It's been a most triumphant few months doing this column. Over that time, I've covered the basics of comedy writing, talked about ways to integrate humor into forms of writing most freelancer writers are wont to do...I've even covered comedy inspirations from time to time. This time I'd like to give you an insight into how I write all the funny bits I do. Just like you, I had to develop the skills and my own style of writing over time, so don't fret if you don't have it down just yet. It's all a matter of practice.
1. I usually start with the idea.
I brainstorm ideas ahead of time, trying to think about topics my readers and listeners want to hear about. I deal with geeky humor, so this means thinking about video games and cartoons and the like. I keep a running tab of all my ideas, and only pick the ones I feel people will get the most excited about. (I'm not perfect at this yet, though 😉 )
2. If I'm writing an article, I go ahead and create the basic article first - draft, revise, that whole jazz.
If I'm writing a script, I like to do some brainstorming first. Remember how I'm always talking about using relationships to make jokes? Brainstorming things related to the topic helps. It also helps me plan out what details my script will cover, and using thing, I draft and revise the script as usual.
3. Here's where things get admittedly tricky for me.
When I've got a completed article or script, and I'm starting to write gags for the ends of paragraphs, I have to approach it real casual, otherwise I have a tendency to overthink things and give up. Here's what I've settled on - I look at my setup and throw out as many improvised punchlines as I can, without a care for quality or technique. It's my version of the terrible first draft. If I don't get it out of the way right then and there, I'm just going to cause problems down the line.
4. Once I've thrown out punchlines for each setup and I've let them sit for a while, I come back.
Now I've got room to pick the best punchline and revise it for stronger imagery or more clever language. I let myself fiddle with each one - without getting the first draft out of the way, I usually find myself doing this from the outset, which really kills my productivity.
5. With a script, I revise the overall dialogue to sound more natural when I speak it, but at this point I'm pretty much done.
From here on out, it's all a matter of posting and promoting. Don't ask me about how to get more hits - even I still struggle with that 😉
Now I'd like to turn it over to you. Do you have any questions about humor writing that you want me to answer? What would you like to see me cover in future columns? Leave me a comment telling me what you'd like to see!
Latest posts by Matt Willard (see all)
- Make Your Writing Funny – More Comedy Writing Books - June 16, 2011
- Make Your Writing Funny – More on Relationships - June 2, 2011
- Make Your Writing Funny – When Is It "Good Enough"? - May 19, 2011
- Make Your Writing Funny – The Rule of Three - May 5, 2011
- Make Your Writing Funny – Keeping A Notebook - April 21, 2011