Writing a comedy – How I Did It
My publisher and co-author Christine and I were having a coffee about 18 months ago and she commented on the huge amount of paranormal books being published. We thought a short story parody about a really ridiculous were-creature might be fun.
A white fluffy miniature poodle is attacked and infected with the werewolf virus. Before the virus has fully taken hold the poodle bites young Jake Fangle and he becomes infected with a poodle were-virus.
Jake is a home schooled, virginal mummy’s boy; not very big, not all that bright, and certainly not brave or strong. Throughout the book he is trying desperately to change his virgin status to that of experienced lover. Fortunately his dog senses give him the edge over the rest of us mortals. Life becomes more fraught for Jake when Razor the resident werewolf discovers that Jake is a werewolf and is seeking to tear the man-poodle dog to shreds.
First problem was what tense to write in. Given Jake’s character I couldn't see any way around it. The story needed to be written in first person. Something I hadn't done before.
The second problem was how to make Jake Fangle funny. He must have a distinct voice: this is his story and told entirely (almost - the werewolf does get a couple of chapters) as he saw the world. I decided Jake would have the same problem as former President Bush who had a particularly funny way of butchering the English language. I have to admit that in real life I have problems with malapropisms, just like Jake.
This story was meant to be a novella but slowly took on a life of its own. I had to analyze how someone with dog like thoughts would handle things in day to day life. As I couldn't interview my own Labrador, I tried to look at life from a dog’s perspective. Six months later the short story had become a short novel and it still wasn't close to being finished.
I have watched many stand-up comics on both TV and YouTube and they either have their short routine for comedy festivals or longer routines for one man shows. They have to be constantly funny or at least highly amusing for anything from ten minutes to over an hour with several moments of real good belly laughs. The best comics tell short stories or anecdotes with a great punch line at the end with lots of laughs on the way.
So I tried to write each chapter as a scene. The whole story line is enclosed within one lunar month. I did make the werewolf the straight man - he is evil and scary.
I have tried to work at keeping the reader smiling between laughs for most of the whole book!
My advice is to anyone writing comedy for the first time, expect hard work! Strangely I found the whole process enjoyable and compelling. Full of laughter and I had no mercy – anyone who got in our faces was parodied in the novel. Movies, politicians, professions, actors and neighbours – no one has been ignored.
As with all my fiction writing I have no idea what will happen until it does. With each new scene, a movie begins to play in my head and I write what I see. On a good day even the words are provided. Sounds like cheating doesn't it? But I don’t know how else to write.
THE WEREWOLF AND THE WO-OODLE is now a full length novel of 94000 words and is in the final editing stages. The cover is being designed and the beta readers will be turned loose on it in the next week or two.
The proof of the pudding of course will be in what the beta readers think. Nervous times ahead.