Monday, November 5, 2012

So people read my shit out loud last week

I was pretty nervous about the reading (I was agitatedly rewriting at 2am the night before), but it went wonderfully, in no small part because of the people who were there.  They were interested and smart and thoughtful, and they didn't pretend that the wonky parts were fine, but they had great suggestions and some very nice things to say about the parts that work.

The thing surprised me the most, though, was that most of the funny bits actually landed.  I tend to think of myself as a funny person in conversation and a pretty unfunny person on the page.  In the past, if I was writing a scene and a funny bit seemed to arise naturally, then I'd throw it in, but most of the time trying to write a joke was just a disaster.  I'd really like to write a comedy at some point, but so far my plays are often pretty sad.

My current play is about child sexual abuse, which is a serious and horrible subject, and one which I wanted to depict as serious and horrible.  And it became increasingly clear that, to prevent mass audience rebellion, I was going to have to figure out where to be funny.  And that's been kind of a great challenge, especially because two-thirds of the cast is fifteen years old.  There are certainly fifteen-year-olds who are genuinely witty (I definitely thought I was one of them when I was fifteen), but I think quippiness in fictional kids tends to create Buffy-speak stylization.  And I like to stay more realistic and plainspoken than that.  So I like the kids' senses of humor to be a little goofier, a little weirder -- see that discussion about the nipples a few entries down.  Or this:

Also, people are dicks about [my name] sometimes.  Fat Kristi was like “What kind of name is that?” and I was like “at least nobody calls me Fat Kristi.”
Did she...used to be fat?
I heard she just used to call everybody else fat, and then Latrice called her “Fat Kristi” one time and it stuck forever.

I don't know how funny that is to you -- maybe it's not and you kind of hate me now -- but I submit that spelling Fat Kristi with two i's is way funnier than spelling it "Fat Kristy."  On that point I will not be budged.


Anonymous said...

Have you read any novels by John Green? He is amazing at this. The Fault in Our Stars is especially on-point with the portrayal of intelligent, witty young adults. As a teacher of gifted 14-15 year olds, I think you are on the right track. You have to respect the age range enough to do them justice. If a writer thinks they are vapid and naive, that is how they will come across, even if the writer intends otherwise.

Will Goldberg said...

No, I haven't -- I'll have to check him out, thanks!