52 Pick-up 2.0, #49 – 12/8/2020
“We (your readers) have all attracted attention for laughing aloud in public while reading your books. What are a couple of scenes from your books that have actually made you laugh as you were writing them? And how ever did you come up with them?”
I think for me the major difference falls somewhere between humor and comedy.
For me, comedy is plot driven, and believe me I have no problem with that. I think it was in Death Without Company that I had a religious individual say something pretty mild while sitting at the counter of the Busy Bee with Walt and Vic, who then leaned forward and apologized to the undersheriff for his language. Well, you can hear that train coming… That was a situation I set up for comic effect, but my favorites are the ones that simply evolve from the characters themselves, from their humanity.
I was working on this year’s Longmire Christmas Story and there was an exchange between the new part-time dispatcher, Barrett Long and Walt. Judy was reading it and suddenly burst out laughing and I asked her at what? Here’s the excerpt.
“They do, but the disturbance is at Ella Murdoch’s house up near the hospital.”
“Didn’t she croak-it a month ago?”
I glanced at him. “We don’t use the term croak-it in this department.”
Now, when I wrote that, I didn’t think it was remotely funny but about half the time that’s the way it works, I’m not really aware until somebody reads it and that’s usually Judy. There’s sublime quality to the humor of the characters, and I guess I don’t think of myself as a comedic writer, but one of the things I really enjoy is hearing Judy laugh when she’s reading my stuff. The same goes with the public readings–I always enjoy it when the crowds are laughing, I suppose because I like to think that they’re having a good time.
Each of the characters are a joy to write in that they all have a particular quality to their humor like in the most recent book when Walt is trying on a tuxedo that’s too small for him and Henry refers to him as a “well-dressed refrigerator”. Henry is always a great foil for poor Walt, so is Lucian, but the literary bomb will always be Vic. As a counterpoint to Walt, she simply can’t be beaten. Her eastern perspective and language are always there, waiting like an ambush predator.
There are risks involved when you use comedic elements in your writing, because everyone’s tastes are different, and folks are easily offended these days. I could leave it out, but I can’t help but think that an important element would be lost. There will be people who are upset by some of the humor or Vic’s language, but toning that down would be a form of artistic censorship and I just can’t go along with that.
Now, more to your point, are there any scenes that I laughed at out loud while writing? Everyday; it’s one of the payoffs in doing what I do. Judy gets a big laugh out of when I’m up in the loft writing and laughing. A specific one? There are quite a few, like the opening scene in Junkyard Dogs where Walt hears the story of the old guy tied to the back of the car while cleaning his chimney, in Hell Is Empty where Vic refers to the Hispanic credit card grifter as Pancho Visa, the K-9 Unit story in An Obvious Fact… But oddly enough, the one that comes to mind first isn’t from any of the novels, but from the short story, ‘Messenger’, that’s included in the anthology, Wait for Signs. If I need a smile, all I have to do is summon up the image of Walt and Henry holding Vic by the legs over a porta potty as they’re confronted by a bear.
Yep, that was more like comedy.
See you on the trail,