Humor, Comedy, Sketch Writing
For the last 150 millions years, mankind has longed for a time when all of human knowledge and wisdom would be at their fingertips, so we could finally live up to our potentials and be the geniuses we think we are, be able to out-smart our kids and know what to do when the loves of our lives scream “If you really loved me, you’d know what I’m mad about.  And with the Internet and mobile devises, that day is her.   However, they are some unintended consequences, and that’s what this book is all about.

For the last 150 millions years, mankind has longed for a time when all of human knowledge and wisdom would be at their fingertips, so we could finally live up to our potentials and be the geniuses we think we are, be able to out-smart our kids and know what to do when the loves of our lives scream “If you really loved me, you’d know what I’m mad about.  And with the Internet and mobile devises, that day is her.   However, they are some unintended consequences, and that’s what this book is all about.


The world is wide open. Nobody knows nuthin’ and humor writers should think of themselves as citizen scientists. There’s always something to discover and you never know what will turn out to be your secret weapons, and so I explore things.

In the end, it’s not what you can learn from articles like these, or classes, although they can give you a framework to hang knowledge on. It’s what you can figure out on your own. And this is my journey to understand the art of humor writing. If you find these articles inadequate, or all wrong, that’s fine. Make the necessary additions, or build your own structure.

Also, we always forget so much of what we learn, so it’s a good idea to write them up, so when you do need them, they’re right at your fingertips.

(from the bottom to the top)

Comic Perspective in Everyday Life

The Psychology of Using Sketch Structure

Using “Switch”

The Sensibility of an Outsider

Using Stereotypes in Self-Help Books to Create Sketches

Where Does Great Comic Material Come From?

Using “What’s Really Going On Here?”

Where Do Great Comic Characters Come From?

Where Do Great Comic Situations Come From?

How to Do Observational and Topical Humor

Analysis & Critique of “The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time”

Checklist for Writing Sketch Comedy Routines & Prose Humor

What Sparks the Imagination as Funny?

Subtext in Humor

Lists in Humor

Dreaming about the Ideal Comic and Humor Writers Group

Everything I Ever Learned, I Learned from Time & Old Newsweek

The Post-TV Era and the Future of Comedy

Getting the Most Out of Articles

From Painful Truth to Sketch or Story Development

Every Situation Has a Stereotypical Structure

Checklist for Sketches

More on “From Painful Truth to Sketch or Story Development”

Everything I Ever Learned, I Learned from Time & Old Newsweek #2

Types of Sketches or Scenes

Consolidating What You Know

Types of Sketches or Scenes #2

Differences Between Fiction Writing  & Sketch

Environments & Relationships

Beat Outline

Current Events

The Book Comedy at the Edge

Pre-Sketch Brainstorming Checklist

The Game of the Scene

In Search of Comic Perspective 2

Character Flaw in Occupations & Comic Perspective

Thesaurus of Characteristics

Character Traits as Comic Perspective

Basic Plots and the Types of Sketches or Scenes

Why Audience’s Don’t Laugh

Circularity & Comic Perspective

Extremist Wackos Are Really Poor, Misunderstood Comics

Reality TV & Comic Concepts

What I Learned Material-Wise from Writing Skirmishes, the Revue

Laugh Lines

Making Characters Come Alive on Stage

Everything I Ever Learned, I Learned from Time & the Old Newsweek #3

Current Events #2

Parodies of Movie Genres

Publicity Stunts & Sketch Theory

In Search of Comic Characters

In Defense of Writers in An Improv World

Working with Improv Actors

Transmedia Writing

Writing the Non-Verbal Half of the Script

Embracing Your Inner Neurotic

Turning “How-To Steps” into Comic Material

Movie Plots as Story Ideas

How to Bring Out All the Funny

Social Psychology of the Sketch for Comic Actors

On Creativity

More on the Types of Sketch

Rationalization as a Basis for Humor

Why Movies Suck & What They Tell Us about Sketch

Things I Learned during Revisions

Pixar’s 22 Rules

Revision and Self-Improvement

A Summary of Sketch/Story Structure

In Search of the Humor Genome

From News Items to Stories

Types of Research & Creativity

First to Final Draft Creativity

Performance Evaluation Checklist

Research Using Books #1

Conflict Checklist

Performing Solo Sketch

Critiquing Sketch Shows

Critiquing Sketch Shows

From attending the Chicago Sketchfest

 Sketch is an ideal form of writing, that is supposed to contain all the storytelling elements that have a psychological effect on the audience.

