Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding the Humor

It started innocently enough. I was on my way to an appointment with my four-year-old granddaughter, Molly, for her "school," when I realized I was an hour early. I decided to kill some time by visiting a local Christian bookstore to pick up a Bible I ordered last week. The Bible was in just as they'd promised, and Molly played with the enormous train set she looks forward to dismantling every time we visit the store. (She has a train set at home identical to the one in the store, but does she use it? No. She prefers the one seven miles across town.) I had a nice visit with a young mother and her two-year-old daughter who played alongside Molly. There I was--good company with whom to pass the time, a nice play area and friend for Molly, a brand new Bible, and surrounded by merchandise committed to the worship of our Heavenly Father. Aside from jumping up every other second to lure my granddaughter away from breakables, I had it under control. I was content and happy, lulled into a false sense of "all is well."

This is Molly on the day she graduated from
Tiny Felon Academy. Not really, although she
did steal that cap from her mother.
Since Molly is not one to leave a store willingly, I eventually bribed her with the promise of seeing her teacher, Miss Grace, at school, grabbed her tiny right hand, and barreled full speed ahead for the door. All went surprisingly well during my getaway as we weaved and careened between the displays, around shelves, and past piles of colorful merchandise. I gave the employee washing the glass on the front door a big smile as we exited and made a beeline for the car before Molly decided there was just one more thing she needed to examine. We stepped off the sidewalk, raced across the parking lot without getting run over, and reached the car without incident.

Aside from the fact that as I swung her around the store on our way out, pleased with my clean getaway and clueless as only a grandma can be, Molly managed to steal a ring.

If I thought I walked quickly on my way out of the store, that was nothing compared to the speed with which I dragged her back to the same employee washing the same front door. I handed him the ring--a large, sparkly man's ring that was nearly big enough for Molly to use as a bracelet--and apologized profusely, telling him she had no idea that what she did was wrong. I told Molly to tell him she was sorry. She did, although I doubt she had any idea why snagging the ring was not a nice thing to do. She thinks of stores as huge toy boxes that someone has graciously and neatly organized for her. He thanked me for returning it (who on earth wouldn't return a ring stolen by her granddaughter from a Christian bookstore, for crying out loud?), and the tiny felon and I slinked away. Well, I slinked. Tiny felon skipped.

Obviously, the point of this story is the incongruity of her innocent thievery and the fact that we were in a Christian store. She managed to break one of the Ten Commandments while surrounded by books prohibiting it. It's this kind of incongruous thing that makes great fodder for humor in our writing. Find something as ridiculous as you can imagine (and in my case it usually comes from real life), and weave it into your storyline. Several of my characters find themselves in absurd situations I dream up for them, then have to find ways to redeem themselves. Since they're under my control (for the most part), I make it as difficult as possible, and the result is humorous.

Now not all writers want to write humor, but for those of us who do it a lot, being aware of the incongruities occurring all around us is paramount. I find ideas everywhere I go--the shopper tossing three 12-packs of Coke into a cart overflowing with non-GMO organic food or the truck covered with lawn care advertisements parked in the driveway of the business's owner, surrounded by foot-high grass, dead flowers, and scraggly shrubbery. Oftentimes the most ludicrous things happen right at home with our own family members, as evidenced by this blog post. Take a look around you and find the humor happening everywhere.

And take it from me--don't be afraid to exploit your grandchildren. By the time they grow up and realize how you used them, you'll be too old for them to beat up.

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