I recently reviewed the manuscript for a inspirational book about getting out of debt. The author once aspired to be a comedian, and he used a lot of his stage material into the text. I remember hearing these routines, and they were funny on stage, but dumped straight into this book
they didn’t just fall flat; they actually served as agents of sobriety – anti-humor viruses that sucked the fun out of the reader’s day.
What went wrong? It takes finesse to correctly structure and punctuate a joke so that a reader experiences the same rhythm and timing as an audience. In some cases, a comedy routine that works on stage will never work well in a book. How is it that Dave Barry wrote thousands of hilarious columns, while famous stand-up comedians can’t seem to put together a single funny book? Dave’s columns were originally created for readers. (If you’re a fan of his, compare the way he structured his thoughts in his early columns with the way he wrote his later columns. He gets funnier as time goes on, covering the same subjects, because of the way he approaches idea, from sentence structure to punctuation. For more about writing for impact, see last week’s post, Don’t “step” on your point, LAND on it!
My experience with the comedian-turned-financial-advisor is less common, however, than the experience I’m sure you have all had reading novels in which a character tells a tale to another person, and apparently a professor of literature takes over his brain and makes him talk as if he were reading from a novel rather than, well, talking.
I cannot tell you how much I hate this. Hate. Hate. Hate.
Unlike the comedian with soul-sucking material, who can only fix his problem through lots of practice and professional guidance, I can easily give an author advice about the second situation. And my advice is:
DON’T FORGET THAT YOUR CHARACTER IS TALKING!!!!!!
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