It has come down to my critiquing – and by “critiquing” I mean praising – my own blog post. It makes sense for the assignment to go to someone who’s familiar with my work, a man who can truly do the job justice. Paying a compliment is not as easy as it looks. It takes more than heartfelt sincerity. Though that is definitely a good place to start.
In my day, I have endured more than my share of botched compliments – “I have to tell you, Earl, (a show I created) is my favorite sitcom ever. That and (a show I can’t stand.)” It then behooves me to force a smile and a “Thank you”, when I really mean, “What terrible crime have I committed that my punishment meant running into you.”
Hopefully, this exercise in self-praise is not entirely “ego overreach.” There could be some valuable writing lessons involved as well. Though I would not rule out “ego overreach” masquerading as writing lessons. It’s tricky. (I just wrote, “It’s trucky”, and I went back and fixed it. It could be I’m uncomfortable about this whole thing. Or just “u” is next to “i” on the keyboard.)
Last Friday, I wrote a blog post I really liked entitled, “Selling Madame Guillotine.” (I would link you to the post, but I have forgotten how to do that. It was the last post I wrote, so if you’re interested in reading it first – you don’t have to, but if you don’t, today’s post may very well be meaningless to you – it should be relatively easy to track down.)
“Selling Madame Guillotine” was, basically, a dialogue between Louis XVI, who was the King of France during the French Revolution, and a petitioner who was promoting a new method of execution – the guillotine.
I like writing dialogue. As opposed to essay writing, where the exposition is delivered in paragraph form, dialogue writing taps into my background as a television script writer. “Selling Madame Guillotine” was constructed like a scene. You put two people in a specific situation – a modern counterpart might be a door-to-door salesman and a customer, only instead of selling cleaning products to “the lady of the house”, the customer is the King of France and the salesman’s hawking a novel method of decapitation.
So there’s that that I liked – a dialogue between the hotshot salesman and the reluctant consumer. With a little “twist.”
I also enjoyed how I shaped the dialogue, building the “back-and-forth” organically, not rushing, but giving each “beat” and dramatic advancement the time it required. The post turned out to be over 1600 hundred words long – though I did repeat “KING LOUIS XVI” and “INVENTOR” (the salesman) every time they spoke, so without that, it’s less. Despite its length, I feared making it shorter would have hurried the storytelling. The idea of breaking it into two posts gave me concerns about interrupting the momentum. It seemed more successful as a single entity. You don’t want, like, a seven-hour surgery, where they stop in the middle for a snack.
“Okay, where were we? Is that the new heart we just put in, or the old one we need to take out?”
The characters’ representations were consistent with their intentions, the dialogue flowed normally, and the comedy – a least I found comedy in there – was, over all, less a “stretch” than, with a nudge towards humorosity, naturalistic and believable.
But what I appreciated the most about the undertaking is that “Selling Madame Guillotine” reflected a style of writing I like best.
Very funny, Italics Man. And not entirely off the mark. Though there is a “chicken and egg” situation in play here. Do I prefer a certain kind of writing, because it reflects the kind of writing I do? Or have I trained myself to write that way, because it’s my favorite kind of writing? Or, “Option Three” – and arguably the strongest – I write a certain way, because, due to genetics and upbringing, I have no choice in the matter, and I appreciate others – who also have no choice in the matter – who write in a similar fashion.`
I realize there are a lot of styles of comedy, and though I happen to value one style over the others, I am aware that this is a personal choice, rather than a “Natural Law Of The Comedic Universe.”
There are broader styles of comedy, there are subtler styles, there are punchier styles, there are raunchier styles…you know the list. There are countless approaches to comedy, and superior and inferior versions of each. I simply prefer – or am programmed to appreciate – this one:
A humor grounded firmly in reality. In the case of “Selling Madame Guillotine”, researched reality.
Last July the Fourteenth, I read an article commemorating “Bastille Day” which made mention of the guillotine. On “Bastille Day”, the people stormed the Bastille, which was a prison, and the French Revolution had its spark. Subsequently, King Louis XVI, who remained, albeit precariously, on the throne, was presented with an idea for a new execution device that was promoted as being more efficient, more humane, and, most importantly for that period in history, egalitarian.
After reading the article, I did some research, which explained that, in pre-Revolutionary France, common people found guilty of capital offenses were hanged, while the condemned nobility were beheaded. With the advent of the guillotine, executions would now all be handled exactly the same way.
The revolutionaries hailed this “democratization of executions” as a significant “step forward”, and a victorious cause for celebration.
FRENCH ARISTOCRAT: (BEREFT) Tomorrow, I have a date with Madame Guillotine.
FRENCH PEASANT: (EXCITED) Me too!
FRENCH PEASANT NUMBER TWO: Can you believe it? We’re dying like the Big Boys!
FRENCH PEASANT NUMBER THREE: They hung my father. They hung my grandfather. Look at me! I’m going in style!
And, of course, the king, who personally authorized the new invention, himself, eventually, went “in style.”
Absurdity offers a rich repository for comedy. Even funnier than the absurdity contrived by a writer, however? – The verifiable absurdity of actual people.
The situation tickles me. So I wrote about.
I just wanted to tip my hat to that effort, before moving on.