Writing Humor and Finding Your Voice by Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

Recently I told you about Diane Laney Fitzpatrick’s Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. I read at night before bed, and I was laughing so hard (and trying to keep quiet to not wake the hubby) that I shook the whole bed. True story.

In this guest post, Diane talks about writing humor and finding your voice. Enjoy this guest post.

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My husband wants me to do standup comedy.

I can’t imagine anything I’d like to do less. Honestly, I’d rather Spiderman-scale the front of my smooth-surface four-story house and move a cable line that’s been bugging him. I’d rather sit through a meeting of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment on not doughnut day in the Capitol. I’d rather golf.

My husband thinks that by standing up in front of a room full of boozed-up smokers who are desperately looking for a little bit of cheer in their lives, but are too cheap to pay for real comedians, I might learn something about comedic writing.

“Timing,” he says. “I think you could learn something about timing and phrasing, and what your audience thinks is funny.”

There are some amateur nights – kindly called Open Mic Nights – at local comedy clubs here in San Francisco. But I not only can’t bring myself to sign up, I can’t stand the thought of watching other amateur – I mean open – people stand up and tell jokes. I would be so nervous for them, I imagine I’d crawl under my table, put my fingers in my ears and hum.

I’ve been writing humor for about six years. When I first started blogging, I had no idea I’d write humor. I didn’t know I was funny. My first blog post was about my oldest son turning 21. I ran it with a picture of him and his cake. (ho hum, said the blogosphere) My second post was about my daughter in band camp. (cricket . . . cricket . . . chirped the blogosphere) My third post was on getting braces at 50 (what else ya got, the blogosphere said, yawning) The blogosphere is an impatient, hard-to-please animal.

So I wrote about going back-to-school shopping at Hot Topic, where my daughter was adding to her Johnny Depp movie t-shirt collection, while I squatted in a back corner leafing through a bio of Marilyn Manson. It struck me as funny that I was doing that when most of the other moms were deciding between the unicorn pencil box and the Hello Kitty pencil box.

That Hot Topic blog post came out funny. More followed. I had not so much found my voice, as encountered it unexpectedly. My voice, it appears, had been left on my doorstep like an orphan who needed a mommy, a bottle and a bath. I was 50-years-old and all I knew about writing was how to cover a township trustees meeting, how to write an obit, and how to SEO-write enough to get a check for $100 once a month or so. What was I supposed to do with funny?

At this point, some writers might get all jazzed up with their newfound talent and work up a froth putting down everything that fit the mold. The one thing that kept me from slipping into cliche, formula humor writing was that I didn’t try very hard. My laziness kept me from working at being a humor writer, and ironically, that helped me succeed in my own little way. I’m not making a dime on my writing, yet I feel successful because I can write things that make people laugh.

“You write like Erma Bombeck,” someone said. I resisted the temptation to re-read all of my precious Erma columns for fear I’d start to mimic her. “Your writing reminds me of Nora Ephron,” a literary agent told me. I tried to put out of my mind everything I remembered about I Feel Bad About My Neck.

I plugged away, writing about my life – not the consummate housewife, not the typical stay-at-home mom of teens, not what another successful humor writer would write about – but what I wanted to write about. I figure, even if every column isn’t funny to everyone, at least they’ll read something they didn’t think of themselves.

For the record, I don’t write just like Erma Bombeck and my writing is not reminiscent of Nora Ephron. I don’t hold a candle to either of those funny broads, but that’s OK.

You do have to wonder, though . . . who knows where their careers may have gone if they had listened to their husbands and done stand-up.

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick was a newspaper reporter, editor, Internet content provider, freelance writer, and blogger before writing her first book, Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. The book is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and directly from the author at info@homesweethomesbook.com. Diane blogs on Just Humor Me and also on her website at www.homesweethomesbook.com.

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