Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Kind of Writer I Want to Be

I have always wanted to be a humor writer. I love people who can make me laugh, and I am always thrilled on the (rare) occasions when I can make other people laugh as well.

My very first favorite writer and "American Idol" was Irma Bombeck. She wrote for the Dayton Daily News and the Cincinnati papers often picked up her columns. Who knew the life of a housewife and mother could be so hysterical? Later I encountered Molly Ivins and fell in love with a whole different kind of female humor. (Lord, I miss both of those ladies, God rest their souls!)

I love Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen (newspaper columns and novels). I can't read Tim Dorsey in planes anymore because I laugh out loud (sometimes until I cry) and make a total spectacle of myself.

There's only one obstacle to achieving my goal of being a humorist: I'm not funny. I can be witty and, occasionally, I can toss off a one-liner at the appropriate moment to break the tension in a scene, but I can't let myself go crazy like the true artisans of the craft can do. I can write characters who can say funny things, but I haven't learned to write funny characters. That's a whole different ballgame.

Joe and Hannah from Road Trip were supposed to be funny, but they sort of ended up as a couple of curmudgeonly but kind of sweet old farts. Miss Maybelle Dickens, who is the protagonist in my newest novel-in-progress, was supposed to be funny, but Maybelle marched into the story, took control and transmogrified herself from a funny old lady to a powerful Wise Woman who doesn't take any crap off of anybody. (I love her and I'm having a blast writing her story!)

The one interesting result of my unsuccessful quest to "write funny" is that I appreciate humor writing more now than ever, having realized how hard it is to do.

I'm not going to give up! Someday, I will be funny. And, if I'm not, I'll have spun a bunch of other tales in the process of trying. That's something, anyway.


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