• Would any of these sketches be good scenes in a movie? And this is kind of writing and acting careers are made on.

• Where’s everyone’s sketch training? Story structure is important, and so is comic concept (that sparks the imagination), comic characters (ultimates of their kind, that people can identify with), comic conflicts (about real problems in life and relationships, not silly made up things), and building comic worlds

• So many are one-joke ideas with no further development. They don’t go further than one-step into the comic world.

• I often ask what is going on here, what subject of interest is being explored here? 

• Sure the audience responds to silliness and the outrageous, but would it be better if they responded to (1) the bits being clever and being something they haven’t seen before (2) bit that have great acting, a professional performance, even if the words aren’t as good as they could be.

• One bit that I saw, that others praised, I thought was no better than what little kids make up when making up stories.

• Again, in my opinion, improv is ruining Chicago comedy. They don’t write, don’t know how to write. Most of this stuff is up to regular improv level. Its just messing around, and the sketches don’t develop on anything, so they has nothing to say about life, love and the human condition.

                Copyright © 2014 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved

Performing Solo Sketch

Solo sketch (def) is taking the same material in a sketch that has several characters, turning yourself into a point-of-view character, and doing it as storytelling stand-up. (I used to say “I did sketch as stand up.” But in an article, Matt Barbera of the Playground Theater called it “solo sketch” and that’s the perfect term for it.)


I have the perfect personality for a writer. I can spend months alone in my room, writing, and I find the world in my head much more fascinating than anything out in the real world. For me, what I do is really living. But performing my stuff? Yikes! It’s just not my self-professed talent. I have no problem having delusions of grandeur when it comes to writing, but have none at all when it comes to performing in front of an audience.

Still, I think that performing is another way for humor writers to market their stuff. (Which can include podcasts)  And since I’ve had so much trouble finding actors who believe in my writing and have had so much trouble getting them to do it the way it needs to be done, I will probably have to depend on myself to get my writing on stage.

So, here I was, directing myself, who has had no acting training whatsoever, trying to do what actors take years to learn to do. And I kept telling myself, “If I can do this, turn myself into an extrovert, I can do anything, because this is exactly like changing a life-long terrible habit.”

The Secrets Discovered

• When you’re afraid of something, the mind becomes a comic world where all kinds of scary thoughts just spring up on their own, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Somehow you’ve just got to ignore them. Also, fear becomes enhanced by procrastination, not doing what I promised myself I’d do.

• The biggest thing I found is that it’s all about memorization. In the end, the acting was the easy part, compared to getting the words down pat.

I started by writing the sketches out to get them to stick in the mind. On the next pass, I tried to remember without looking back at the printout. Even days later, when I forgot, I’d write them out a few times. Then it’s on to going over it, a hundred times, until I no longer stumbled over the words – which was an extremely frustrating experience. Once memorized, all I needed to do was to go over them every day to two, just once or twice, and put emphasis on words I dropped.

• So many times, when I had a hard time remembering, it was problems with the text. When I revised it, with better wording, it became easy to remember.

• You can’t really work on the acting, writing the other half of the sketch, that the actors write, until you have the words down pat. Then can go on to making sure the performance (1) builds the way sketch structure is supposed to, to a climax, (2) getting the emotional musicality of the character right, which involved changing the phrasing with every sentence or phrase, (3) making the emotions honest, yet exaggerated, as if they are coming from a real person, who just happens to be an ultimate of his kind, standing in for all men, (4) getting the laugh lines punched right, and (5) making it like telling a story in an everyday bullshit session with the guys.

• Fantasy rehearsing to people you want to impress can help with getting ideas to improve the acting.

• The biggest surprise was that fantasy rehearsals don’t work at all. Even though I see the scene, perfectly in my head, it’s like I have verbal dyslexia. The words come out scrambled, until I say them out loud many times.

Also, talking out loud is oddly embarrassing, like you could get caught talking to yourself.

