1. Nick Self
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    Nick Self New Member

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    Needing a one-liner for a tense situation. Please help

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nick Self, Jun 17, 2012.

    My protagonist (Jay) is a very straightforward guy but his sidekick (Jimmy) is the comic relief. He is quick to make a joke out of any situation. They are in a very intense gunfight and I'm trying to come up with a one-liner the sidekick can say that will have the readers roaring with laughter. Normally I'm very good at coming up with one-liners 5 to 10 minutes after-the-fact. But now that I have all the time the world, I've hit a roadblock. The only two I can think of are as follows:
    (and I'm not crazy about either)

    "I hope I don't catch a ricochet off the pavement" Jay thought as the air filled with the smell of gunpowder. Jay popped up and returned three rounds in response to the automatic fire now stitching his brand-new patrol car. He knew he didn't have a chance of hitting either of the gunmen but was hoping to keep them from rushing his position. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Jimmy say something to him but couldn't hear him because of the ringing in his ears from his own gunfire and the sound of deadly bullets hitting the other side of the car from where he was.
    "What?" Jay yelled.
    "Where are we going for lunch after this?" Jimmy repeated. "I'm hungry!"
    "You're seriously asking me that NOW?!?" Jay yelled incredulously.

    And:

    "I hope I don't catch a ricochet off the pavement" Jay thought as the air filled with the smell of gunpowder. Jay popped up and returned three rounds in response to the automatic fire now stitching his brand-new patrol car. He knew he didn't have a chance of hitting either of the gunmen but was hoping to keep them from rushing his position. As he rose up to fire another couple of rounds, Jay was knocked to the ground.
    "Breathe, I can't breathe!" he thought "Oh God, I've been hit!" Jay felt a sharp pain in his right chest where the bullet had struck him. He lay there trying to breathe but his lungs refused to allow air in. Jimmy grabbed Jay and pulled him back to the little protection the engine and wheels could provide.
    "Breathe, buddy" Jimmy said as he opened Jays shirt. "It caught the vest. You're going to be ok. You just had the breath knocked out of you. Jay was just starting to catch his breath as Jimmy pulled his gun from his holster and fired three more evenly spaced shots into the gunman's car.
    Jimmy gave Jay a stern look and said "Jay, if I have told you once, I've told you 1000 times. Incoming fire has the right-of-way!"
     
  2. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    the hungry one is pretty good, I didn't laugh out loud probably cause I don't know much of what's going on and who are these guy but it did put a smile on my face, so that's good to my standard.

    I can't really help you come up with a line for you but, I think you're doing it the right way, keep working on it. you're doing fine.
     
  3. Mr.
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    Mr. Member

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    The second had me worried for a second. If they're getting shot at and he has a pain in his chest, that's a hard situation to diffuse into humor. The first one's definitely more lighthearted, though Jay's literal reaction doesn't add much to it. You might go the old movie style: "Then how about a knuckle sandwich, wise guy?"
     
  4. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I kind of like the first one, the hungry thing is funny. It is basically trivializing the entire situation. How about since it so loud with all the gun fire, Jimmy mimes the act of eating to clue Jay into what he's asking. You could have him pretend to eat a hot dog and rub his stomach with pleasure. I might even have Jimmy throw a cliff bar or twinkie at him in a fit of rage.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the "hungry" one would work better if they'd been discussing lunch before. I also wouldn't weight it down with the ear-ringing explanation and the "what?", and I'd cut the explanations of Jay's thoughts and plans, replacing them with much shorter explanations and actions. My version would be:

    Automatic fire stitched the flawless paint of the new patrol car. Jay popped up into the fog of gunpowder and returned three rounds, then ducked behind the shelter of the car, fearing a ricochet from the pavement. He dropped to peer between the wheels, watching for feet rushing their position.

    Jimmy edged beside him, reloading. In a pause between the impacts on the other side of the car, he asked, "So. Chinese?"


    ChickenFreak
     
  6. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    "... deadly bullets"? "... flawless paint"? Ew! Waxing almost purple! And, while the Chinese tag kicks the Lunch reference to a higher plane, I really got a kick out of the income bullets/right of way allusion. Of course, that sounds like something I would say so, yeh, I do have sort of a preference for that.
    Probably, though, cleaning up the "what's for lunch" scenario could be made to work. I wouldn't try so hard on it, though. Not knowing the story, it's hard to say but, unless you're going for camp, you really want to try to make it sound more natural.

