C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Genre Writing: How to make your book funnier if you want to (and why funny is important)

I’m not talking about writing comedy per se. I’m talking about giving a too-serious book some oomph. (Oomph is funny. Ooh-la-la is erotica, and that’s a different post.) It’s not for every author or every book, but if you’re looking for ways to add a lighter touch to your work in progress, consider this:

1. Say what everyone else is thinking but would never say. Explore why you, too, love disco. You have always loved disco and yes, you, like everyone, have had angry sex in the back of a taxi. It made you feel disappointed in yourself and oddly Germanic. But that was this afternoon, so let’s not live in the past and…

2. Punch up, not down. This is why Jon Stewart is funny and Rush Limbaugh isn’t. Rush mocks the poor while Stewart goes after power. Mocking our betters is what betters are for, apparently. Not many of them seem to be good for much else.

3. Have a sense of humor about yourself and let your protagonist be less monolithic, too. Self-deprecating humor works because, well…few of us are really that great but anybody who thinks they’re great sounds like a donkey. Watch Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity and fall in love with John Cusack (again) because of that funny vulnerability. John Cusack is a funny puppy in those movies (even when he’s killing people for profit.)

4. Juxtaposition can be funny. For instance, I wrote on Twitter that I had an awkward encounter with someone I’d accidentally insulted. I added, “Hiding in my office. Like a man!”

5. Twist it. “I love kids. Not mine, but…” Attack jokes are hard to pull off without supreme confidence. They’re more suited to villains or more minor characters who have a terrible vengeance coming to them. When the boss is caustic and sarcastic, the reader will achieve greater satisfaction when the twit is hoisted screaming by his own penis. Or someone else’s. Hey, I’m not here to judge your book.

6. Find the funny in the character. In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon would add Xander to a scene to deliver a particular line because, though everyone on the show could be funny, a Xander joke coming from Willow’s mouth would break Willow’s character. Jokes and characters have a point of view, so make sure the joke sounds right coming from your character.

The jokes that spring from my autistic hero in This Plague of Days originate in his innocence. He doesn’t see the world as others do so he often says the unexpected, but from his unique, laconic perspective. There is nothing angry or world-weary in his observations, only wide-eyed, what the heck are they doing now and why? This is normal?

7. Don’t be afraid to deliver a line in a low-key way. In Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz gets beaten terribly. His girlfriend, the lovely Lily, finds him lying on his kitchen floor icing his blackened eyes. When she tells him that his situation does not look good, the hit man deadpans, “I don’t know why you’d say that.”

8. Outrageous works. Rants can be awesome. Give it a context to sell it and an entertaining rant can go a long way. For instance, in this little Season 3 spoiler from This Plague of Days, Shiva gets some good lines: 

“Please don’t hurt anybody.”

“Darling, I’m the Queen of Hearts.”

“So, you’ll rule with love?”

“No, stupid. I mean I can say, ‘Off with their heads,’ at any time. Love takes time, Rahab. Fear takes root in the second it takes to slap a child.”

9. Writing jokes is difficult. There are many more comedians than there are comedians who are really killing. To improve your chances of hitting the right notes to a killer joke, don’t sweat it so hard on your first draft. Jokes are easier to find and unearth when you’ve already laid the foundation of character, action and dialogue. Jokes are for the second and third pass where you’ve already got something to riff from. Lots of people aren’t quip machines on their own, but when they hang out with friends and loosen up, they can bounce lots of funny ideas off what’s already in the ether over the cocktail bar.

10. A joke is set up, punch. The punch should be fast and short. Don’t reach for it. Eschew dumb, easy jokes and never make a joke you have to explain. Use the fewest words possible to get to the POW! 

BONUS: Why is funny important?

I write suspense. I deliver on a lot of grim scenaria. Horror presents many opportunities to be funny because both scares and laughs are about playing with the audience’s brains and delivering the unexpected. When the reader expects you to zig, zag. These devices are necessary because few readers want to read a long horror story if it’s not an emotional roller coaster. The horror on the next page will have a heavier punch if I can get you to chuckle on this page.