• Working in the mirror doesn’t help. Just takes you off focus, although it helps getting a comic look right.

• Once I had the bits down pat, it was actually enjoyable acting them out.

• After I had the words down pat, I had a strange feeling I was going to do okay.

• In the end, It’s hard to be obsessed with determination, to be the best you can possibly be, when you don’t know what you’re doing yet. And now that I know how this works, I’ll be fine on future projects.

Confidence Builders

• Lesson Learned from Comic on TV a & Online: Personally, I believe that the secret to stand-up is being a good conversationalist. And there’s no way that I’d like to sit down, with most of the comics I see on TV or online, and hear the material they say on stage in a conversation.

• Lesson from the Chicago Sketchfest: Sketch is an ideal form of writing, that is supposed to contain all the storytelling elements that have a psychological effect on the audience. And when I saw so many acts were missing those necessary elements, it gave me a confidence boost. I felt the audience would like my material.

The Big Day

• I woke up, strangely, not nervous. I feel like I’m going to do fine. Need to stay focus on how I want to perform the bits. And even when it was time to perform, no I had panic attack! And I didn’t forget anything, but did stumble once, briefly.

• I will never understand why people don’t laugh at what I think they should laugh at, and laugh at things that aren’t funny. And I DO understand that people need to pay attention to what I say, so they shouldn’t be rolling in the aisles with every line.

• I wanted to have an emotional effect on the audience, thus the sad Night Class ending. And a woman said, “Oh, no!”

• So in the end, I accomplished what I set out to do – I CAN now perform my own stuff.

What’s Up Next

• I need now is more time in front of an audience.

• And surprise! I now have delusions of grandeur about performing in front of massive laughing fans.

          Copyright © 2014 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved

Conflict Checklist

After improvers ask the audience for suggestion, I think they should think about these:

• Give your character dueling desires

• Put your character convictions to the test

• Force your character into a corner

• Make the character choose between two bad things 

• Make the character give up a good thing

• Have the opposition draw a line.

            Copyright © 2014 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved

Research Using Books #1

Creativity doesn’t start with the writing. It starts with the research and books of list have great potential. So when reading them, use them as a brainstorming tool to come up with comic concepts, characters, conflicts and worlds. You can also think about the different ways bits can be written. For instance, the below can be turned into sketches, but also some can be in the form of a series of crank letters or even notes on the fridge.

Note: This is also something that other humor writers can collaborate on, which is why I’m numbered it. Send me yours.

From a Book on Letters for Difficult Situations.

Sympathy and Condolences -

• Expression of sympathy the loss of a boyfriend, that the letter writer stole – or the reverse. “Thanks for stealing him. You two deserve each other.”

• Sympathy for the death of a pet, the letter writer ran over.

• Best wishes and hope you’ll be out of rehab soon

• “Our sympathy for your loss caused by our defective product.”

• “If there’s anything I can do for you, during your recovery from the STD I gave you, don’t hesitate to call.”

• Card from a parent: So Sorry I Ruined Your Life

Decline invitation -

• To a wedding invitation of ex-boyfriend and hot new bride

• To an engagement party, because the letter writer still mourning the loss of ex-lover, who is getting engaged.

Employment -

• To boss’s offer to downsize you from a paying job to intern, so he or she can get a promotion.

• To boss, over pink slip (blackmail involved, company picnic, Christmas party)

• Notice: No surfing for porn on company time.

• Notice: that Bring Your Child to Work cancelled from now on, for obvious reasons.

• Notice that if employee can’t get hitting and catching skills up to par, on company’s baseball team, he will be cut from the company.

Family Relationships

• Seeking kidney from ex-wife, he left for another woman.

• Asking sibling to not bring his/her kids to family annual get together, because of what happened the last time.

• Notice to kids that can’t afford them any more. Putting them up for adoption

• Eviction Notice to 36-year-old adult child

• Asking rich son or daughter for money

• Declining request for a loan from a family member

• Asking for the return of evidence that can be used against the letter writer in court, like axing ex-husband to death

• Asking former tenant, a son or daughter, to remove items left behind.

