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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

I am not a funny person. Ask any of my siblings if you don't believe me. There are many choice adjectives they might use to describe me, but funny would not end up on any of their lists.

In fact, I'm often the last person in the room to get a joke. They go right over my head more often than not. I say its because my head is usually in the clouds, thinking long and hard about something else (like what my hero is going to have to do to get himself out of his current mess or why my heroine is afraid of freckles). Regardless of why I don't get the jokes, though, the fact remains that I come across as a little slow on the uptake.

When I first sat down to write, I recognized the fact that I am Not Funny. Because of that, I chose subjects and themes and tones for my writing that wouldn't require me to try to be funny. It is never a good idea, after all, to try to be something you are not.

In my first manuscript, I had to work really hard to find places that I could inject a little humor. Because I do write romance, after all, and romance should not be all dark and depressing and dour all the time. There must be a little levity from time to time. My attempts fell pretty flat.

My second manuscript, however, I decided to let run its own course in terms of the funny aspects. It wasn't as dark a tone as the first one, but still, the fact remained that I am Not Funny.

So imagine my surprise when the critiques I started to get back were filled with "LOL" or :) all over the place. At first, I thought my CPs were laughing at me, that my attempts at infusing my manuscript with a dose of humor from time to time were failing so horrifically that they were making fun of sad, pathetic me.

But the LOLs and :)s didn't stop coming. In fact, they started to come more often.

And then I realized something. I may not BE funny, but perhaps I could WRITE funny. In fact, I came to learn that I could write very funny.

Just not if I try to. LOL. If I'm thinking about it and saying to myself: This should be FUNNY, then it will inevitably be rather somber.

It was through this process that I actually discovered my natural writing voice, and the direction of my writing took a sharp right-turn. I'm not looking back.

So, in my most recent MS, I embraced the funny. And I have to say, I had a lot more fun writing it than I did writing my first two. Go figure.

What have you learned about yourself that has taken you by surprise and how did you learn it? Bonus points to anyone who can identify where I took the title of this blog post from, just because I like to give out bonus points. Not that there are really any points here. But play along for fun.


  1. Great post, Catherine! I have no idea where the title comes from, but I'm going to keep checking back to find out :)

    That's hilarious that you thought people were laughing at you in your ms. Ha! You really do have a fun wit and humor, though. I think the opposite happened to me. I think I'm pretty funny in real life - well, sarcastic, I suppose. I definitely try not to take life too seriously. But all my MSs have turned out somewhat on the serious side. *shrug* Perhaps writing is the outlet for sides of us that we don't often show :)

  2. I frequently surprise myself with my writing. Sometimes I'll read through a book and can't believe I wrote it because it's good :-) Recently, I wrote a full length erotic sci-fi. Yeah, that was a huge surprise. Or I wrote a paranormal/historical. Another surprise. The writing journey is a learning experience and a quest to discover yourself.

    My next surprise? Writing a fantasy romance. It's pretty difficult but I have a feeling it'll be awesome :-)

    Way to go and best of luck!

  3. Jerrica, how odd that our writing seems to bring out the opposite of our personalities. I'm glad I'm not the only one that's happened to, though.

    And Sandi, you tend to surprise me at just about every turn. Every time I think I've got you pegged, you go and write in another genre, or find ways to combine genres, etc. You're just full of awesome like that.

  4. Is the title from Gomer Pyle?

    I think I was one of the ones giving you LOLs! I assure you, I wasn't laughing at you. :) Some of my material tends to be funny, but it isn't something I try to make happen. I simply let my brain free to come up with whatever quirky remark or reaction it wants. I like that my characters surprise me most of the time.

    I think the thing that has surprised me most about the development of my writing is that I'm pretty good at writing love scenes. I hated it when I first started writing. I agonized over it and had to gear up to write the scenes. And it would take hours and then I'd feel exhausted later and not want to write for a couple of days.

