I like to write about stuff. Serious stuff.
I know. Aren’t I supposed to be a humorous writer? Isn’t my primary aim meant to be to make people laugh?
Well, yes, I suppose it is. But humour can be so much more than just funny stuff, good for a giggle and little else. Humour is also a great way to present serious issues. In particular, it’s a really great way to cut right down to the core of an issue.
We’re good at prevaricating, we adult humans. We’re good at taking simple things and making them needlessly complex. Partly, it’s a deliberate strategy. How else can interests, such as politics or big business, try to convince us that they are looking out for us all when we know they’re not? How else can they make us believe that they are party to some kind of deeper wisdom that is beyond the understanding of the general public?
When you use the language of business or politics, or academia for that matter, you can’t but help make things sound more complex than they really are. That’s why I like to write in the language of humour. In particular, a kind of childlike humour, with simple language and simple words. That way, I can focus on the issue, without letting the language get in the way. I can bring it out in all its ridiculous glory, in a way that is lost when it is described more conventionally.
My favourite example of this approach is the classic fable by Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor’s New Suit. It has such a strong message about human behaviour – the follies of greed and vanity and pretentiousness. And it does it in a way that cuts right through to the heart of the issue, removing anything that might be surplus or distracting. You can’t help but get the message, strongly and clearly. But you also cannot help laughing and being entertained. You don’t feel that you’ve been preached or lectured at.
Andersen’s story sets a high bar, but it’s one I’m always aspiring to reach. Through the construction of apparently simple and childlike narratives, I’m hoping to be able to illuminate some kind of human truth. Whether it’s a fable about a man falling off the world (Doodling), or a bunch of insects fighting over the number of points on a leaf (Flidderbugs), or a longer story where themes of racism and prejudice are cloaked by a larger adventure (Magnus Opum), I’m trying to write stories that cut right through to the core of an issue, while still trying to provide some fun and entertainment.
Have I succeeded? I suppose that’s for my readers to decide.
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