• Notice that there will be no annual pay (allowance) increases, due to poor economy

• Husband apologizes for missing anniversary

• Decline to come to Thanksgiving dinner, due to previous incident

• College student to parents: Notice that check bounced

• Notice of shoddy work done on honey-do weekend project. Will refer to a lawyer if not satisfied in a timely matter.

• Wife invoicing husband for services rendered, because he takes her for granted.

Neighborhood issues

• An apology for making a pass at a friend’s wife during block party

• Petition to nicely ask neighbor to remove lighted “Sinners Repent” sign from their front yard, which details the sins of the people and kids in the neighborhood.

• Complaints: stealing WiFi, sunbathing in the nude, using pool more then they do (including having parties), dog trained to on poop on neighbors lawn, loud, wild party never that get invited to, borrowing things and never bringing them back, or returning an older one that the writer saw was put out on trash day by someone else, damage to borrowed lawnmower, getting daughter pregnant, damage done by elderly parent of neighbor, because can no longer see to drive. Can be asking a neighbor to move out (or thanking them), with all the neighbors listing the above complaints and more.

• Decline to house sit a haunted house.

• In accepting an invitation to 4-year-old’s birthday party, concerns about peanut allergies, and eating healthy (no sugar and fats)

• Asking neighbors to keep their kids on a leash, that the bastards again ignored No Trespassing signs, or never seems to eat at his or her own house.

• Decline daughter’s invitation to teenage son’s pajama party.

• Decline to invest in new money-making scheme, because of what happened the last time.

• Complaint about low wages paid to a son or daughter for work done, with itemized bill

• Flyer to all parents in neighborhood that kids are on strike (no doing cute things, etc) until get higher allowances

• Petition against battle of Halloween yard junk or political yard signs.

Romantic Relationships

• Notice to boyfriend that his half of the rent is now 3 months over due.

• Asking for down payment for relationship to continue (engagement ring)

• Trying to get date with brochure, offering more services, trial offers, loyalty programs, coupons

• Complaint about defective product or false advertising on his or her dating site profile.

• Asking for references (from past girlfriends)

• Letter of recommendation from someone dated in the past.

School -

• Campaign to be president of PTA, in order to force teachers into doing various things (want their email addresses, want the right to question low grade on homework, when the parent helped the kid on the assignment, etc)

• Letter to parent about the disruptive behavior of their little darling in school.

• A critique about all the unhealthy food given to kids in cafeteria.

• Suggestions on how to make 3rd grade soccer team unbeatable

• Complaint to principle about all the charges, when public education is supposed to be free


• Objection to political content of sermons

 • Notice to rabbi that letter writer can get a better deal with another religion.

                     Copyright © 2014 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved

Book 1 coming soon

Book 1 coming soon

Evaluating Performances - A Checklist

% happy with

• Ultimate of his kind, emotionally ____ %

• Living the experience, rather than performing it  ____ %

 • Story telling, with suspense and emotional musicality, rather than just flatly saying lines ____%

• Feel the relationships between him and other characters, rather than being told about them ____%

• Feel his self-esteem struggles, rather than be told about them ____ %

• Comic looks, reactions, show internal monologue, rather than being just plugged in for effect ____%

• Emotionally honest, as opposed to a caricature ____%

• Exaggerated conversational style with friend, rather than doing a standup act ____%

• Individualized speech, rather than doing a character ____%

• Laugh line: Besides the right timing, the character not realizing that what he’s saying is funny  (subtext is what makes people laugh) ____ %

• Does the enthusiasm of “having fun with it” show ____%

What needs to be worked on next?

 Also, journal out observations and things you want to work on in the future.

          Copyright © 2013 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved

First to Final Draft

When we read articles on other writers, the thing we’re most interested in is “their process.” The way they work. And here’s mine.

From Raw Data to Sketch Structure

Doing the research -

I collect a lot of raw data on various topics, and storing them in word processor databases.

For a project called “Modern Love,” raw data is “anything” that has to do with relationships. (I did the same for “Skirmishes.”) For “There’s an App for That” I collected anything that had to do with New Media, social networks, what apps are capable of doing, and how all that’s affecting all the parts of our lives. For “Comic Shrink,” a future project, I collect anything on the problems that comics have and the effects of humor. For “Political Cartoon,” another future project, I collect data on anything having to do with winning elections.

Later, this raw data is broken down into further topics.

