Jeanne: Getting It Out of My System

I’m currently working on the second book in my Touched by a Demon series, The Demon’s in the Details. 

So far I’m liking it. (Which is good, because that is not always the case.)

One thing that I suspect isn’t so good are the jokes I’m writing into it.

Some of you are now thinking, “Jokes are good. And Jeanne’s pretty funny, so they’re probably good jokes.”

These jokes are really goofy. They take a dopey premise (the physical act of a demon possessing a human–have you ever given any thought to just what that choreography would look like?) and wring every last drop of comedy gold (and silver and copper and tin and lead and that grody stuff you have to scrape from the the crack between the stove and the countertop) out of it before I let it go.

When I hand the book over to my beta readers, they are going to ask me, probably unanimously, “Why is this crap in here?”

Um, because it’s funny?

No, they will assure me, it isn’t. The first time was mildly humorous. The next fifty iterations under varying plot conditions definitely weren’t. And the last hundred made us want to punch you in the face.

And I will believe them, because they’ve been my beta readers for a very long time and are generally on the money with their critiques. And I’ll edit out all those really-not-that-funny jokes.

So why, you ask, am I putting them in in the first place?

Two reasons:

1) It just seems to be something I have to get out of my system. For whatever reason, I can’t ever let them go until someone tells me, “Jeanne, they’re Not Funny.”

In the last, book, there was this absolutely hilarious joke about the demon coming Aboveworld (Hell’s term for Earth) in a kind of animated mannequin body. Said body was equipped with an enormous penis. It was a send-up of that romance trope where the guy is always well-endowed. The joke was touched upon throughout the book, cracking me up with every reference.

Right up until my first beta reader said, “Why does he have to use a mannequin body? What’s wrong with his own body?” And I realized there was absolutely no reason for it, other than to set up the joke. I removed the references and never looked back.

2) What else are beta readers for?

If you’re truly listening to the Girls in the Attic (Jenny Crusie’s term for one’s writing muses, comparable to Stephen King’s Boys in the Basement) you’re going to put a lot of stuff in your first draft that doesn’t necessarily fit with the finished story. By the time you’ve written three or four hundred pages, you won’t necessarily be able to tell what belongs and what doesn’t.

At least, that’s true for me. I find it really tough to tell what belongs on the page and what’s just back story that needs to remain as subtext. My beta readers are great at telling me what works and what doesn’t, what needs to be clearer, what needs to be more subtle.

But mostly I just have to get it out of my system.

8 thoughts on “Jeanne: Getting It Out of My System

  1. Jenny always says to listen to the Girls, so if they’re sending you jokes, they have to go in. That’s my theory, anyway!

    Congratulations on your progress. Sounds like you’re hell-bent (heh, heh) on the finish line.

  2. I think getting it out of one’s system is a fine idea. And no better place than the first draft. Or second. Or fiftieth. However long it takes. Kudos to you for having beta readers who don’t stroke your comedic ego, and for being realistic enough to know that while the jokes were funny to write, they might not suit the story.

    Killing your comedy darlings, one joke at a time. 🙂

  3. (-: I think you have to give your Girls due praise. Honor their jokes, stroke their egos, tell them what clever Girls they are . . . and they give you even more and more after that.

    Then, when the Inner Censor comes through with the scythe, there’s more that could possibly escape the criticism.

    (-: I can think of a lot of reasons why a demon might want to use a mannequin. No icky body functions, a certain grace and beauty that is lacking in most human bodies, you don’t have to feed it. Of course, the drawbacks are also enormous (hardee-har-har!).

    OMG, wait a minute. Did you mean a mannequin, or were you just using a polite word for a sex doll? OMG, OMG, OMG! I don’t know if that joke would sustain a whole novel, but I would love to read that short story! (I’d probably first have to buy a male sex doll — I don’t have a clear idea of what they are like and the comedic possibilities that they contain.)

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