I’m going to veer a little off the beaten path today and write a post on one of my favorite books that is (currently!) unpublished. Currently still available as a serial story at Rosey Mucklestone’s blog, I’ve been lucky enough to get a front-row seat with other beta readers as she polishes it into a salable novel. The story’s basic premise is summed up nicely in these few sentences:
Amnesia is annoying. The poor hero has to find out everything about his wonderful life again and re-meet all the lovely people he knew before, then go to stop the villain. But what if the life that starts showing itself isn’t wonderful, the people aren’t lovely and the villain is… yourself?
Obviously there is a lot of potential for humor there.
Make the tone gel with your protagonist.
With a moniker like Wolfgang Dankworth, the tone of the story is set. As a hardcore ENTP, Wolfgang’s main narration tone is sarcasm. It flows with his impetuous, ‘let’s not make a plan because I can wing it’, attitude. His narrative voice fits the science fiction/classic rock/dusty feel of the story. The tone would be much different and require a much different vocabulary if her main character were a world-class genius.
Let the humor match the theme and conflict.
The theme of the book is centered around redemption. The conflict is centered around Wolfgang’s moral journey.
So trusting me or dying was a toss-up. Man, my self-confidence was just soaring at this point.
“Kid, do I look like I could pull anything right now?” I asked.
The kid looked back up at me. He seemed to only glance at my injuries before locking in on my eyes. His green-eyed gaze felt like it was digging deep inside of me. Searching for something. Trying to figure me out.
Finally, his lips tightened in a line, he let out his breath and then took my hand. I just about fell over as he pulled himself up. He paled even more upon being upright and blinked hard a couple of times. His legs nearly collapsed under him.
I caught him, partly steadying myself. “So we’re good?”
He swallowed, looking sick, but nodded slightly.
“Well,” I slung one of his arms over my shoulders, wincing as I discovered yet another bruise. “To the land of Parking-Lot we go.”
And we were off like a herd of turtles. Wounded turtles.
Wolfgang’s memory loss provides humor as to who this kid is, where they met, and what their past relationship was. Instead of wasting time with off-topic tangents, the humor keeps the story rolling forward.
Experiment with the unexpected.
We’re all too familiar with the old mentor stereotype: a bearded old man with a staff, pronouncing vague prophecies before shuffling away in a grimy tunic. While mentors can and do come in all shapes and sizes, Mucklestone chose to make her mentor a balance of wisdom and comic relief. Her mentor, Baden News, (shortened to Bad News) is an ex-hitman who is seven feet high, with a talent for patching up wayward troublemakers, serving ice cream, and listening to Schoolhouse Rock.
Being creative with your characters instead of falling back on stereotypical bands of friends/gangs/partners in crime builds authenticity. And when you make readers experience a positive emotion like laughter when those cliches are turned topsy-turvy, you’ve sold them on your story.