Good writing doesn’t always have to be serious!
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a phrase or sentence surprises the reader (or listener) to rethink the beginning of the phrase/sentence. It can be used for humorous or dramatic effect. Stand-up comedians call ’em punchlines, political pundits know them as zingers, mystery writers might use them for a “twist.”
Regardless, they keep our readers (or listeners) on their toes. A few examples …
- Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
- Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
- There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.
- Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
- The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
- Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
- I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
- The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.
- If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
Got any of your own?
We often find inspiration for our writing in the most unexpected places …
After a snowshoe outing, while a group of us were recuperating at the base of Mount Bachelor, my friend (and next door neighbor) told us that she had recently done twenty cartwheels across her living room floor.
photo courtesy of hoyasmeg 11.19.11
I thought she was kidding.
I can’t remember what she said had motivated her to attempt such an activity (she is not a gymnast or circus performer by profession), but I can’t forget the joy I heard in her voice as she described flipping head over heels again and again and again – something she hadn’t even thought of doing since she had been a youngster.
Thus began a conversation about joy, that childlike feeling of wonder and excitement. Not that sense of accomplishment we might have experienced in our lives – college degrees, children, travel, promotions – but something else, a giddy playfulness, if you will. Then the rest of us wondered what might bring that joy for each of us, whether it be watching cartoons, playing jacks, or in my case, I realized, eating Frosted Flakes.
It has become our mantra, our cause célèbre. Aha! the basis for a book, perhaps?
Find Your Cartwheel: Reclaiming Joy in Your Life.
Writers often ask how long their novel should be … if there is a magic number of words or pages –
Unfortunately, there is no set “rule”; a classic work of literature can run an astounding 1424 pages (War and Peace) or can be told in 96 pages (The Old Man and the Sea). So it’s not the page – or word – count that counts.
What really matters is that the words chosen tell the story the writer wants to tell. I ran across an exercise a while ago that helps us strip away all the excess verbiage and get to the heart of our stories. The goal is to tell a story in six words – no more, no less.
A great example is: “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” (Often attributed to Hemingway, this most likely originated from a a 1921 newspaper column in which Roy K. Moulton reprinted a note from “Jerry” about an ad in the Brooklyn Home Talk that read, “Baby carriage for sale, never used.”)
But that’s beside the point. The concept – six words and only six words – is not as easy as it sounds, and much more telling than you might think. Here is another one that came out of one of my writing workshops: Fat. Thin. Fat. Thin. Fat. Thin.