When I was in elementary school, all the 4th-6th graders took part in a musical extravaganza called The Legend Train, where different narrators would ride around on this wooden train, pulled by the strongest 6th grader in the world (considering he was able to cart narrators of various sizes all around the auditorium).
One of the stories we told was the Battle of New Orleans (between the British and Americans). As is historically accurate, my fellow 5th graders and I were American soldiers, and we re-enacted the battle scene against some 6th graders, crouched behind an invisible barricade.
We held our invisible rifles and fired at the British, making those fake shooting sounds that children of the 80s are awesome at.
One of the other 5th graders said something funny, and we all started laughing. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was lying on my stomach that was to blame, but mid-laugh, I released a butt battle cry.
You know…a fart.
I hoped I was the only one to hear it since everyone else was laughing so loud, but no such luck.
The laughter turned into, “Aw dude!”, “Gross!” and my fellow soldiers retreated when no British musket could have made them. Because of the ensuing chaos, my teacher decided it was time we switch to a different act of the play.
So the Battle of New Orleans ended not with American grit and gumption, but with a fart.
Why am I telling you this story? It’s funny. And it’s real, which makes it even funnier. See, I could hide forever in shame OR I could embrace the event and share it with others so we could all get a good laugh out of it. When you can laugh at yourself, mean people can’t get to you and nice people want to be part of the fun by either sharing THEIR stories or adding to yours.
Here’s a more recent example. I’m a rather socially awkward person (which is why I’m telling strangers of my gassy childhood), so recently when trying to introduce myself to someone outside the writing world, I panicked. Let’s see how I handled it:
Note that I described the situation in a humorous fashion, and what happened? Two people shared funny stories of their own.
I’ll bet embarrassing things have happened to you in the past. (To the one person saying “No,” you just wait. There’s a bird plotting to poop on you. I’d start carrying an umbrella).
When you have one of these mortifying moments, ask yourself, “How could I tell this story in a funny way?” That’s one of the first steps to being a great humor writer.
As a matter of fact, why not do that right now? Time for a writing exercise!
Think of an embarrassing moment from your past, think of how you could tell that story in an amusing way, and write it down. Share it with a loved one (or your writing group…or even me!) and see what happens. I bet you’ll get some laughs and feel better about the situation afterward.
My final advice for you:
- Let life happen. It will, whether you want it to or not.
- Be aware. What makes a story realistic are the details that come from living in the moment.
- Find the humor in life and pass it on. So that future generations will know to eat less beans.
Jo Whittemore is the author of the tween humor novels Front Page Face-Off, Odd Girl In, D is for Drama, Colonial Madness, and the Confidentially Yours series. She also penned The Silverskin Legacy fantasy trilogy. Find her online at jowhittemore.com
If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Jo’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.
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