Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani. When Donna isn’t homeschooling or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and
mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family, or visiting her
hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.
Follow Donna’s personal blog here.
Several years ago, my hubby invited me to play “disc golf” with him. It is much like regular golf, but there are no balls, no clubs, and no holes in the ground. The “balls” are discs that look like Frisbees, the “clubs” are the arms/hands, and the “holes in the ground” are usually giant alien trash cans. (Okay, they aren’t alien trash cans, but that’s what they look like to me.).
We started the course and my hubby showed me what to do. He stood to my right, a good five feet. He pointed toward the alien trash can. “Aim that way,” he said, “and release.”
I looked straight ahead, kept my eye on the target, practiced my aim (like all good golfers do!) and RELEASED.
As soon as I let it go, it knew something went terribly wrong. My hubby did, too… because he immediately ducked.
“HEY!” he yelled pointing in the other direction, “I said aim THAT way!”
Thankfully, I missed him, too, or he would have ended up with a disc-shaped bruise in the middle of his face.
More recently, my physical therapist told me to bounce a ball off of a trampoline (while standing on one leg). He soon discovered what my hubby already knew. “You can’t hit the side of a barn.”
Like aiming and throwing a disc or a ball, it seems that writing “funny” would be as easy as hitting the side of a barn… but as I’ve demonstrated, it’s not always like that.
In my early years of submitting to children’s magazines, one of the editors was kind enough to write a short editorial note on one of my rejected stories. She complimented me on a thing or two, but then told me WHY they rejected it. “You made the children in the story the ‘butt” of the jokes. We don’t publish stories like that.” She went on to explain that they love humor, but not at the expense of their targeted audience.
To be honest, I was shocked when I read her words. I couldn’t believe I’d written a story like that. That was NOT what I’d intended to do. But when I went back to read what I’d written through the lens of her critique… I realized she was right. I thought my story would make the readers laugh – but instead, the reader would have felt laughed “at”.
That was never my intent. I tried so hard to get a laugh, that I failed to realize that I missed the target completely (much like my incident with the disc golf!).
So how DO we “write funny”? How do we learn to “HIT THE SIDE OF A BARN”?