  5. I thought I was sweet... In person, I am sweet. If you looked at me on the street, you wouldn't go, Oh, Yeah. She writes erotic romance. In fact, you'd probably think I was a prude, LOL. So, it really surprised me when I discovered that I write erotic fiction pretty well...and I can do the domineering Alpha male like nobody's business...(Could that be my husband's influence? Haha)

    P.S. I'm not funny either, and I am usually the last one to get a joke, being that person that goes ten minutes after the fact "I Get It" at the top of my lungs. LOL.

  6. Hmmm, I think I was surprised how little I can tell my characters what to do, lol. They kind of take on a life of their own, and sometimes refuse to do a scene the way I want them to. When I learned to just go with it, I found that the scenes were usually better when I let the characters steer it.

  7. Ding, ding, ding! And we have a winner. Yes, Samantha, I'm hearing Gomer Pyle's voice every time I look at the title. One billion bonus points for Samantha! And the LOLs and :)s started in a previous critique group. By the time I came to this one, I had embraced the fact that I could, perhaps, write a funny scene from time to time. It just increased here to astronomical proportions. LOL. I think many of us have surprised ourselves with our ability to write a love scene. Trust me, you are far from alone with your apprehension there.

    Teirney, I love your alpha heroes and steamy side. But I can attest to the fact that you are 100% sweet, too. Just not your writing.

    Erin, that's a big problem that I faced, too--wanting my characters to do things that they didn't seem too inclined to do. And you're right, letting them do what is most natural for them is almost always the best solution!

  8. I am a funny person, and I happen to write funny stories -- BUT, as funny as I am, I think my characters come up with WAY better lines than I do. LOL

  9. Thanks for stopping by, allaboutthewriting. You ought to give yourself some of the good lines, LOL.

  10. What an interesting blog, Catherine, because from reading your writing, I would never have believed it - since especially some of the latest stuff is VERY funny!

    For surprising things I've discovered in my writing, I'm smarter and wittier than I am in person (let's ignore the fact that this is probably just since I have more time to think about it). I've also discovered I use a lot of the literary theory I despises when studying it, and a taste for the macabre (I didn't really mean to start two of my manuscripts with corpses ... it just kind of happened).

    Great post!

  11. Thanks, Shelly! You've discovered some really interesting things about yourself through your writing, then. Maybe that could apply to me too, that I really am funny in person--but I just don't take enough time to think about it? I don't know...

  12. First, the title is from Gomer Pile. I'd bet ten bucks on it. Ho have I suprised myself with my writing? I never in a zillon years would have thought I would/could write romantic suspense. After all, what do I know about action and killing and heart stopping moments. Nothing really, but every time someone reads one of my ms they say the action had them holding their breath, or turning the page as fast as they could. I don't know where this ability came from. Although, I've speculated before that it's due to all the years I devoursed Stephen King books. He is the master of suspense, after all.

  13. Sorry, Julie--no money for the right guess. But since I gave Samantha a billion bonus points for getting it right first, I suppose I can award you half a billion bonus points. And I think that what we read can play a very big role in the way we right, so I wouldn't be surprised if your reading of Stephen King has affected the direction your writing has gone.

  14. I think the biggest surprise for me has been that I can write fiction. Up until a few years ago my writing was financial reports and investment analysis to help the newly retired decide if they could spend the kid’s inheritance on a round the world trip or exclusive golf retreat. I’m all for spending the kid’s inheritance by the way. Drives me crazy that parents of grown children will still try to go without when they’ve struggled for years. Oops … off on a tangent there.

    The first hint that I might actually be able to string a few words together and write a decent story was when I took a risk and handed a manuscript to a friend. She’s incredibly bright, but didn’t read romance at all. She’s the literary fiction type. When she called to say she was finished I was so nervous, but she liked my story and my characters. The fact I made her run for tissues at the right place was an incredible high for me. I trusted her to tell me if it truly sucked, but apparently it didn’t. That is a moment I will treasure for a long time. :o)