years later, bitter and frankly inevitable divorce), but that bit ended up being more of a B-plot.  It’s not a bad thing to pitch on its own and I felt like it was going to be a huge selling point of the novel.  From the feedback I got, I’ve realized that while it is a selling point, it’s not a necessary selling point.  So out it goes.  Kill your darlings.

I also got some praise that I would go so far as to call “glowing.”  The word “swoon” may have been used.  I’ve long felt pretty confident with my voice, especially when explicitly in character, so getting some affirmation of that set me to some swooning of my own.

All in all, it’s not really a setback, more of an opportunity that didn’t quite pan out.  My timeline for submission will proceed unaltered:

  • Wait for beta feedback to arrive
  • Gather agent lists like whoa
  • Revisions and Query Sharking
  • Begin submissions!

The goal is to be submitting by sometime in June.  I think that’s doable, especially given that the feedback from both the contest and the readers so far is that it just needs some tweaking and tightening before it’s good to go.

Onwards and upwards!

Getting to Know You – Like a Virgin 2014

One of the big things that prompted me to finally get this thing up and running is that I made the first round of the Like a Virgin pitch contest.  So appropriately for my first proper post, here’s a bunch of questions about my firsts!

How do you remember your first kiss?

I had just seen a movie with Jon, a good friend of my best friend’s boyfriend.  (High school!)  We were out in the parking lot, and there was a stunning sunset.  The kiss was awkward, and the guy didn’t last long, although he did mark the beginning of a still-active stretch where every significant male in my life is named some variant on Jon, Jeff, or Josh.

Come to think of it, my first kiss with my husband (a Josh, naturally) was in a parking lot.  And we got engaged in a parking lot.  I may be rather unromantic, at least as far as venues go.

What was your first favorite love song?

Probably something from a Disney movie.  I have an inordinate love for the princesses.  Since Belle is my very favorite, we’ll go with “Beauty and the Beast.”

What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?

Check Google+.

Okay, the first thing I do when I actually start writing and stop procrastinating is fire up my music, generally either Pandora or Songza.  Then I read over the previous day’s progress before I get going.

Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?

Good old Stephen King.  I discovered him around seventh grade or so and became mildly obsessed.  I had done some writing before, but On Writing was the first thing that really made me consider it as a career.

Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?

Weeeeell, that’s a slightly complicated question, because “first book” can be a surprisingly nebulous term.  The very first novel draft I ever wrote was at the age of 14.  I think it’s been lost to time, technology (it was backed up on a series of floppy discs), and several moves.  Probably for the best, since at 16 I realized that it was immature rubbish, threw it out, and tried again.  And a couple of other times after that.  The current revision is a graphic novel, and it does not have the same first chapter as the earliest draft I can find.  I have a very bad habit of starting with the protagonist waking up.

If we’re talking “first book” as in publication-wise, then that would be the one that I’ve got in the contest.  It does currently have the same first chapter as it did on the first draft, although it’s not really a final revision until it goes to print, right?

For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?

Ah, there it is again.  So same split: for that very first novel, it was plot.  Really, it was premise, but I’m sort of a tentpole writer, so the next thing to get figured out was all the big climactic setpieces.

For the contest book, it was probably characters, although again tied closely to a premise.

What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?


I’m actually going out of town starting tomorrow, but I’m going to do my best to get around to the other sites to say hello and meet everyone.  It’s all so exciting!  Best of luck!

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Into the Fray

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To start yourself a blog.”
“But I have nothing new to say,
Nor publishings to flog!
Why should I add my ramb’lings to
The great Internet fog?”

“Because, you dolt,” he did reply,
“You need an author’s space.
The industry will seek you here;
Such trends you should embrace.
And G+ lacks HTML,
So shut your stupid face.”

Fuckin’ Walrus, man.

The non-poetic version of this:

I’ve long resisted the prevailing wisdom that authors must blog.  As a reader, I follow blogs because they have quality content that interests me, not just because they’re there.  I didn’t feel the need to add another obligatory blog.  (Oblogatory? No, I’m sorry, that was terrible even by my standards.)  I did actually fire up Blogger as a space to plop fiction I didn’t intend to shop and longer pieces that weren’t appropriate for Google+, but I quickly realized that I didn’t actually have any of that stuff, so it died of neglect.

However, I’m about to embark on the magical process that is querying my novel, so creating a professional home base is important.  I need a space that I own, as well as a place where I can post more complex formatting than the few text tweaks that G+ permits.

I will do my best to be interesting and not let this become an oblogatory.  (Maybe I wasn’t that sorry.)  I’m a voracious consumer of culture and TV Tropes addict, so I anticipate most of my posts being about examining books, movies, and such from the perspective of a writer.  It might drift in a different direction as such things do, but that’s the goal to start.  I can’t promise any sort of regular schedule, so I recommend subscribing to email or RSS if you really want to see everything.

So, welcome!  Make yourself comfortable.  No shoes on the couch, please, it confuses the cat.