1. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Humour that doesn't translate to paper

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by rhduke, Jun 20, 2013.

    Do you think there are funny moments in life that you can't completely describe on paper? I think about this a lot when I see or hear something funny that isn't your usual slapstick, sarcasm or crudeness. I walk away thinking about how I could duplicate that on paper, but the words don't come to me as easily as I expect.

    For instance, after walking down the stairs, I turn the corner and my foot hits something. "Sorry," I say to the startled dog without much care (I really hate that dog). My sisters are in the next room and I mutter, "Think I kicked his head." They laugh and so do I.

    ^ That really isn't that funny to read. I could go more into how I said it, but that in itself is hard to do seeing as how the more I would try to describe my voice, the more it would detract from the humour. But the way I said it is what made it funny... are you kinda getting what I'm saying?

    It might be the tiniest facial gesture, the way their soldiers move or the tone of their voice that makes something funny, in which you have no hopes of describing. That, and there might be a whole background (inside joke) to a humorous scene that might take too long to tell.

    Does anyone else run into this trouble? If so, how do you get around it?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Know the strengths and weeknesses of your medium.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't think it's funny you kicked your dog, rhduke, and it's even less funny your siblings laughed about it. I think your problem isn't the translating to paper thing. :p

    Reminds me once I wrote Jim Davis complaining a Garfield comic wasn't funny where Odie was kicked off the table. I actually got a response with an apology of sorts.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This right here on so many levels. Your original question is the answer. Some things just don't translate. The genius hilarity of Lucile Ball would never survive the translation were someone to serialize her show into print. Everyone who was a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender hated the live action movie terribly. It should never have been made into live action; it was already in the medium where it belonged.
     
  5. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    My friend, time for you to go back to the The Things They Carried. I'm gonna PM you the entire collection cause some funny things happen in some of the stories.( in particular, "Love" "Style" and "Enemies.") Also the only remedy I have for your problem is that what is said has to be funny by itself. Take a look at this right here. "My idea of a joke is a four inch dick on a two inch lieutenant." People will laugh at that just cause of the words. You don't even need to know how it was said.
     
  6. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Never speak of the live action Last Airbender movie. It never existed.
     
  7. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I agree but just because something is hard or near impossible to do, doesn't mean I'm not going to try it. I might pull my hair out to get the humour right in a scene, but I'm not going to tell myself "this only works on tv". It limits how far I'm willing to experiment and learn from my writing. Anyway, I guess I was just curious about what other humorous scenes people had trouble writing.

    Well I hate the dog but my sisters don't really. It was funny because I kicked him by accident, not because it's funny to kick a dog xD

    I disagree about The Last Airbender. I watched the first season of Avatar and can honestly say it was very possible to portray the same humour and characterization into live action. Shyamalan is just incompetent.

    My question wasn't so much how to make something funny, but how to convert real life humour onto paper. Still, thanks, I'll take a look.
     
  8. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Why not? Some things are visual. You could probably read the script for Airplane and laugh out loud because so many of the jokes are just a play on words. However, like you already said, much of humor is a combination of words, actions, and a familiarity with the subject and it might take more than a page to set up a half second moment of humor. In short, jokes that take humorous presentation to be funny do not work on paper.

    It is ok for things to not work across all planes. Horror scenes are hard to translate as well. I have a scene in my book where an old man turns around and he has transformed into a pig faced demon. It would be shocking on the big screen because of the immediate visual stimulation, but nobody is going to read a paragraph describing the demon and go "Ahhhh!"
     
  9. Drunkugly
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    Drunkugly Member

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    What cogito said. You're working with words, so your humor should be word related. A joke that needs explaining isn't funny. Humor in writing is one of the hardest things to translate. Is it possible to translate physical humor into words but , for me, it seems like the act should be funny all by itself. Kicking a dog isn't funny, even by accident. Telling a dog you're sorry as if they are a person? Maybe. You have to look for the absurd in the moment and try to relate that.
     
  10. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Well I like to think that a scene can be described in an infinite number of ways and maybe one of those ways can create the same effect as if it happened in real life. It usually takes too long to find that perfect combination of words, which is why we usually wing it or pronounce it as only possible in another medium. Yeah it sounds like I'm delusional but I do understand that some things can't be converted, not completely anyway. Like visual stimuli you mentioned can't be converted fully because what we see with our eyes is obviously different than what we imagine in our minds. Even though we can't get that "Ahhh" out of the reader (because it's more of a physical reaction from the senses), I'm sure we can duplicate the same emotional reaction.
     
  11. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Why should my humour be only word related? Writing is also about creating images in the mind so I don't know what you mean there.
     
  12. Drunkugly
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    Drunkugly Member

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    I wasn't meaning to imply only word related. But you have to use words to describe it so word related humor is simpler. For the scene you described you have to ask if there is anything inherently absurd or unexpected in the moment. When you find that you can try to present it in your writing.
     
  13. B. anthracis
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    B. anthracis Member

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    The dog scene could be funny. The problem is that it lacks a couple of things. First is timing; there isn't any rhythm in the prose that leads the reader to find something humorous. Second is the lack of context. As it's written, there's no setup. It's like a punchline without the story leading up to it.

    "...a four inch dick on a two inch lieutenant." That's funny simply because of the way the words bounce off each other. It's not fall down on the ground and cry funny, but it brings a smile for several different reasons. As mentioned, one reason is the rhythm. Another is the unusual image it forces to mind.

    Anything can be funny. Kubrick proved with Dr. Strangelove that humor can even be drawn from nuclear annihilation. Therefore, a dog getting kicked in the head, whether it's on accident or done on purpose can also be funny. It just needs to be constructed properly.
     
  14. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    @drunk I get what you're saying.

    Thanks for the input guys. I kinda feel like I didn't ask my question properly because people are hitting the surface of the issue. It's ironic that it's hard for me to express my question completely but I appreciate the responses. Anyway, I'm gona go mull it over and maybe the question and answers might get clearer..
     

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