Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Goofing Off, Writer-style

So last night I stayed at my writing group longer than I had intended. My health is still a decent bit from 100%, and I had pushed myself a bit too hard at work earlier that day. I had meant to stay at group for an hour and then go back home for bed. But my writing group is fun, and I was enjoying getting into the meat of the pieces that were brought. So I stayed an hour longer than I had planned. I was getting ready to leave then when the group convinced me to stay because the next piece was only three pages.

Well, by this point, we were all a bit punchy. The jokes were zinging left and right, giggle fits were looming on the horizon. It helped that it was a really good piece that we read. If it had required more work, I'm sure we wouldn't have had the attention to spare much beyond critiquing the writing. But we did have the attention to spare.

Thus we were able to have a good time with the usual evil of "eyes resting on the floor" instead of "her gaze lingered on the floor" or something. It's a common writer mistake and one that very often makes it into print because, while it may be incorrect and physically impossible for your eyes to be resting on the floor or traveling up someone's body without severe pain and, well, blindness, everyone knows what you mean. Doesn't make it any less of a mistake, of course, but it's easy to overlook.

While most of us were making fun comments about locomoting eyeballs, though, one brave soul was endeavoring to provide serious feedback about part of the piece. The part involved a letter, and the critiquer was curious as to whether the writer had created the letter herself or if she had found it in her research and it was actually source text. Unfortunately, our intrepid writer responded by saying, "Yes, I made it up. It came out of my head."

I think I waited a beat before saying, "Do you have writing coming out of your other body parts?" We all giggled and carried this a bit further until I made the inevitable comment. "Well, if you think this writing is good, you should see the stuff that comes out of my ass!"

Yes, yes. Very clever. And had we been just a group of pals joking it up, it probably would've stopped there. But because we're writers, I no sooner had said the line than I followed it up with "Oh, that's fun. I gotta work that into a book somewhere." And then someone else said, "Wait, that's totally something that Travis would say," referring to a character from someone else's work-in-progress that we had reviewed that night.

Even low-brow humor isn't just low-brow humor for writers. Sure, we'll laugh at it, but we'll also be matching it up to our writing somehow. So be careful with that ridiculous knock-knock joke or bawdy limmerick. It just might come back to haunt you in print.

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