One of the things I don’t like about some books is that they are relentlessly monotone. The reader begins to feel like there’s little emotional payoff and the book becomes a grim march to the finish. Grim can be fun, but a book with only one tone and no cookies and candy along the way isn’t rewarding the reader with enough wit. One tone for a whole book is so hard to pull off, I don’t recommend trying it in most genre fiction. Life’s tough enough. We all need comic relief. (Yes, I can think of exceptions, but I’d rather read the exceptions less often.)

Funny helps your characters. In Die Hard (the original), the hero gets a lot of funny lines. Bruce Willis was a lot easier to like when he was more of a hapless, shoeless badass instead of being the go-to smart ass tough guy out of the gate. Heroes in real danger are compelling. Heroes who face that danger with at least some appreciation for the absurd? We love a wry hero more than the strong, silent type.

Hold back on the easy joke if it saps another emotion’s power moment. In the final battle for the survival of the human race, don’t let your hero suddenly turn into Andy Dick. (If your villain in that scenario suddenly turns into Andy Dick, however, that could work.)

It’s not that hard to give your reader a story with emotional range. Send in the clowns. When you’re done terrifying them with clowns, give them something to laugh at and light some tax accountants on fire.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and some people think I’m funny. I wasn’t always funny. I learned that when you hide your rage behind jokes, you get fired less. I’m not very funny on Twitter, but it would be cool if you followed me there @rchazzchute.

If you like to laugh, and breathe, and eat things, then continue laughing, I recommend Bigger Than Jesus. Bestselling author of Vigilante, Claude Bouchard called it “Wickedly real and violently funny!” and Claude would not lie.  Seriously, he wouldn’t. I tried to get him to write me a better blurb, but that’s it.

Filed under: funny, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

63 Strategies and Solutions to Your Life Problems That Won’t Help (and one that might)

We’re currently inundated with new year’s resolution memes and people are already asking, “Have you broken your resolution yet?”

Jeez! How weak are we? Are we the same species who fled comfy, lice-ridden cities to cross oceans in rickety, wooden boats without valet service to chop down trees and to make room for the I-95? Um…I might have skipped over hundreds of years of slavery, a few assassinations and some other historical events in that brief summary, but you get my point. Be stronger, with the dumb, pioneer spirit and distressing testicular fortitude of your ancestors.

The solutions to broken resolutions are pretty much the same every year.

Here are varieties of bad solutions you might recognize:

1. Tech solutions: Get a Fitbit to lose that weight because that which is not measured doesn’t get changed. Write it all down. (Good start! Keep going!) When you stop writing it down, you’ll look up to find yourself, inexplicably and magically, transported to the pizza parlour. Blink again and you’re in the ice cream parlour. Weird. (Bad end.)

2. Psychological: Love yourself more, because, I mean, like…wow. Think how you’ll look in that hot, red tube top, sir! (Corollary: How about I love me more the way I am right now and eat an entire ham smothered in chocolate and soft serve ice cream? I’ll wear that same tube top, but as a headband.)

3. Political: Let’s form another committee about that. We can get your proposal on the agenda two weeks after the sun explodes, on a Tuesday afternoon, at about the time we table it forever, for the drifting in space holiday.

4. Demented political: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps you moochers and takers! (Even though pulling oneself up by the bootstraps was originally meant ironically since it’s a physical impossibility which, if possible, would deny gravity and allow us all to float.)

5. Philosophical: Why? Why? Why? Why didn’t I choose a major that led to employment?

6. Social work: Don’t ask why, dummy! Ask, Why not?

7. Evangelical: Jesus, by all depictions, was a really chiselled jock. And He wouldn’t eat an ice cream cone. (But how many carbs are in manna?)

8. Journalistic (1960 to 1990): Let me tell you about the obesity epidemic (good) and the glory of low-fat diets that were tried for decades and failed miserably (stupid).

9. Journalistic (1990 – present): Let me scare you to death over the latest food fad while we watch this stooge for the sugar industry debate a squirrel on water skis. (All stupid.)