“Data” can mean many things:

• Data needs to be hung on some kind of structure, so the first process is coming up with topics. So, at the very beginning, I may just be collecting raw data on a subject, then later start to break it down into specific topics.

• Data can include ideas for possible characters, conflicts, structures and even snippets of painful-truth dialogue.

Sometimes, at the very beginning, I come up with the perfect characters and comic conflict that will tie all the data together. But most of the time, it’s just collecting data that related to a topic, with no idea how it will ever be used. And occasionally, I run into an article where everything is there – the characters, conflicts, material – and all I have to do is switch out the POV character for someone else, and I’m ready to write something.

The psychology of this step -

Although it’s time consuming, and can easily cause you to subscribe to magazines and websites that don’t turn out to be all that useful, finding great material is “inspiring.” And by this, I mean, a creative person needs to feel like they’re making some kind of progress, which will result in a great project, everyday to maintain mental health. And besides writing, research is another way of doing it.

Writing starts with structuring the raw data -

All sets of data, and every comic concept, have great potential. And so when I go through the data, I start structuring it into topics, which can include the following:

(Note: As if I’m writing a journal, I always do all of the following work below the raw data. I never delete anything. Sometimes, previous ideas and material save my ass.)

• Possible structures, comic characters and conflicts. If they aren’t apparent, come up with ideas that might, using the raw data as a brainstorming tool.

• Mapping out the material. Categories will become apparent, so copy and paste them into those groups.

• Keep working on it, even if it means starting over from scratch with a new comic concept, until “it works.”

The psychology of this step

You’re searching for a way to tie all the data together, and you’ll be obsessed with it, until you do.

And once I have a possible comic concept, it’s on to -

• Once the POV character, the opposition and the main conflict are known, I sometimes have to go through the raw data again and start plugging it into sketch structure.

(1) What does the POV character feel, want and what is their strategy to get it?

(2)Who is the opposition and what does he or they want?

(3)How does the conflict escalate and how do the stakes get raised, using the Rule of Three? – What the POV and opposition characters do and say.

(4)How is the conflict pushed to its limit and how does the POV character get pushed to an emotional climax? – The most emotional material

(5)Does the point of view character win or is it a disaster for him? 

• What is the bit about? What is it supposed to tell the reader/viewer about life, love and the human condition? The hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties of the era.

This is very important. With it, the subconscious will guide you in the right direction.

• Lists of writing goals for the piece

• Working on putting painful truths into the laugh lines. Hopes and dreams vs. fears and anxieties = painful truth humor.

• List suspense elements, if relevant.

• List ways to raise the stakes on the POV character

• Looking for a comic want, especially for the POV character. A normal one is necessary for getting the conflict right, but finding a comic one is even better.

• Sorting the humorous material into “normal world” (to be used at the beginning), “going into the comic world” (for the middle) and the “comic world” (for the last part and the climax).

• List of possible endings

• List data on the emotional development of the characters, how they go from ”normal” to comic, and become the ultimates of their kind.

• List possible snippets of dialogue for particular characters.

• When settle on a particular comic scenario, sometimes I have to go through everything again, and put the data in different categories.  Use the raw data as a new kind of brainstorming list

• List of further active research, that will have to be done to develop the material, to make the bit work.

• Sometimes the initial structure doesn’t work. I run into a roadblock I can’t get around. And when that happens, I go back to the  “Brainstorming Checklist” (a previously written article) and keep ruminating on the problem until I figure it out.

• List marketing ideas, pitches and markets for the piece.

The psychology of this step

If you’re having trouble coming up with a comic concept, or getting what you thought was a brilliant scenario to work, it’s a terrible experience. But that’s just the way it is. Get used to it. It’s all necessary to get to the right place.

Plowing through the first draft

• Writing is a layered thing, about getting all the pieces to fall into the right places, so it works as a sketch or story. It doesn’t have to be perfect. That you work on during the first revision, after you get all the pieces to fit together.

• The problem is, when you start writing at the “beginning,” sometimes you keep tripping yourself up – a lot. This especially happened when the bit is so long or complicated. In this situation, I simplify the task at hand and do a “rough out” first, to get the structure right. It’s going from the normal to comic world, without the dialog tags and body language included. Getting material and dialog in the places they probably belong.

