Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beat'em To The Punch

One night, my friend and I were talking and the runs came up.  Not diarrhea, mind you, but the runs that one runs by running.  I cracked up because, as soon as my friend mentioned the runs, she made a clarification, and I know that if she hadn't, I would have made a joke about that ambiguity of terms.

She beat me to the punch (if she'd made a joke, she would have beaten me to the punchline) and I loved it.  For one thing, it was funny because of the timing. She added the clarification immediately after the initial message, so I didn't have time to process the absurdity of what she had written.  The punch came faster than the speed of my brain (which is an extraordinary feat).  The delivery was also great.  It was a very matter-of-fact style, but done on a subject that is always danced around (because of its vulgarity), which also adds to the double take.

You can take and retain a great deal of power by beating them to the punch.  You make sure they stay surprised.  You take away the power to be angry or mean.  In life, it is hard to make fun of somebody for being ugly when the first thing they do is talk about how ugly they are.  Similarly, if you fall on your face, then get up and laugh about it, it is impossible to laugh at you because they will only be able to laugh with you.

And in your writing, you have to keep your audience guessing.  Make them surprised until the very end.  And if you absolutely can't obfuscate the truth, then embrace it.  Sure, it was obvious that your protagonist was going to escape from danger safely.  Make a joke about it.  Make a rhetorical statement or a thought mentioning how there is no realistic danger, so it's all good.  That way, the audience can't say that they saw it coming because you can tell them that they were supposed to get it.

Happy writing.

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