Tag Archives: It’s a Comedy

The Truth of the Thing

“I asked Norman Mailer which of the other art forms he thought being a novelist was closest to. “Acting,” he said.

Under the Influence, Andrew O’Hagen.  April 27, 2013 Financial Times

Petaluma Turning Basin

Following the River, Guided by the Light


Most of us are familiar with the list of elements that the novelist utilizes in the building of a story. Here and there the best of the writers point at one element or another. How a character reads off the page influences our sense of the truth of the thing. Their behavior allows us to be swept along trusting that what will happen corresponds to our understanding of humanity. And so the actor/writer feels their way into the scene. We inhabit the scene and stake out what a character would do if placed in circumstances such as those we find in a story. What may not be as obvious is that regardless of the premise, the plotting, the outline, character sketches etc… there remains the task of entering into the realm of the situation. We net out the truth and dispose of what rings false. Most of it is by trial and error. Sometimes we nail it on the first attempt while at other times the task eludes us completely and we are forced to reconceive the entire circumstance we’ve concocted. Story proceeds by characterization. From there anything can happen so long as our expectations of how that person might act or speak rings true.


“Hazel Harwood! I aim to peel you like an apple, lick you like a lollypop.”

Hazel froze in her tracks. She knew that voice. She slow turned and bent down picked up first thing she could find. It was a rock.

Keefe smiled and waved his arms wild like over his head.

She threw that rock at Keefe as hard as she could.

Keefe was so excited that she’d noticed him. “Ain’t she something…”

When Time Stood Still


Speed as Histrionics

I set out on the outline of Hot Spring Honeymoon on January 1, 2012. I’d finished Bankrupt Heart in June of 2011. By finish I mean the manuscript was completed and the only thing left was to scrub the thing for errors in spelling and grammar. I rested my imaginations muscle for six months until on that first fateful day seventeen months ago I embarked on this latest novel. I’d wrestled with the outline and settled on April Fool’s Day as the best day to begin writing my first comic novel. We count the words of this current effort at forty thousand headed to 60 thousand at the finish. I am a pace of 3000 funny words per month, a hundred funny words per day, somewhat longer than a tweet, somewhat less than prolific. Of course for every three grand I make I’ve spent three times that amount getting there. This is not a lesson, it is an experience. If this is going to be what I say it is, a comic novel, it is going to require a vastly greater effort than any other writing project I’ve attempted. Here is where the practical limits of the creative process meets the modern worlds sense of pace. A book of this type takes as long as it takes and not a moment sooner.


“Morning,” Keefe said.

“God you scared me,” Dusty replied as she came out the front door. “How are you Mr. Kenny?”

“I don’t have the whole of my life in front of me like you, but what I got left will do.”

“You got a long life ahead.” Dusty said as she loaded sheets and towels into her arms.

“Got honeymooners coming in this afternoon.”

“Newlyweds…” Dusty said, “Vow your whole life away for two weeks of hot fun.”

“You’re not ready to settle down.” Keefe said.

“Making love to the same person for rest of your life?”

“Right partner could make for a happiness that runs deep.”

Dusty wasn’t having any of it, “Only thing I’ve learned about getting married. That’ll make a life seem long.”

Close Your Eyes and You’ll Miss YOU…Tomorrow I’ll….

Dress in Window



 Blinded By the Light…


What is your narrative? How much of the story do you know by heart? How much of your narrative remains hidden from you? Thought experiment! “I’ll never get that job. I’m no good at math. I’m always late.” Some of our narratives are harmless while others are not. Writing fiction is an opportunity to endow characters with a narrative, part of which they are caught up in and part consisting of the things that they believe to be true, but in fact are simply false. Characters trapped in this web of self-deceit offer an author a means of advancing an improbable plot because readers are smart enough to know that even brilliant characters can be blind to the things they claim to know about who they are.



“Keep yapping Sal, might just get a notion to put that up to a test.”

“A test? You’re self-centered, get angry, yell, never close doors, don’t seem find much of anything that makes you happy, hell you don’t listen to nobody about nothing; got more problems than most and almost nothing about you that anyone thinks they can make a friend out of.”

“Aren’t you a sweet talker…” Keefe was looking dead into Sal’s tirade.

“Boss, sometimes I think it might be just me making things up,” Sal tap tapped his steel spatula against the grill.

“Making things up?” Keefe said.

“Yeah, but then it hits me, como un toro, like a bull.”

“What’s that?”