• Save all outtakes. Sometimes you’re wrong, and although the bit can’t go where you had it, you’ll find that it can be used elsewhere.

There are always going to be problems, and it’s important to journal or document all doubts, so your subconscious mind can work on them. Examples of what will come up:

• What I don’t like about this? What I need to do to be happy with this draft? What am I trying to accomplish with this bit? What am I trying to say about life, love and the human condition.

 • How to I escalate the characters’ body language (including use of props) to show his or her escalating emotions?

• Also, what do I need to do to get the characters’ development and emotional musicality right?

• How do I solve logic problems, that throw a monkey wrench into everything I had planned?

• What are the POV character’s reaction shots to the opposition’s actions?

• Especially if the bit is long, I have to “plot” out the arguments, map out the changing emotions and action, of the various characters.

• How do I make the arguments Rule of Three “list-y” - short and fast - with the funniest laugh lines at the end.

• Many more issues with make themselves apparent. Just make sure you write them down, rather than dismiss them, off-handedly. They are all very valuable. 

The psychology of this step

This is often a hard and painful process, but necessary. And if you push it too hard, you don’t listen to your subconscious. Take frequent breaks. The brain is just like a muscle. During a rigorous workout, you have to take a lot pauses to get through it.  And if it’s really tough, take a daydreaming break, so you can get out of the trees and look at the forest. Also tiredness can mean a lack of sleep, and you need more than usual during this part of the process, but it can also mean lack of inspiration, unclear goals and muddled sketch/story structure.

Sometimes, a side project will make up for the tedium of the task. If there’s not enough inspiration in the writing yet, you can get it in the second.

Often, this part of the process is stressful, depressing and despairing. Nothing can be done about it. It’s your subconscious mind saying it’s not where it needs to be yet, that’s all. It’s just that the subconscious mind has a weird way of helping out. So, get used to it.

The Revision Experience

As they say, “Writing is rewriting,” and rewriting is my favorite part. Everything before that was just to get here - to have something to work with, to shape into a final product.

Writing is hard, and revision is where the rubber meets the road. This is where it becomes magical, or remains in the realm of the mediocre and forgettable, like so much writing that’s out there.

• And it’s all about taking a look at the project with “fresh eyes.” Because of the seemingly endless list of impossible obstacles you’ve had to overcome, during the writing of the first draft, and the pain that goes along with it, it’s essential that you don’t revise right away. Go on to complete the first draft of the whole project, then go back when you’re pretty much forgotten everything you’ve done. Six months to a year would be best, which is easy to do on a big project like a show or a book.

• The importance of “journaling” or writing out concerns: Like I said above, if you dismiss feelings that something is not up to standard, no matter how small, you can’t correct it. And so much of the creative process is going on at the subconscious level. And the only way to get it to work, is to write it up. (Why, just having the thought or feeling doesn’t work, I just don’t know. All I know is that’s the way the mind works.) And this is important for another reason.

• There’s a big “however” in all this. If you haven’t put in your 10,000 hours, or at least 80% of that, you’re mind won’t be wired right. And if it isn’t, you won’t be able to see problems, let alone be able to fix them.

One of the reason why writing is so hard is because it’s exactly like changing a bad habit or overcoming an addiction. It’ ain’t easy to rewire the brain. It’ll fight back, and when it does, it don’t play fair.

And yet, this is how progress is made. This is how the10,000 hours, required to master a complex skill is done. (It also takes enough sleep, when things aren’t going well, important.)

So again, finding logical or serious problems, that will make you want to cry, are good. They are there to teach you what you need to master next, to be a better writer.

• Ironically, we often forget some of the most important things we thought we had down pat. So make list of the mistakes you repeat. It’s helps with the completing of the wiring.

• Revision is also about going deeper. Deeper into what the stories about, the humanity of the characters, how turning them and the conflict into ultimates, so that it’s not just about the character, but about the universal desires and fears of the human race. I also go deeper into what the POV character is feeling and thinking, when the opposition throws a monkey wrench in his plans.

• It’s still a layered thing. You set up a list of goals, go through the piece, then go back through it with another list of goals. I always get the arguments and the laugh lines perfect done first, then go back and work on body language and emotions.