    "[delete the "ricochet" thing. It doesn't work] Jay popped up and returned three rounds in response to the gunfire now stitching his patrol car. [He knew he didn't have a chance of hitting either of the gunmen but was hoping to keep them from rushing his position. (unless this is critical to the story, you really don't need it. It doesn't add to the scene so much and the brevity helps add impact to the "joke".] Out of the corner of his eye (technically, unless he is a freak of nature, he could only see something out of the corner of one eye. (The other eye would only see his nose).) he saw Jimmy say something ["to him" (I'd ditch this, too. Chances are, under the circumstances, the reader will know it is Jay who Jimmy is talking to. You don't need to hit your reader over the head with it. Trust that he or she will be able to figure that out. Simultaneously, you will be getting rid of the echoic repetition of "...to him / hear him ..." and it will read more smoothly.] but couldn't hear him because of the ringing in his ears from his own gunfire [and the sound of deadly bullets hitting the other side of the car from where he was (This, also sounds like word padding and doesn't add to the scene.)].
    "What?" Jay yelled.
    "I said I'm hungry. Where are we going for lunch?" Jimmy repeated.
    "You're seriously asking me that NOW?!?" Jay yelled. [Don't tell us he was incredulous. We sorta figured that out by his reaction.]

    Here's where Chickenfreak's Chinese kicks asterisk. Following your initial exchange, I'd stick Chicken's Chinese into the scene. So it comes out something like ...

     
  7. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    Just do a play on words. Witty people do that. Something like "Hey Jay, you got a magazine." "What? Did you not bring your ammunition to work with you today?" "No, a magazine, for reading, we're going to be pinned down her for awhile and I'm getting kind of bored."

    Or do something that's just plain silly. "Jimmy, will you quit firing random rounds through the car's windows!" "Why? At least this way we are guarenteed a new patrol car and I kind of like the look of the those new Cobalt models." (Fires two more rounds into the side of the car purposely).
     
  8. 5305437093421
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    5305437093421 New Member

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    I like the magazine idea above. Jay could ask Jimmy for an extra mag and Jimmy pulls out a Women's Weekly or something. He would do it accidentally, but you might wonder what he's doing with that in the first place. You might also be able to keep the reader thinking about whether he is serious about the situation.
     
  9. thetyper
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    thetyper Member

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    What are you trying to say about Jimmy's character in this one-liner, Nick? Ask yourself that.
     
  10. naturemage
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    naturemage Active Member

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    The "hungry" one is good, but I like the magazine suggestion better. Maybe it's just laying on the ground next to where they're sitting, and he starts flipping through pages as they're waiting for a chance to return fire.
     
  11. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    "You gotta be kidding me! They don't look Chinese at all!"

    "No. I mean lunch."

    Jay shrugged. "I'm more in a pizza mood. Let's survive this first."
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, a character talking nonsense to break their own tension works even in a non-comedy book; a character going to the trouble of a physical joke like the magazine in the middle of a life-threatening situation strains disbelief for me. It would work just fine in a surreal comedy - the movie "Airplane", or the book "Hitchhiker's Guide" - but I'd struggle with it in anything that wasn't pure comedy.
     
  13. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I loved the "so, Chinese?" line. I actually laughed.
     
  14. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You lose some of the comedy element because your dialogue needs to be shorter and snappier.
    "I hope I don't catch a ricochet off the pavement"
    ?
    People don't talk or think quite so long-windedly or coherently as you give, in a situation like that, it's more like--
    The bullets ricochetted off the pavement. "Oh, God. Don't let me catch one!"
    and when you say:
    "Where are we going for lunch after this?" Jimmy repeated. "I'm hungry!"
    IMO it would be more lilke:
    "When's lunch?"
    "What?"
    "Aren't you hungry?"
    "Are you serious?"
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's what I'm thinking.

    "Aren't you hungry?"
    "We're getting shot at, and all you can think of is food? The hell is wrong with you? Gah, dammit, that almost got me!"

    They're going to be more focused on the guys trying to kill them then coming up with a reasonable, logical response.

    And if I were Jay, had gotten shot in the chest and now my buddy is making crack at a potentially fatal wound, I'd likely shout "**** YOU!" or "Just shut up and help me!" because I would think Jimmy had cared more about cracking jokes than my potential life-threatening injury. Now, I don't really know their relationship, but I did think Jimmy wasn't taking Jay's injury that seriously with his "right of way" joke.
     
  16. kyelena2
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    kyelena2 Member

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    I enjoyed this one very much!
    I also liked Chicken Freak's thoughts.
     

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