Friday, December 9, 2011

Where I Get My Ideas: My Crazy, Crazy Ideas

As you've probably noticed, I like to write humor. Not every post is funny, of course, but I do try to be funny more often than not. There are some straightforward reasons why: I like to laugh. I like to make other people laugh. And since people like humor, they will be drawn to my funny posts.

But there's another reason I like to write humor: my ideas often come to me through my slightly bent perspective on life. In other words, I see something. Then I think something funny, and I make myself laugh. And then I realize I could share this idea with others and make them laugh. Hence, the funny writing.

Let me give you a few cases in point.

Courtesy Google Images/
I have a repeat feature called Fun With Headlines, a funny take on online news headlines. Here's how these posts got started: I often take a morning break at work to check the news. One day, I went on MSNBC and it had some of the worst headlines I'd ever read. Not just lamely written, but not descriptive of what the story was, and often unintentionally funny.

In the example I tagged here, the attention-grabber for me was the headline "Despite doughnuts, everyone wins on Loser." Obviously, the report was about The Biggest Loser, but not only was it hard to understand what the story was about, the headline also made it sound like the "doughnuts" were alive, sentient, and actively resisting the Loser participants. The words make me think something they weren't intended to make me think, and the incongruity made me laugh. So I thought, great idea, I'll write about that. And I did.

Courtesy Google Images/
Another case in point: my post about how the devil is in your Thin Mints, a funny look at our craving for Thin Mints, lust in general, and spirituality. It's an odd mixture, I admit. This idea came from two ideas that were seemingly unrelated: (1) the Bible verse that tells us we should be developing self-control, and (2) a tweet from a local radio host who said he'd eaten an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting. I've done that too, or at least I almost have. It is definitely hard to be self-controlled when eating Thin Mints. With a little exaggeration, it's easy to turn these cookies into a tool of the devil to drag you into hell. It allowed me to laugh at my own inability to resist Thin Mints, and also to look at the real human challenge of controlling behaviors that are bad for us. A serious topic, but looked at from a humorous perspective.

Finally, this week's Wednesday post looked at cyberchondria, a form of hypochondria that stems from information overload. I saw an article about it online. But what really gelled the article into an idea for me was the fact that I do, indeed, tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac. It runs in my family. I have to battle the temptation to assume the worst. But I am guilty of running to WebMD to check a symptom, and when I see that it could be related to some form of cancer, I think, "Well, I really should check that out..." Overreaction!

I am making fun of myself in that post. But I also did a little something extra. You see, I teach freshman composition classes at community colleges. And the style for my cyberchondria post is similar to examples of bad essays I have seen in English department discussions on grading standards. It's a kind of hyperbole some students use when they don't know the subject and want to BS their way through it. They start to exaggerate to sound knowledgeable but it sounds just the opposite. For some reason, that style seemed to fit with an attempt to promote cyberchondria as a good thing. And I should mention that I got the idea for "promoting" cyberchondria because the article I read pointed out how watching Oprah actually did save someone's life. (The story in my post is real, though exaggerated and added to, in order to make it funny.)

I should talk about developing a humorous writing style sometime. Suffice it for now to say that I read a lot of satire, and watch a lot of The Simpsons and SNL. If Jon Stewart ever calls me to write for him, I'm ready.

Courtesy Google Images/
Last Friday, I posted the bad simile/metaphor contest, where participants had to try to write a purposely so-bad-it's-funny description. Here's a link to all the entries. All the entries were good. Some, I think, would actually work in a published piece. It was hard to pick a winner, but I had to choose. So the winner is:

JP Sloan, for his description which definitely says it all, but would still probably be edited out before final printing:

"She left him standing in the street, dangling like the last scrap of toilet paper on the cardboard tube, fluttering in pale mockery of its erstwhile usefulness."

I do not want to be that guy. JP, I'll get with you to see how I can get the word out about your current projects. To learn more about JP and his fiction, visit his blog Fistful of Fiction. Or look him up on Twitter (@J_P_Sloan). Tell him I sent you!

And stop by on Monday, because I have a book giveaway scheduled with Steena Holmes. You don't want to miss it. See you then!

Copyright (c) 2011 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. What a great way to end the week! Thanks, and may your future be free of listless cardboard tube flapping!

  2. You're welcome, J.P. Have a great weekend!


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