Wednesday, October 8, 2008

anatomy of a blog post

I know you probably don't care, but I always wonder where blog posts come from. I can't tell from day to day whether I will ever have anything to write. So now that it's fresh in my mind, I'm going to break down my last post and give some commentary on how the.effing.librarian composes a joke.

First, I had nothing. I rarely have anything to say. I need to just read what's already out there and hope that it sparks some opinion in my brain that I can use to say something, whether funny or not. I did a search for librarian and saw a post from some guy on the Annoyed Librarian selling out by taking up with Library Journal. That's what I usually do when I can't think of what to write about; I put librarian or library into Google and see what comes out. In this
case, I'm not even sure if I used Google since I was reading a story about, so I might have been searching with Ask.

So I read the guy's opinion. I can't even find it now. It was some blog I've never read before, but he was mad that the AL sold out. So I jumped over to read, or just scan, AL's latest post. It seemed forced, but I won't pick on her first professional post. She got the gig based on her past stuff, so that's all that matters.

Now, at this point, I still got nothing. But I have the "selling out" angle and also "getting paid to write."

There are many staples of comedy: the pie in the face, the Jack Nicholson impression, the Captain Kirk, the minority stereotype; these are things that are easy to work into a joke. And when the "Penthouse letter" popped into my head, I was surprised that it was a gag I'd never used before. The only negative side of writing a parody of a letter is that it can get dirty really fast. And I didn't want to write anything too suggestive. Don't know why, but I made that rule.

So I wrote the first obvious joke, using the word "stacks" and linking it to a women being "stacked." That comes right out of Chapter 14 of the joke-writing manual. Then I needed a reason for being in the library. I thought of cooking books, but didn't think of anything funny right off. Remember, this isn't a professional blog, my jokes only need to satisfy my sense of humor. If you don't laugh, tough shit. One day, when we all have webcams, and I can get a pop-up alert that you are on my blog reading something, then I can log in, enable the camera, and see if you laugh. But until that day, I'm just going to assume that you think everything I write is pure gold.

I picked the Kawasaki repair manual because in a Penthouse letter, the guy wants to seem macho. I did a quick search and found that a "650" looked like a a credible model. I initially had "600" in the letter as a guess since I don't know anything about motorcycles. I went back and added "badass" to confirm my machismo and add credibility to my story that I would nail a librarian.

At this point, I realized I was going to write this. Up to now, I could have given up. But I had most of an idea and it seemed worthwhile to keep going with it.

I picked the title, "We all serve somebody" because my point was that we all need to do stuff to make a living. Not funny, but my titles usually aren't. They're often the last thing I write just before I click, Publish.

About now, I knew my ending was going to have to do with making up stuff and writing something about how the Annoyed Librarian will need to make up new stuff compared to the.effing.librarian never needing to make up anything because it's all true.

Again, I went back to the comedy basics and wrote the part about the "tight ride" adding the double meaning for the tight librarian. This is what we imagine would be in the quintessential Penthouse letter, the weak double-entendre or tired pun. Ditto for "tense."

When you realize you're spending brain energy to mimic a forty-five-year-old unemployed high school dropout who lives in his parent's basement and spends his days imagining that all women worship his oversized belly, his bald head and his tiny penis, or worse, some fifteen-year-old, who, himself, is making up crap to send to Penthouse, then you become disheartened: "Fuck, I studied Coleridge in English Lit for this?" But you soldier on to honor the labor of all those writers who went on before you; comedy is hard.

After I finish the letter, I go back to sweeten it by adding color, adjectives or things to add visual truth, like the lip color and the "no cell phones" sign. And I double-check to make sure it's not too dirty, just in case someone out there might be considering hiring the.effing.librarian for a professional job. I read my posts two ways, one for how it sounds in my head, and another for how the words appear on the screen. I often go back and add or remove words to adjust narrative pacing. Unless it's late and I don't proof at all.

Then I got lucky and came up with a better title for the post and changed it. Sometimes when you overthink something, the obvious eludes, but the new "fame and fortune" title was simpler. And because of the new title, I went and added the line about "What she said wasn't Fiction" because I need another "F word."

Damn, now you know that what I wrote in the Penthouse letter was fictional.

Unless what I'm writing now is made up and the letter is real. Hmm. You can't really know what's the truth, can you? So assume the letter is real and all of this, made up. Yes, that letter is real.