As the father of a four-year-old, I am no stranger to tickling. But it’s fair to say I don’t get tickled very often by anyone other than my daughter or my wife. My dad will be visiting in a week. The opportunity might present itself for him to tickle me, I suppose, but that’s about as long as that list is going to get.
Usually, I have to be somewhat surprised for any comedic gesture, tickling or otherwise, to make me laugh. What a great quality that is, too, to have the ability to make others laugh – and not just from tickling. I have always admired other people’s ability to cause laughter, and tried to be able to do it myself.
Heck, making people laugh at all is hard. How great a comedian must be, or an actor, writer, or author, to be able to make people laugh. Some classic comedians were able to do it more than a hundred years ago, and their films are to still be able to do it now.
Writing lines in a book in such a way as to make people laugh is even harder. At least in person, like a comedian in front of an audience, you can get a feel for the group, and start to understand what they are all about. Especially big gatherings; the bigger the better. My very limited experience in getting groups to laugh was: if just one person in the group laughs, it’s a signal to the others that it’s okay, and soon they all are. Then you have them. You can pace your jokes, wait until they take a breath, and hit them again, waiting for just the right time to add the topper.
Writing funny stuff is much more difficult, like trying hard to get one stodgy old man to crack a smile. You just never know what’s going to do it. So you just have to write what you think is funny, and hope for the best. Hope they laugh at the right places, that is; I have been told some of my work was funny, but sometimes it wasn’t intended to be!
I read an essay last week and it made me laugh out loud. That was one funny guy. That book had sat on a shelf in my office for years, among a pile of other books that I must have thought looked good, but obviously never bothered to crack open. It sat there, just a few feet away from where I spend so much time working at my desk.
One day, I needed to attribute a quote that I thought I came from a certain author, so I searched for it online. It was him, all right, but seeing where it came from, I wondered if I didn’t have that very book in my possession somewhere. Then I realized I had the book on my shelf, right there, just out of arm’s reach.
I went over and pulled the thick, heavy book from its dusty home and stood looking through the table of contents, seeing all the familiar stories, but also one that I had forgotten. And, seeing it, I could not resist reading a few lines.
By god, what an author. What an artist! I had to sit down and continue reading. It was a short enough piece, but I found myself with my feet up on my desk, leaning back in my chair, thoroughly enjoying the master at work.
And I burst out laughing at one spot, then read on, tears in my eyes, finally putting the book back when I finished. It makes my office a better place, knowing those great artists are just a few feet away, so close that they can just reach over and tickle me when they want to – if I let them. That’s what those books are doing there. To remind me of what writing can be. I won’t be such a stranger from now on, I promise.
I hope some of my writing habits and styles – which until now I had thought were original, and some of which I thought were bad – were instead an act of subconscious theft on my part. I will now use them with pride.
What a great legacy Mark Twain has. He knew enough about people to get them to laugh with him, and that is what he is forever known for. He could do it 125 years ago, and he can do it now, given the chance. To the extent immortality is possible, he and few others have achieved it. So his books are his headstones, in ways that a cemetery plot and a cold piece of granite never could be.
Which was an odd way to think about my own passing – hopefully a long time from now.
I hope my books will be my headstones.
And if I think about it, I’ll tell that to my daughter one day. Maybe she will realize that the house where we lived and laughed is a better memorial than a cold stone in a place nobody visits, and that remembering me laughing would be best achieved through pictures and videos and books and stories, not a visit to a cemetery.
Scatter my ashes in the sea, so I can become part of it, and give you a big hug every time you swim at the beach.
Until then, I will tickle her, and allow myself to be tickled by a dead man a few feet away.
Want me to critique the first chapter of your story? SEND IT. Hit the Contact Me button and, you know, contact me. I’ll see what I can do. One lucky subscriber each month will get The Dan Treatment. (Okay, I’m the only one who calls it that.)
FOLLOW ME! I’m this funny all the time. Probably. Don’t miss another valuable bauble that falls from my fingertips. You read this far; you may actually need this stuff. SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW TODAY (click the follow “Follow” button, above) and if you send me your email through the Contact Me button I’ll send you a free copy of my amazingly cute book “The Short Years” plus we’ll probably become friends and start hanging out and stuff.
If you benefit from this blog, share it with your friends!
Enjoy my writing brilliance in all its glory on my Author Page HERE http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
and find out about the release of my new book “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew” by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know when you can get a free advance copy! Shh! Don’t tell.