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Friday, June 14, 2013

Adding Humor to Your Story: Contrasted Reality

The eighth element of humor is Contrasted reality: Go out the other side by replacing normal reality with a direct contrast. Consider professional assassins living as man and wife in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a ditzy fashion major becoming an ace student at Harvard Law in Legally Blonde, or a male/male figure skating pair in Blades of Glory.



The contrast doesn’t have to be a person. It could be an event: a heavy metal concert at an amusement park: This is Spinal Tap 




Or even an item: a wading pool serving as a baptismal font (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

One of the charming nuances that made Shrek so successful was the contrasted reality of contemporary awareness with a storybook setting. Who could forget the magic mirror showing Prince Farquaad his princess choices using the old Dating Game style: “Our first bachelorette is a mentally abused shut-in from a kingdom far, far away. She likes sushi and hot-tubbing any time. Her hobbies include cooking and cleaning for her two evil sisters. Let's hear it for Cinderella! Bachelorette number two is a cape-wearing girl from the Land of Fantasy. Although she lives with seven other men, she's not easy. Just kiss her frozen, dead lips and find out what a live wire she is. Give it up for Snow White! And last but not least is a fiery redhead who lives in a dragon-guarded castle surrounded by a boiling lake of lava. But don't let that cool you off. She's a loaded pistol who likes piƱa coladas and getting caught in the rain. Yours for the rescuing, Princess Fiona!”

            In my release, A Little Slice of Heaven, my heroine uses an unusual item as a weapon against a possibly dangerous man lurking outside her pizzeria:

Holding the pizza paddle like a baseball bat, she strode outside and let the screen door slap closed behind her. The man had disappeared. He must have rushed to hide behind the Dumpster when she came out. Or…was he lying in wait to accost her when the time was right? Dang, she’d done it again--leapt to action without considering the consequences.
Black clouds hovered overhead. The soft breeze from late afternoon had transformed into a blustery autumn wind.
Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe she should return to the safety of the kitchen. But…no. Claudio was inside, waiting to say, “I told you so,” again.
She lifted her chin, hefted her paddle, and stepped into the parking lot. “Sir?” Tiny hairs danced on her sleeveless arms, and she fought the urge to shiver against the cold. She tiptoed closer to his hiding place. “Would you come out please? I won’t hurt you, I promise.”
Unless, of course, you try to hurt me. 
“If you’ve no plan to harm me, put down the oversized Louisville Slugger.”
His tone was cultured, each syllable succinct and tinged with a slight New England accent which made the prickly hairs on her arms do the cha-cha.

Their positions created an interesting impasse. If she put down the paddle, she had no guarantee he wouldn’t attack her. But if she didn’t put down the paddle, he probably wouldn’t come out. At sunrise, they’d still be standing here. Gianna the Warrior, wielding her mighty pizza paddle while the White Knight cringed in the corner of the rear parking lot and the grumpy troll watched over the frozen players with malicious glee.


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