On structure, style, and writing with a purpose

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I recently read an essay about how watching stand-up comics can improve one’s writing.

The author emphasizes style and wordplay — puns, non-sequiturs, double entendre — as the tools most transferable from comedy to prose. These are good points.

But what about joke writing? There is a process to this as well, and it’s more complex than you’d imagine. Joke writing hones many of the skills in demand by novelists and nonfictionists.

In other words, if you want to be a good writer, try being a good comic.

January 28, 2015. A hundred pairs of eyes were on me as I stood on stage at Goodnights Comedy Club, blinking into the miniature sun of a spotlight. Me, a 42-year-old librarian and English professor. Father of two. Owner of seven cats and a corn snake. Plus my wife had crabs — hermit crabs, in an aquarium. …

Looking back at the book that started a phenomenon

Steven Levitt (standing) and Stephen Dubner (image available from Wikimedia Commons)

Which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool?

Do real-estate agents have their clients’ best interests at heart?

Is sumo wrestling rigged?

If drug dealers make lots of money, why do they still live with their mothers?

These don’t seem like the kinds of questions an economist would try to answer. Yet they are exactly the questions that interested University of Chicago economics professor Steven D. Levitt in 2003 when he sat for a legendary interview with New York Times Magazine writer Stephen J. Dubner.

Levitt was famous in economics circles for his gadfly approach. In Dubner, he found a kindred spirit. Their interview, which was supposed to last two hours, stretched over three days. When Dubner’s agent suggested the two write a book together, they demurred but then changed their minds. …

Modern Sex

Lessons in intimacy from America’s horror master

Illustration: Nikita Klimov

I did not learn about sex in school. I did not learn about it from TV. I did not learn about it from Larry Flynt, Marvin Gaye, or Revenge of the Nerds. Aviaries and apiaries played no part in my coming of age.

I did not learn about sex from my friends, who were baffled and awkward like me. I did not learn about it from my father, who is a pastor, or my mother, who is a pastor’s wife. Older siblings have I none, so I didn’t learn that way, either.

I learned a little from the Bible. Song of Solomon says “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.” This is the Hebrew equivalent of “Say my name, bitch!” It raises more questions than it answers. …


Anthony Aycock

Writer. Editor (www.conventionscene.com). Librarian. Lover of books, cats, and comic cons. Hater of vegetables. Tweet: @anthonycaycock

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