10. Dream Journaling: I’ll watch The Secret again and again and if I wish really hard and we all clap our hands, Tinkerbell will live and I’ll hate myself a fraction less.

11. Personal trainer logic: You weren’t born with a thin person’s metabolism like me, therefore you’re a lazy slob.

12. Coaching a la The Biggest Loser: I will respect you as a human being, but only after you lose the weight. You losers disgust me! What? You thought “Loser” in the title was ironic?

13. Drama coach: Show us what your new life will look like through the magic of interpretive dance!

14. Medical: I’ll tell you to lose the weight. What? How do you do it? Nobody really knows for sure…but go do that.

15. Systemic solutions: The status quo is All. Go back to sleep. You will be assimilated.

16. Obligatory Stoner cliché: Don’t rock the boat man, cuz nothing changes and The Man is keeping us down. The plaid pattern on this couch is, like, deep, man.

17. Optimistic: We can rise above the status quo. We never have personally, but darn it we will! Just because, that’s why!

18. Pessimistic: If we change for the better, I’ll have to get a whole new personality. That sounds like a lot of work.

19. Educational: Study all the theories about how to change. Write another thesis. We’ll reach a conclusion when you’re quarter past dead, which, to be fair, is much faster than #3.

20. Capitalistic: Irrelevant. Who has money anymore?

21. Socialistic: I can change as soon as I get everyone else on board and get approved through a consensus of a vast number of people who don’t understand my problems. 

22. Tyrannical: Do as I say! Oh, crap, I’m shot.

23. Vegan Yogic: I’m already perfect in every way. The enlightened need not change. And you? Still eating food with a face?

24. Nike Vulcan Logic: I do not understand why you do not just do it, you moronic human.

25. Captain Kirk Logic: Screw the Prime Directive again! No consequences! But first, hey, green girl! Do you come to this space bar often?

26. Dr. Who Logic: We’ll fix your current circumstance by going back in time, except that will just make more timestreams and, you being you, I suspect you’ll still be miserable. Worse, at some point my lovely, adoring assistant will age, get married off to some half-wit who isn’t me or be murdered by an alien.

27. Fatalistic: Nothing changes. Why bother? Though…yeah, I would like to get out of my parents’ basement before I’m 40. But that could never work. No one’s ever succeeded at changing anything ever.

28. Pollyanna: Don’t change. You’re beautiful. I’m beautiful. Everything is beautiful. Just keep those red and green pills coming or for the love of god lobotomize me!

29. Good Will Hunting: It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

30. Irish Mom: It’s your fault. And your father’s.

31. Man Logic: When I look in the mirror, I look pretty good to me.

32. Woman Logic: When he looks in the mirror, he has no &%$@!! idea what I put up with.

33. Internet Logic: Buy this white paper for just $24.95 and you’ll be thin, rich, famous and dating a Kardashian by Tuesday night! (Bonus offer: The surprising secret to whiter teeth and upward mobility through animal husbandry!)

34. Great Santini Dad logic: I’m very disappointed in you. Do you even know how much those cello lessons cost? And where is that cello now? You’re no Yo-Yo Ma. Just a yo-yo, huh? More pushups will fix you, you big baby! You’ll thank me after I’m dead!

35. Mom logic: Have some more substitute love casserole and pay no attention to what your father says. I mean, look at him. Gawd!

36. Bureaucrat logic: I’d be interested in your problem, but my retirement is only, like, thirty years away so fill out these forms…

37. Cop logic: Everybody’s guilty and, as we all know, jail fixes everything so…

38. Surgeon’s logic: If cutting won’t solve your problem, you don’t have a problem.

39. Comedian logic: But if I fix my life, what will I do for an act?

40. Swiss logic: What is wrong with you people? Just stay out of it.

41. Whiner logic: I would change but it’s so hard. I didn’t think it would be this hard. Let me tell you about it over a huge dessert coffee, which I deserve because I must celebrate each tiny triumph or self-medicate my ego for every minuscule setback.

