100 Hours of Humo(u)r – Hour 25: Humor Writing Tip: Begin in the Middle

By Dave Fox

100hours-logo1I’ve written about before, in the context of travel writing, about the importance of snaring readers quickly with an attention-grabbing lead. This is equally important when writing humor.

One of the most common mistakes beginning humor writers make is beginning their stories at the beginning. Don’t be a beginner. Fling yourself headlong into the center of the chaos.

The beginning of the situation is not necessarily the best beginning of the story. The spicy middle part is often the best place to launch from.

Here’s an example of a mediocre lead:

It all began one morning when I stepped out of the shower. The next thing I knew, I saw a snake in my bed.

Here’s a better opening for the same story:

The snake poked his head out from under my pillow as if the bed belonged to him. I froze, dripping and naked, wishing I had more than a towel to defend myself.

In the second example, the critical element to the story – the snake – is the first thing we see. Then, we up the ante by mentioning we’re naked and vulnerable. Wow! What happens next?

Let’s compare this to the earlier take. In that one, we must wade through information, some of which becomes critical to the story eventually, but before we know what’s going on, it’s not interesting.

You stepped out of the shower? Who cares. It all began one morning? It “all begins” every morning. Get to the point! There’s a freaking snake in your bed!

Remember: Comedy is born out of conflict. Don’t frontload the exciting part of your story with peripheral details. Blast off with your most attention-snagging element. Then, fill in your backstory as needed in later paragraphs.

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Published on Saturday, March 2, 2013

2 Responses to “100 Hours of Humo(u)r – Hour 25: Humor Writing Tip: Begin in the Middle”

  1. March 2, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    This bit of advice is invaluable, and clearly defines the difference between a published story and slush. Thanks!

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