Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Comedy and people

Comedy rears its not so ugly head in the most unexpected ways, I can't help but write about it.

In the past week, I've had two such instances.

The first involves me reading an ad in the paper for a weekly "networking" group meet up, and calling the number provided to get more information. All was going fine and dandy. The organizer of the group seemed like a nice guy. He told me where the meeting would take place and the time, and then asked me where I work. I informed him that I am kinda' sorta' self-employed as a freelance writer and this networking group was a good place to build possible future business relationships.

"Oh, well, this is a group for networking... you know, computer networking," he said.

So, that was the end of that. I got a good laugh out of it. That is, after I got over the initial annoyed state of mind that asked the question "Why didn't it say in the ad it was a computer networking group? Idiot!"

Incident number two is not quite so out of the blue, but it was surprising, nonetheless. I was talking to a friend about a short story I am working on, which she had some idea about from last year when I started writing it, and I was telling her how I had gone forward with the story. I wanted to get some feedback about whether the plot I had come up with sounded interesting. As I told the story like it was something that really happened and needed relaying, I heard laughter.

"What's funny?" I asked.

"That's hilarious!" my friend replied.

It turned out that my story is nothing less than a dark comedy. To be honest, I hadn't thought about what it was other than general literary fiction, and the tip off from my friend was just what I needed to advance the story further and into a more interesting plot. I completely wasn't expecting this particular story of mine to be construed as funny, and now I can't see it as anything but funny. That's the beauty of talking about your work with others, writers or not. It's important to get feedback, otherwise, you're stunting your growth as a writer, as well as the growth and potential of your own writing.

Which brings me to a related, but not really topic.

If there's anything I've learned from reading all those blogs and websites about writing in concentrated doses, it's that writers need people more than any other tool to improve. Who are you writing for? People. Who are you writing about? People. Even when your main character is a mouse, it still has human characteristics, or has something to teach people. And this topic is related, because I was the sort of writer who was embarrassed by their own writing, especially fiction.

In the past week, I've read other writers' unfinished work, given my opinion along with some constructive criticism where I could, and had the same people do the same for me. Sure, I got some "You really need to work on this a lot more. Nice first try, though," and "You don't need to spoon feed your readers." I even had someone copy and paste an entire paragraph and underline all my weak spots, which were plenty. I got annoyed at first, because the same people telling me my story is less than Pulitzer Prize material, were the same people who used 'chose' when 'choose' was in order. I wanted to reply to one lady and let her have it about her horrible spelling. But instead of doing what the crazy part in my head was telling me to do, I went back and read through my story. Needless to say, I am moving further ahead than ever and I feel like the story is coming together and shaping up better than I ever imagined. What began as basically just a moment I wanted to write about, has grown into a story I want to tell and think I have to tell in the best way possible. I couldn't have come this far without people helping me along the way. If it weren't for my friend, I wouldn't have realized the potential of this story and its characters possessing the same humor I enjoy-- dry and dark. Without the people critiquing me online, I would've never realized just how bland some of the dialogue in the story was, or just how interesting the 50s era aspect of the story would be to readers.

I still read books, blogs and magazines about writing, but now I see that more important than any of these resources and tools are people.

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