42. Toxic Logic: I knew you’d fail and I can’t tell you how joyous it is to be here to quantify my I told you so in excruciating detail with a heavy dollop of condescension.

43. YouTube Commenter: You suck and this is a colossal waste of time, which was just made more colossal because I’m taking the time to make a hateful comment here. (And, by the way, I’m a raging bigot with no life who hates everyone and everything but me.)

44. Amazon reviewer: Good job! Four stars for a solid effort.

45. Goodreads reviewer: Good job! Three stars for a solid effort.

46. Grammar Nazi: Everything would be great and this post would be funnier if not for the 150 mistakes, both real and imagined.

47. Actual Nazi: I feel zee term “Grammar Nazi” devalues my life’s vork. My life’s terrible, terrible vork.

48. Self-help industry: I can definitely help you change your life. First walk across these coals at my seminar in Fiji, buy all the books which pretty much say the same thing, join the cult and accept the idea that encouraging words + semantics = “new, revolutionary mind technology”.

49. Outsourcing: I can’t get to the gym and take care of the kids and do my job, but there’s this slave in Malaysia. She doesn’t speak English, but she can listen to the kids over the phone while she works out.

50. Life Coach #1: Just say no. It worked when Nancy Reagan told…oh…right.

51. Life Coach #2: Say yes to Life! Cuz when Jim Carrey said yes to everything in Yes Man, he uh…didn’t he help Luis Guzman with a guitar or something?

52. Breaking Bad solutions: “Science, bitch!” And meth. Lots and lots of meth.

53. Chuck Norris: “He doesn’t need a weapon. He is a weapon.” Um…I don’t see how that is a solution to my —” “Because he’s Chuck Norris, that’s why!”

54. SpongeBob Squarepants: Meth, obviously. Lots and lots of meth.

55. Pet cat solutions: When you die because you did not seek to fix your life, I’ll be eating your fat corpse before it’s cold. And don’t think of me as your “pet.” You’ve got it backwards.

56. Glee solutions: Let’s sing about our pain and marry insanely young so we’ll always have lots of pain to sing about.

57. TV exec solutions: We filmed the worst people we could find so your life looks and feels much better, even though we’re paying these awful reality stars more per minute than you make in a year.

58. Podcast solution: We can talk about it. We’ll talk about it again and forget we talked about it before. 

59. Talk therapy solution: Pretty much the same as #58.

60. Dr. Phil Solution: Drawl insulting Texan idioms at you until you promise to change just to shut him up.

61. Oprah Solutions: (This snarky remark deleted because, Jesus, she’s Oprah! She comes off soft and spiritual, but she’s Oprah, for God’s sake! She could have me and all of you killed just for reading this!)

62. Bond movie solution: Cool soundtrack, but don’t model your life after a guy who always gets captured by an impossibly rich, cartoonish villain in a cheap suit.

63. Cher in Moonstruck:

Logical solutions:

Make better choices on an ongoing basis. You probably already know what you need to do. You know you need to make a plan and follow it consistently and not quit when you fail. Because you will fail. But if you put more checks in the “did it” column instead of making longer “to-do” lists, you’ll win in the longterm. Commit.

And finally, especially for writers:

Whatever you commit to doing first will get done. 

If you aren’t writing, start and do that first,

before all the other demands of the day get in the way.

Set the alarm clock for early. See you at the desk.

Filed under: getting it done, Rant, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 odd things you didn’t know about me

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1. Years ago I worked as a healer and got a woman who was nearly a quadriplegic out of a wheelchair. She recovered to the point of independence and is still walking and driving and traveling to this day. She became a healer in turn.

2. I’ve chipped two teeth, broken a toe and fractured a wrist while fighting. (The wrist belonged to someone else. It was a sparring accident.) I got much more hurt and into much more trouble preparing for violence than having to deal with it for real. I should have taken verbal judo, instead.

3. Before I was an atheist, I was a member of a fundamentalist Christian church. I lost my faith—or tossed it over my shoulder on the way out—after a couple of close friends died.