“What a king-sized pain in the ass you really are,”

Economic Tragedy Played as a Comedy

The formation of the eurozone and a half-century of relentless globalization have altered the global economic landscape, rendering once-proven policies ineffective.”

Kaushik Basu


Doug revised small size

aka…Doug McKechnie

The comic novel is an exploration guided by discovery. The author hunts for the funny side of phenomena. We can’t tweeze out the least preferred parts of life and place only the most preferred parts up for consideration without placing our thumb on the scale of reality. How we might fold uncomfortable truths into comic fiction and still hurl the reader joyfully along on a romp of human folly is quite the challenge. For the work to be redemptive there needs to be somewhere in the work souls who’s actions are wholesome and skillful, that hold in their hearts a sense of what it means to seek for the common good. From start to finish the author is testing a hypothesis and running a fictional experiment and the consequences will result in some measure of reading pleasure. The global financial crisis has no such luxury. Instead its authors no less certain than a comic novelist must live with the results of the implications derived from their experiments. I think it safe to say that we now have a global financial system without an effective global financial sector. We have neither the institutions nor the regulations suited to where the nations of the world have arrived. This is human folly on a scale that dwarfs the hubris of even the most rigid ideologue.



“An angry man’s a dead ender… got to learn how to appreciate what you have, stop bellyaching…”

“I got a good life,”

“If you had a good life you’d be getting out of folks way and allowing men coming up behind you to take the helm.”

“Not a man in Meadowhawk can do what I do,”

“…Time to get out of the way Garrett…Time for next generation figure things out.”

“I got a lot of life in me still,”

“Garrett,” Doc tried to be sincere, “you have to open your eyes, love the things you find right here, right now, before time god gave you ends up being spent on things won’t add a lick of joy to your sour puss…”

“Well, what do I do when my chest starts to hurt?”

“I took the Hippocratic oath. If you were my mortal enemy I’d still be duty bound to treat you,”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to put you on low dose of aspirin, and if I’m right you’ll be fine and if I’m wrong, won’t matter, you’ll be dead before your head hits the ground.”

Garrett said, “You don’t have to sound so happy about that,”

“It would be lot easier to show some remorse if my patient wasn’t the most obstinate man in the whole of Meadowhawk.”

Fill in the Blanks




After drafting a new chapter I return to the previous three. I’m keeping a sharp lookout for a drop off in energy. It may come from going too long on a topic not central to the plot. I have something like sixteen separate scenes in the four chapters. So, I will break up the scenes in each chapter and then review. Hardest of all is that the writer attaches to a sentence that is just too good to do without even though the other sentence it is next to has already done the job. An awful lot of writing is not about writing at all. It is crucial to contents mission that its form is devised with as much care. The thoughtful writer makes the effort during the drafting of the novel so that the reader might not be burdened with having to do any of the authors work for him.



Gretel bucked up and smiled. “I’m going to see what I can see,”

“Not going to get any answers down at this end of the bar.”

She started to cross the room. She stopped turned to Keefe. Gretel unfastened one more button down her blouse, “Most of the time they’ll do the trick.”

“Can’t hurt,” Keefe said regarding her low cut blouse, “gives a man some hope,”

“Does it now?”

“They make a man feel the world is a better place, like blue sky, warm day, being with your two best friends…”

Gretel looked down to check how she appeared, “Great, now they’re a weather forecast.”


Comedy as Balancing Act


Comedy requires concision. As I’ve been building my story I’ve had to battle filling in enough narrative to make the mind’s eye see the scene while maintaining the pace of the story so as not to derail the momentum. It is a brutal dance of first building the chapter and then removing anything that does not propel the plot or is not funny… There is a degree of difficulty here that I would not have been capable of understanding had I not written two bigger novels.


“Always use a high roller at a card game,” Fletcher said.

“Poker playing, men play cards all the time.”

“Mormon’s don’t…” Gage said.

“Give a Mormon half a chance,” Fletch said, “and they’ll be most hung-over rooster crowing at sunrise.”

“Enjoy a game twice as much,” Keefe said, “and be three times as ashamed.”


Marginally Deplorable….

Peter walking


Up and About…

I am reminded of the path to our final destination. Writing a comedy is a perilous affair. It does not depend on inspiration. It does not depend on careful planning. It is more like waiting for a bus to arrive that keeps to no set schedule.



“Everyone knows there’s nothing evil in seducing a woman into saying yes when they meant to say no… is just how things go sometimes, why you’re not thought of as the best person in town, but then again you’re not the worst, I think most folk think of you as marginally deplorable.”

Keefe Kenny speaking to his friend Fletcher McCrea