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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Writing Humor Into Any Story--Reversal

The third element of writing humor is Reversal, a technique similar to The Rule of Three, but with one setup before the payoff. The payoff is achieved by switching the expected in the last line. 

For example, Henny Youngman’s famous, “Take my wife. Please!” 

Comedienne Rita Rudner used to open her sets with the reversal joke, “My boyfriend and I broke up. He wanted to get married, and I didn't want him to.”

In The Devil Wears Prada, Andy’s father worries that she’s working too hard at the office and wasting her journalism degree. He begins listing his concerns. 
“We get emails from you at your office at two a.m.,” he frets. “Your pay is terrible. You don’t get to write anything.” 
Without missing a beat, Andy replies, “Hey, that’s not fair. I write those emails.”

Author, Carl Hiassen, is a master of reversal in dialogue. Consider this brief exchange from Skinny Dip, a tale about a woman named Joey who gains revenge on her husband, Chaz, who thinks he got away with the perfect murder:

“‘May I submit that Chaz is light-years beneath common male slugdom. He is one coldhearted prick and let’s not forget it.’ Wearily Joey slid down in the seat. ‘What’s it called when you start hating yourself?’
‘A waste of energy.’”

Humor is all about going for the unexpected: a little surprise, sometimes in three beats, and a quick reversal. Give it a try!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: http://www.ginaardito.com/ArticlesforWriters.html
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