Mash-Up, June 4: Kristen Lamb, How to Write Funny, Paul Johnson

This week we review a blog post from Kristen Lamb, a book titled How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba, and a blog post from Paul Johnson at The Good Greatsby.

Kristen Lamb is the best-selling author of We Are Not Alone and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.  Read these books if you want to write.  In the 21st Century, like it or not, a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook fan page are the holy trinity of an author’s platform, and Kristen wrote the bible.

On her blog, Kristen gives additional lessons on social media and the craft of writing.  Every one of her posts answers a question I had in my head before I visited her site.

For example, Kristen’s recent post, “Scene Antagonists–The Making of a Hero”, discusses the scene antagonist that drives the inner change of a character.  After I looked up what antagonist meant (it means the bad guy), I wanted to know how an antagonist would work in certain humorous books, where the main character’s obstacles are of his own doing.

I asked this in a comment to the post.  Kristen’s articulate answer was (1) be careful of literary fiction, which must be read in the context of the time it was published, and (2) even those protagonists’ inner turmoil must be externalized to tell a good story.  For years I had wondered why my every attempt to create a buffoon fell flat on the page.  Now I know what was missing.  There must be an anti-buffoon.

I’ve learned other great lessons in writing humor from the aptly titled How to Write Funny, an anthology of essays and interviews from accomplished humor writers.  It’s an old cliché that humor cannot be taught.  But this book does not really teach humor.  Instead, it demonstrates how to find and release the humor from the dysfunction that lies within and around us.  Chapter 14, on the 7 Commandments of Comedy Writing, is alone worth the price of the book.  That is, unless you are completely humorless, which explains why you are reading my blog.

And last, but certainly not least, is one man who does not need to learn anything about writing humor.  His name is Paul Johnson, and his blog, The Good Greatsby, has become a daily treasure.  Writing comedy is hard.  Writing publishable comedy every day seems next to impossible.  I keep looking in the website’s source code for elves that do the writing at night, but all I saw were semicolons, backslashes, and a half-eaten oatmeal cream pie.

One of Paul’s recent gems, “Food Pyramid We Hardly Knew Ye”, discusses the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to change the food pyramid to a food plate.  The very idea oozes with comedic value, and Paul capitalizes on it nicely.  If you want to start each day with a laugh, bookmark TheGoodGreatsby.com.

And that’s a wrap.  Enjoy the weekend.

12 thoughts on “Mash-Up, June 4: Kristen Lamb, How to Write Funny, Paul Johnson

  1. I like this post.

    I’ve picked up “How To Write Funny” in the bookstore more than once, parked my butt in a chair, and read a few random chapters. Don’t think I hit 7, though.

    I like your question to Kristen. I’d like to think I’ve thought of that before, but like so many things, I haven’t. Thanks for making me think. And on a Saturday morning, pre-tea!

    Happy weekend, eh?

  2. Paul really is the Good Greatsby and part of my daily literary diet. My day would not be complete without him plus he encourages and inspires me although in his last comment to me he suspected I might have a character flaw even though he said he would not accept it. He is the best. Am not familiar with Kristen Lamb bit will check her out! Thanks!

  3. I liked reading your comment on Kristen’s blog.

    Have you read Christopher Moore? He’s one of those hilarious, ridiculous writers that is relevant & successful today. I read everything of his the second he publishes something new. If you haven’t read any of his books, I’d start with Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

    1. I haven’t read Christopher Moore yet, but have been meaning to as I’ve heard a lot of good things. And you know how I feel about humorous books. Thanks for giving me a book of his to start with.

  4. Paul Johnson deserves a lot of recognition for cranking out funny pieces on a “daily” basis. His reservoir for the funny is bottomless and relentless. And, while this is not something people may consider, he’s got an equally important talent in the ability to write without offending anyone. I hope Paul’s writing goes wide; and I highly recommend his article on “Haterade”.

    1. I read and liked the Hateorade post too. It was actually a toss up between that post and the food plate post for me. He has a very nice touch and angle, and I agree that he should be reaching a wider audience.

  5. Thanks for the shout out. When I saw you had linked to my site I was worried I might have been featured in a “Remember when” post, as in “Remember when The Good Greatsby used to be funny…” What a relief to be complimented instead of eulogized.

  6. You’re quite welcome. And I would never eulogize a blog here. It’s a mash-up, not a bash-up. And even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t alert the eulogee with a pingback. Praise publicly, criticize indirectly. That’s my motto.

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