• Again, save all outtakes, just in case.

The psychology of this step

The most enjoyable, but can be the most disappointing at the very beginning. 

The Final, Edited Draft Experience

Again, I complete the revision of the project, then go back one last time, which won’t be six months or a year later.

• I always save the older draft, just in case.

• Every once and a while, I found that, for some mysterious reason, I didn’t get the bit right in revision. Maybe because the revision was a long and complicated rewrite. When that happens, the final draft turns into yet another revision.

• I use the text-to-speech function in my Mac, and have Alex read the text pack to me, paragraph by paragraph. This is surprisingly helpful at pointing out things that I miss just reading silently. And I always find a lot more stuff that needs fixing than I thought.

• ON the last pass, I often go back and act out how the POV and opposition character are feeling, to get the emotions right. Being in their heads. Living out the experience.

• I also pay particular attention to getting the laugh lines right.

Then it’s on to professional editing -

Still, you need to run it through a professional line-by-line editor before publishing in a serious medium.

Other Issues That Come Up  -

During the whole process, of projects to work on in the future. This whole blog contains mine.

           Copyright © 2013 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved

Types of Research & Creativity

First of all, the world is wide open. “Nobody knows nothing.” Everyone’s an amateur. And humor writers (all creative people) are like citizen scientists. There’s always something to discover about how to improve the craft. And all of these articles are my efforts to document that various things I’ve explored.

And my biggest discovery is the use of research in developing material. It’s my secret weapon, and yet anybody can do what I do.

When we read books and interviews with writers, we’re always looking to steal their secrets, and yet they never get deeply into their process.

Improvers do talk about knocking ideas around as a group. The problem I have with that is this: When you restrict yourself to whatever just pops into your head, when it feels like it, you’re limiting your imagination to stereotypical material. They also put a lot of emphasis on “lucky accidents,” brilliant ideas that come out of nowhere, but writers experience that too. And if you do a lot of research, you can supercharge that experience, so you’ll have hundreds of them, during the course of a project.

Advantages of doing research -

• The pursuit of humor writing is a personal quest to see the world, as a much more interesting place. And when you do research, the universe seems to give you great gifts, sometimes on a daily basis.

• Because you have so much more data to brainstorm on, your writing can become much more imaginative. And the richness of the data results in great originality, because you just can’t help coming up with better ideas.

• There are just some things that will never occur to you in a million years, but being exposed to other things, so often opens doors into whole new ways of seeing things.

• Back to citizen scientists. Everything is much more complicated and has greater depth than anyone can possibly understand, at any given moment. And big projects require long incubation times, to figure out all the possible dimensions, themes, painful truths, whatever, so we can move way beyond the superficiality or what the culture gives us.

We don’t know what we’re supposed to do in relationships it can take politicians to fully understand an issue, and it can take a team of lawyers months to fully understand a case in front of them. But a sketch or a short story is an ideal situation, and not real life. The writer has to “know” all those things, and they take research, time, and exposure to many influences.

Types of research –

• Active – If you are working on a bit where a male character is “applying for a relationship,” as if it was a job interview, then you need two lists: job interview clichés and things you’d want to know about a possible candidate, before committing to go out with him or her.

In this case, you actively do research, on the Web or with various books you may have, and create lists of anything that might “possibly” be relevant. Later, you’ll go through the lists and see what you can do with them, often writing out snippets of possible dialogue.

The better the resource, material, the better will be the end product.

Every once in a while, one happenstance article will give you all you need for a bit. Sometimes, it takes several to piece it together. But most of the time, it takes a big pile of data chards, with each piece being a possible puzzle-piece needed to flesh out a piece.

• Passive – With passive research, you keep questions in the back of your mind, and as you read things, and watch movies, you write down anything that pops into your head, that might “possibly” being relevant. Later, you’ll go through the list, looking for a comic perspectives, concepts, characters and conflicts.

What to do with all that data, all those notes -

I don’t think I need to get into this, because all writers are list makers.

I started out marking up articles and putting them in notes books, then later put everything directly into a word processing database, so I can restructure it, during the writing process. Which makes it easier to recycle data, for possible future projects.

Copyright © 2013 by Ed Toolis – All Rights Reserved