This week: Start Backwards to Move ForwardEdited by: Lornda
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This week's Comedy Editor:
"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back in."
Writing comedic poetry can be a real challenge; yet starting backwards may trigger its first laugh
I consider myself a relative newcomer to poetry in general. Reading, understanding, and enjoying its various genres, styles and endless formats, confused me most of the time. Nevertheless, I gravitated toward comedic poetry where I now host "The Humorous Poetry Contest" . After reading and reviewing hundreds of poems, many of which have evoked out-loud laughter to continuous smiles of pure entertainment, I sense that writing a funny poem may not be as easy as one might think.
To induce some sort of humorous reaction from your audience, any item is likely in need of a focal point; a punch line, theme, or moral. The well-timed and smooth delivery will normally require ample thought and an appropriate format to achieve pace, a “got it” clarity, and precise timing for the best humorous effect without belaboring a point or lecturing the reader into a response.
The focal point is likely to depend on a combination of items and technique, perhaps beginning with a clever title followed by a well-constructed introduction of the theme and/or plot that will lead into an effective build-up for a bagful of laughs. For many aspirants of the craft, to accomplish such a task appears perplexing. So how does one begin?
A good question and my curiosity was also piqued, so I reached out to a WdC buddy for his thoughts since his works were among the first that introduced me to an appreciation of humorous poetry. DRSmith and I were on the same page. We both concurred the first step is to begin with an idea for a quirky poem.
Think Of A Funny Idea
Inspiration can come from anywhere, any circumstance, and often when you least expect it. For example, has anything ever happened in your life whether from childhood to the present that you found funny? How about what you have observed, an anecdote, or read, or overhearing a pun or witty exchange during conversations? Maybe someone told a good joke, or you remember a series of whacky wisecracks or one-liners. Spoofs and satirical ideas can emerge from historical or current events, from political or celebrity gaffes or imagined hilarious rewrites to scenes of popular TV shows or from just plain goofy happenings encountered in everyday life. I think you can get the comedy picture here—you have something funny hiding in your life somewhere.
My cohort offered a few examples of what inspired a few of his works.
For "MAD COW DISEASE?" , he used a snappy retort to news coverage warning of mad cow disease perils said to originate in England.
A knock knock type punchline was overheard in an elevator as the basis for "THE BANE OF CHIEF TWO-TENTS" .
He pondered on what twisted rewrites would look like if reciting today’s news in the form of familiar nursery rhymes to inspire "THE NEW YORKSHIRE TIMES" .
There is also the unexpected casual conversation when empathizing with a farmer griping about lost income from weather problems, and then merging it with years of endless versions of farmer's daughter jokes. Voila. "THE "WAY-LAID" FARMER" was born.
Once your clever idea, theme, punchline, or other inspired seed has firmly taken root, how does one start drafting and shaping the poem for the best impact?
How Going Backwards Can Jump Start Forward Momentum
If you’re unsure of or actually prefer a specific structured poem type such as a limerick, a shorty, epic narrative, couplets or quatrains, nonsensical or free verse, or some combination thereof, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is maintaining a visual rendition in your mind of not just the entire item, but a particular ‘haha’ moment you wish to convey.
One suggested tactic is to begin by working backwards from the ‘gotcha’ segment. By playing with words and the format, many times by default it will inspire creativity and evolve into precise wording and a structured delivery that works hard for the best humorous impact, as well as help to establish tempo, rhyming schemes, and an eventual format deemed best suited for the piece.
Secondly, a backward approach will more than likely generate several spontaneous inspirations of how your opening lines and developed plot should be shaped for a crowning knee-slapper of an ending. In addition, going backwards will inspire superb use of excellent literary techniques and poetry latitude that will add a final touch of perfection, and we will visit such examples in the next newsletter, but your drafts are only subject to fine tuning for becoming a classic!
In Part II, we will demonstrate how a longer comedic poem can not only maintain a humorous pace as a narrative, as well as for making effective use of various combinations of formats. By using fluid rhyme and meter, clever wording, styles, and other powerful poetic techniques, you will be able to pull together a single complex piece or serve to inspire singular formats for any number of comedic poetry ideas.
Thanks to DRSmith for his input.
Humorous Poetry Picks: Take note on the subject matter that inspired these authors to write a funny poem
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If you were thinking of writing a humorous poem, what would you choose as the funny subject matter?
Comments from my last issue: "Humor + Characters = Entertainment"
Lance Chambers : "Thank you for including my story, "Ruby has a Reuben," in your newsletter. It was the first story I had written in about 17 years, so I was excited and nervous to submit it. You're very kind. Have a great one!"
You're very welcome! I'm going to send you a review.
eyestar~ : "Wonderful! I really enjoyed your article, Lornda. It is true that humor shows up even in dramatic works. Even Shakespeare knew about comic relief! Thanks for sharing your vision."
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