Miranda Kenneally

Mexican Food Cures Writer's Block

Take it to the Limit?

Last fall at the James River Writers conference, I went to a session on what’s funny and what’s not, and the general consensus from the panel was that EVERYTHING in the world is funny, DEPENDING on the context.

But is that really true?

Are Bosnian war crimes funny?
Are kidnappings funny?
Is watching all the people on The Biggest Loser funny?

On the other hand – not too long ago, those hikers got imprisoned in Iran. And then two of them got engaged in the Iranian prison! I laughed out loud when I heard that and said to myself, “IN YOUR FACE, IRAN!!” (Okay, I might have tweeted that, too)

While I don’t believe that everything in the world is funny, I do believe that writers have a responsibility to be as clear and honest as possible. No one likes a dishonest writer. 

And I love it when authors take a real-life situation and make it horribly embarrassing for characters — after all, we all want to relate to characters we read about. No one likes a perfect character either.

There’s a scene in THE CORRECTIONS in which the main character tries to steal fish from the supermarket and ends up hiding it in his pants. It’s a truly cringe-worthy scene.

Another scene that made me cringe was in Sarah Dessen’s LOCK AND KEY, when a character who was completely broke tried to make people think he was rich by giving expensive gifts away for Christmas, and then told everyone how expensive they were.

I remember those scenes well because the authors wrote so honestly.

So next time you write, make sure you make those funny/embarrassing scenes truly REAL.  Bring out the best and worst in your characters, bring out their insecurities. Make them worry about stuff we worry about in real life.

Like if you’re wearing nice underwear.
Or if your breath reeks.
Or if other people can’t stand being around you.
Or how you feel after you’ve said the stupidest thing ever.

What’s one way you’ve really taken it to the limit with your characters?

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Comment (1)

One Response to “Take it to the Limit?”

  1. Natalie says:

    I love writing scenes where the characters are awkward and real. I love embarrassing them. I have a scene in one of my WIPs where the MC (a big tough boy) gets sick and throws up in the lunchroom when he sees a girl eating weird food during lunch. He may be big and tough, but he has a really weak stomach.

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