At the foundation of almost all comedy is structure. And one of the most common, and most useful structures, starts with a simple concept: the number three. Take a look at how and why three is woven into the fabric of some beloved jokes.
It’s actually kind of weird to think of myself as a playwright. I never did much theatre in school, aiming rather to do variety performance: juggling, comedy, magic, clown… I always thought of my performances as “shows.”
So now I have written a new show (God: The One-Man Show), and co-written two shows (“Delusions of Grandeur” and “The Heist” with Matthew Pauli and Karen Beriss) over the last 4 years. People keep referring to these shows as “plays.” I guess yes, since they have all have at least some semblance of a story arc, characters and drama mixed in with the comedy, but it’s weird to me to call them plays.
But if they are, then I guess I’m a playwright. I’m up there with William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and that self-absorbed weirdo performing in the local church basement shouting about gender issues and hydrogenated fats.
Continuing my struggle to do a “new post every Tuesday,” I realize my idea of Tuesday may be different from the rest of the world. As a night owl, generally I am the most productive after the world sets its sights on sleep. That is, if I’m being productive. I define Tuesday (or any day) as from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. So I may go to bed 3am on Wednesday morning; that still counts as my Tuesday.
Today, I walked through the woods and encountered the tree that fell across the path a couple of months ago. Then, I had started to cut through it with my Leatherman’s saw, but it was slow going so I figured I’d come back to it and do a bit more. I don’t travel that route with the dog much, but today, I passed by it and took out a few minutes again. And next time I come by, if I have my knife, I will again. Maybe Nature will help me out with some termites. Until it’s done. And this is how I hope to write my novel.
I realize I have a novel to write and I’m not moving forward on it, and I have a blog which needs content, I have decided to “pet two kittens with the same hand” (my vegetarian peacenik wife doesn’t like that expression about the birds and the stone) and thusly move forth and do a twenty-minute writing exercise here. It may or may not end up in the book.
I realized, and I’m certain the science will back me up on this one: If you don’t work on a project, it won’t get finished. So, here is 20 minutes of blathering. I hope something emerges. The story is of a late Medieval traveling performer, who is recovering from a “clothing mishap.”
The glow of the candles in front of the tavern beckoned Bimo up the path. The twilight added weight to his eyelids and feet. Thusly, he dragged his rope and his rumbling stomach that much further from Framstadt. With his purse empty, he had no idea how to pay for a meal and a bed, but this was the place to find them.
The music and laughter warmed his soul. Two figures sat at a table outside the door, drinking and arguing. One silhouetted hand tossed a small crust of bread to the ground. Bimo rushed as quietly as he could to pick it up. Reaching under the table, he found a handful of dirt. He pawed around and found it, surrounded by fur and a cold, wet snout. The dog’s low growl put a chill down his spine. He drew his hand away, now wide awake. And dressed in a fern.
“Oy, Dungle!” said a low voice, “a little wood fairy wants to be stealin’ food from yer dog!”
A mountain of muscles, leather and dirt (but few teeth) stretched skyward, and the table was thrust aside by an immense tree-trunk thigh. “What for ye takin’ ma dog’s food?” boomed his greasy, crumbed, hairy orifice. He lunged down toward Bimo’s neck, who rolled backward into a handstand. Dungle stopped in his tracks.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Bimo said. “I’m just a hungry traveler…”
“Well, eat my liver!” said Dungle, “He really is a wood spirit! The gods must’ve built ‘im upside down!”
Bimo stood, motionless, on his hands. “Uh, yes. Yes!” Bimo thought quickly, “I am a wood spirit! And I require crusts of bread! Bring them to me!”
“Right away, wood spirit!” Dungle and his friend rushed toward the door.
“And sausages!” Bimo added.
They went in. Bimo came down from his handstand. He cautiously put his ear to the door as he rubbed his shoulders. He could hold a handstand for just over five minutes on a good day, and today, he was tired. Inside, he heard laughter. The music stopped suddenly. The sound of fist on flesh and the sound of a body hitting the floor. Footsteps. Many footsteps. Bimo rushed back to his handstand.
The door opened and a crowd of people rushed out.
“Here ‘e is,” boomed Dungle, “like I told ye — the upside-down wood spirit!” Out rushed the tavern keeper, the musicians, three whores, townspeople and a few traveling merchants, all eager to see the wood spirit. A hushed circle formed around Bimo, whose fingers strained to keep himself erect.
“Er, hello.” he said.
And that was 20 minutes. Plus some extra time for research, a stop or two by Thesaurus.com, dreaming, and editing-as-I-go. Not much, but the wheels have moved, just slightly out of the mud.
What are you trying to get done that is a daunting task? You think you can sit down now and put in 20 minutes, to the exclusion of other distractions? Or ten? Or five? One step forward is one step further. No steps is no steps. A writing rate of 20 minutes a week may take 10 years to get the book written, but it’s a start. And maybe Nature will step in and help me along with random firings of the brain.
I mean this sincerely although you have hurt me personally and professionally, and countless other people with your writing.
It is strange for me, a clown be to be thanking you, Stephen King, a man who is singlehandedly responsible for more cases of coulrophobia than any other single human who ever lived. The majority of people I speak to about “fear of clowns,” which has numbered in the dozens, possibly hundreds in my 30-year career, trace their fear back to your book and movie “It.”
You probably didn’t realize that would be the effect of your work; you probably didn’t mean to give a complex to children too young to be watching your movie on cable TV about a homicidal interdimensional being that takes on the guise of a whiteface clown. But you did. You probably didn’t mean to shift (mostly American) attitudes against an ancient profession (older than writing, mind you), but you did.
Still, I thank you.
You see, I am working on a novel. My first novel. What I am thanking you for is a quote of yours on writing, which I just saw the other day:
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Well said; succinct. Like a man who has practiced the craft, as well as the Art of good writing. You have inspired me to “get up and work.” I’ve been slacky about getting it written: “I’m not in the mood,” or “I don’t know how to proceed.” You have inspired me to push through my self-doubt and write every day. So thank you.
By the way, my first novel is about a medieval clown. That’s irrelevant, but I thought it might be interesting to you. . I’m sure it will be garbage. I realize that when learning to write, the first million words are just practice.
The book will probably be 50-80,000 words when all is done. So, doing the math, it will be around my 12th novel ––the one where I really am able to use the English language with the precision of a surgical laser and readers are dying to read my every word –– that I will write a story in your honor, for which this is the synopsis:
Working title: “That”
Early 1960s. The story opens with a sort of nerdy child stopping on the curb in front of his suburban house after school to read a book. From the bushes, he hears a voice: “Child — child — would you like some free books?”
Enter the imposing figure of the bespectacled Featherweight the Dancing Horror/Fantasy Writer. Featherweight really only appears to be human; “That” is actually an interdimensional creature that feasts on the flesh of outcast children. After a series of bloodbaths, the children of the town beat him back to Dimension X by hurling at him a barrage of split infinitives and broken metaphors.
Featherweight returns in the late 1990s, having gained his strength back over the ensuing 30 or so years. Like a bad simile, he always turns up –– largely rejuvenated by the inexplicable fame of The New Kids on the Block. Unfortunately for him, but fortunate for Mankind, he is immediately squashed once he reads the level to which writing has sinked in the then nascent World Wide Web. Forevermore thereafter, the world is safe from homicidal interdimensional horror/fantasy writers.
Mr. King? I look forward to being seen as a professional in your eyes.