Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Comment Misconstrued

By Christine Thackeray

Sometimes life is funnier than fiction. The other night our family had one of those laugh-so-hard-you-pee-in-your-pants moments. Here's what happened.

My daughter Anna went to a group job interview at Old Navy. About eight girls, mostly college students, were sitting in a row and asked a number of questions by the hiring manager. My daughter was feeling guilty for being the first to answer most of them so she vowed on the next question she wouldn't answer.
The hiring manager said, "I'd like you to sell me the clothes you're wearing, as if they are on a mannequin."
No one answered right away and then one stylish girl stood with her hand raised. "I'll do it."
The manager nodded and so the girl struck a pose with a hand on her hip, her chin in the air and the other hand in front of her with the palm raised and froze. Everyone waited.
After a few seconds, the manager said, "Okay, now sell me."
So the girl struck another dramatic pose and froze again.
Trying not to embarrass her, the manager prodded, "Can you do something else?"
Breaking from her stance, she asked, "Would you like me to walk, too?"
I remember reading The Comic Toolbox that proposed much of our humor comes from a feeling of relief that it's not me. It's the reason we laugh when we see someone slip and fall in Funniest Home Videos. The humor for me lies in the fact that it was such an understandable mistake. The only difference is that I doubt I wouldn't have questioned why anyone would want me to act like a mannequin in retail sales. Apparently, this girl never paused- just went at it full boar.

So my challenge is to use this concept somewhere in your WIP. I'm going to try. I suppose when you dumb it down, it's just stupid humor like Amelia Bedelia or Patrick on SpongeBob Square Pants where they either don't listen or take something over-the-top literally.

But a comment misconstrued could be used much more cleverly. A misplaced or dangling modifier could lead to a wide variety of plot points other a simple laugh. It could detour your character into danger, help him find unexpected love or have him be blamed for a crime he didn't commit. I'm facing a new scene where my MC has to be blamed for something he didn't do. I'll write in the comments how a comment misconstrued plays into it.

Fun and funny! Wow.