4. At one point I trained six hours a day in Hapkido. I thought I did it because I was a bad ass. Actually, I did it because I am not a bad ass. I was searching for a way to protect myself from a childhood filled with violence.

5. I didn’t have a sense of humor, or express it much, anyway, until I was 22. I learned I could make people laugh at the Banff School of Fine Arts. I had tried to be funny previously, but my family and high school and college experience repeatedly shut me down. “Who do you think you are?” they said. Once I got out of bad situations I realized the answer to that question is, “You’re uptight, I’m me. And that’s enough.”

6. I had a job from which I should have been fired. I made the boss laugh so hard every time we weren’t arguing that I kept the job until I finally left of my accord. Sadly. Shoulda gotten out of there much sooner.

7. I lost a job I did very well. The Powers that Be didn’t like questionable policies being  questioned. They assumed I did my job poorly because I was a pain in the ass. They didn’t recognize what integrity looked like. I’m better off. They’re the same.

8.  I’m still convinced someone’s watching me but I don’t believe in God. I cannot resolve this contradiction. Could be narcissism, though. This very list would seem to tip the scale that way.

9. I read ten books at one time. Minimum. Aside from enjoying my huge book collection, I browse a library is like a crack head loots a pharmacy in a riot.

10. I’m writing four books at one time, which explains why they are so slow to come to market. When they do arrive later this year, they’ll arrive in a mighty clump. Or, if you’re not into my fiction, a big dump.

11. I’ve been a best man only once, at a gay wedding. That should be an innocuous fact. Instead, since the world is the fearful place it is, it’s a fact of which I am very proud. One day soon, it will be a fact that should construe nothing more than an idle curiosity.

12. I used to be angry all the time. Now I sublimate my rage with humor. Actually, I joke around a lot. Now that I think of it, that’s still all rage.

13. I remember every slight, real or imagined, with perfect eidetic clarity. I’m still angry at dead people who insulted me when I was seven.

14. I am an extremely gifted massage therapist. My palpation skills, knowledge and execution are beyond compare. It’s not the sort of thing that gets much respect, though.

15. If I hadn’t met my wife and soul mate, there’s an excellent chance I’d be living in a refrigerator box. Or extremely depressed in a very responsible job with a couple of angry  ex-wives. Instead I’m always safe at home, hiding in my fortress of solitude.

16. One of the best, oldest friends I ever had walked away from me one day. I called and called and he never called back. At first I assumed he was injured or dead. Then I found out I was dead to him. I have suspicions, but the truth is, I really don’t know why that happened. I wish him well, wherever he is.

17.  Before kids, fear defined me. My children redefined my life (as happens to everyone, right?) Now it’s all about the love. I thought I’d work much more after the birth of my eldest. Then I held her for the first time, locked eyes and I knew I couldn’t allow anyone else to guard her. I became a house husband and stay-at-home dad permanently.

18.  I’m scared about a future with no financial security. I’m taking more risks, not fewer, to change that. Take the shot.

19. I wish my few friends lived right next door. There’s not much chance of that considering I’ve moved about twenty times in my life and have lived for extended times in three provinces, far east, far west and central.

20. I give a lot because I’m a people pleaser. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get much back. They say karma’s a bitch. I say karma’s an extremely slow bitch. Where’s my lottery win, bitch?!

21. My childhood really began when I escaped a small town childhood. They resented me for saying life would begin when I left. I was right, though. Cities are my natural environment. (Also, I was right about the algebra: Never used it, never will.) Escape is my answer again.

22. Fiction allows me to murder people in a socially acceptable way. I think about it. A lot.

23. I’m a caring and very sensitive person. I’m also selfish. I cannot resolve this contradiction for you if you are confused.

24. In my internal monologue, there’s a lot more swearing.

25. My ego’s bigger than yours. Also, my id is BIG LIKE HULK. But aside from reading that here, even if you met me in person, you would never ever know it.

I have held a human heart in my hands.

However, even if you saw open somebody’s head and peer in, no one really knows the inside of anyone else’s skull. 

 

Filed under: Unintentionally hilarious, What about Chazz?, , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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