About a month ago (see “Stepping Back”) I finished the first draft of one novel and, to clear my mind a bit before revisiting it, I began another. Something completely different. Something funny, in fact.
I’ve always been a bit shy of writing humour. I think my first three books had about one joke between them. I’ve tried a bit more with Keys of Cleary (see “Comedy”). And what I’ve found is that if I set out to be funny- planning the scenes in advance, so he drops his trousers and she pours a bucket of custard over his head and they fall down the stairs – what I get is stuff that ought to be funny but isn’t. The really funny bits just come. From somewhere. Don’t ask me where. I don’t know until they hit me. I may think of a key line the day before I type it. Or it may just happen as I type. It’s like juggling blindfold.
But it is coming. Strangely. There’s something every couple of pages. It might be a play on words. It might be a character acting very much in character (slightly bizarre characters are a very rich source of comedy. And an easy one. You just keep them doing what they do.) It might be a dollop of good coarse lavatory humour, just delivered in a way that the reader doesn’t quite see coming, but when it comes – splat – it’s perfect.
And it’s fun. It’s fun to write stuff that makes you smile. It’s so much fun that I want to go on doing it. I want to write this novel to the finish. And never mind the poor, noble fantasy that I’ve put aside, now shouting at me from the document folder saying ‘hey – haven’t you stepped back for long enough already? What about me?’ There’s a trade-off between creativity and discipline. Right at the moment I just want to ditch the discipline and run off and have a wild fling with creativity.
One thing that nags at me as I write though is – am I trying too hard? Is all this comedy getting in the way of the story? What if, instead of making the reader laugh, I’m going to bamboozle them with so much madcap stuff that in the end they sigh and put the book down? How do I tell?
There’s only one way. Sooner or later I’m going to have to step back.