Expanding a story

“So, we’ve looked at your application, and we think there is sufficient merit in it to take it forward for further discussion.”

“Oh, right, good … when is that likely to be, then?”

“Um … right now. I thought you understood that. That’s why we called you in. Ready?”

“If I say ‘no’ how long will it be before I can get another appointment?”

“Oooh, could be a month … could be a year … hard to say, really.”

“I’m ready.”

“Jolly good. Now, the property you were looking to expand, we’ve given it the once over, and we think it can just about bear the weight of the new construction. Do you have a ballpark figure for the size of the finished structure?”

“I was thinking … about 70,000 words?”

“I see … that is quite a lot of extra verbiage you are proposing, on top of the existing 27,500, it’s as well you applied for planning permission, we’d have been bound to notice an increase like that. Eventually. Now, I take it you do have a detailed plan to put forward for consideration – blueprints, surveyor’s report, character sheets, plotlines, thematic projections and so on?”

“Um … no.”

“No? Now, really, this is too bad. How were you proposing to carry out this expansion, without proper plans?”

“I thought I’d just wing it.”

Wing it? You intend to expand this rather slight story into a full-length novel, and you were just going to wing it? This is most improvident of you. Details, man, details! What were you going to create the extra chapters from?”

“I thought I’d add more character detail, do a certain amount of world-building, and …”

“And?”

“ … up the comedy quotient.”

“Oh really, now you’re just taking the p …not thinking straight. The world-building alone is very problematic. How were you intending to source the materials? Have you arranged transport facilities? Do you have secure storage on site? Is this world-building costed, h’m?”

“Well, no … I was just going to make it up as I went along.”

“Oh, for pity’s sake. There’s nothing worse than cowboy world-building. You end up with cheap Tolkien knock-offs half the time, and if the foundations aren’t solid the whole lot slides down into the appendices, and then when you want to do sequels there’s nothing to plant them in. If you’re going to do the job properly you’re going to need geography, history, sociology, folklore and if you feel like adding a bit of decoration perhaps a little poetry. Looks lovely around a framing device, a bit of verse. Blank verse if you must, but I prefer something more colourful. All that sort of thing costs time and effort. Geography is very bulky, for a start. Plan it all out, or you will be sorry later. Which brings us to the comedy. Dear, oh, dear.”

“What? It’s only humour.”

“Only humour he says! Gordon Bennett, I’ve seen some bloody amateurs in my time. Are you not aware of the current severe world shortage of humour?”

“No?”

“When was the last time you watched a sitcom that was actually funny? When was the last time anybody wrote LOL and then actually did laugh out loud? H’m?”

“Well, now you mention it …”

“Humour shortage. Humour, as you are obviously not aware, is a finite resource. A resource that has become seriously depleted. We’ve tried, and how we’ve tried, to alleviate the situation by encouraging writers to use humour substitutes, but the problem with those is that they tend not to be very funny. Non-violent punchlines were a particular failure, lacking as they did any actual punch. Irony is particularly scarce, there hasn’t been any fresh irony in America for years. I think it’s down to the high metal content. There used to be huge deposits in Hampshire, but Jane Austen strip-mined the place bare. And I can’t remember the last time I saw any litotes. I don’t know where you’re going to get enough comedy to fill out this story, I really don’t. You might have to pad it out with puns.”

“No shortage of puns, then?”

“I’m afraid not. Piling up all over the place, they are, we keep tripping over them.  It would be almost funny, if they weren’t puns and so, you know, not. Well, look, obviously humour has to be strictly rationed these days, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You can have one travelling salesman story, a dash of irony and a comedy sidekick in the third act, so long as they do a lot of punning. How’s that?”

“Um … I was hoping for something a little more elevated, actually.”

“Elevated? Get him. Like how, exactly?”

“Well, I was hoping to allow the comedy to arise naturally from the characters and situation, rather than just shoehorn a lot of gags in.”

“H’m. Could be, could be, if you plumb a bit of facetiousness into the subtext you might get away with it. Anyway, gags are in very short supply just now, what with 50 Shades of Grey and all that, so it’s probably best you weren’t planning on using a lot.”

“Was that a pun?”

“Yes, sorry. We have to try and use them up somehow.”

“Well, all right. Does this mean my application is approved, then?”

“Oh, my, no. Not yet. There’s all sorts of forms and requisitions to fill in, it’s a Kafkaesque nightmare of pointless bureaucracy, I’m telling you. Weeks of soul destroying misery. But there’s one good thing about it.”

“What?”

“It’s a damn sight easier than writing the bloody thing.”

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9 thoughts on “Expanding a story

  1. That’s *very* good. In fact excellent.

    Tight dialogue; well drawn characters; well pitched humour and a great concept to hang it on.

    Particularly liked this line:

    ‘Non-violent punchlines were a particular failure, lacking as they did any actual punch.’

    I’m working backwards here – the first few posts didn’t really grab my attention but if you can produce work like this dialogue I’d say you had ‘the root of the matter in you’.

    Pretty impressive stuff.

    Like

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