By guest blogger Charlotte Rains Dixon
I’ve never thought of myself as funny. And yet, my forthcoming novel (Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, Vagabondage Press, Feb 2013) is funny.
It’s not just me saying that, hoping it’s funny. The novel is actually funny, conceited as it feels to say. How do I know this? (Because there’s nothing worse than someone thinking their work is funny when, really, it’s not.) I know this because I’ve sat around a table with a bunch of writers reading my manuscript and laughing heartily, sometimes even in places I didn’t expect.
Believe it or not, witnessing people laughing at my work made me a little uncomfortable, just like declaring the novel was funny made me feel conceited. And all of these feelings go back to one basic thing: a fear of being funny.
I think this is because I never set out to be funny. If I had, I’d probably be the unfunniest person in the world. When I try to write funny, the result sounds forced. No, this novel is funny because the protagonist—Emma Jean Sullivan, confirmed baby-hater and champion to all childless couples everywhere—inhabited me one day and started talking. And she was funny as all hell. Or rather, her warped view of the world was funny. Because much of the humor of the novel comes in the gap between Emma Jean’s lofty image of herself and the harsh reality of her life.
Emma Jean herself doesn’t even realize she’s funny, and she surely wouldn’t understand what the writers reading my manuscript were laughing about!
Now that I’ve written one funny novel, I feel the pressure to be funny in my next one. Which is a sure way to not be funny, because desperation of any sort always pushes things away—whether those things are creativity or something less esoteric. But, when I look a little deeper, I realize this fear of being funny is yet another variation on that fun companion, fear of writing.
My fear of writing manifests as vagueness and lethargy, a sort of general feeling that writing will take too much energy. And, indeed, writing does take energy—but the part I forget is that it also gives me energy. And so I plunge in again (one of my favorite techniques is to set a timer for 30 minutes and do nothing but write), and the tiredness falls away as I put one word after the other. Amazingly, some of those words turn out to be funny.———
Charlotte Rains Dixon writes and teaches writing from her home in Portland, Oregon where she lives with her husband, two enormous cats and an ancient pug. Charlotte blogs at www.wordstrumpet.com and tweets as @Wordstrumpet. Read the synopsis for her forthcoming novel: Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.