Monday, June 25, 2007

The Baby

My wife recently entered her second trimester, and her profile offers proof that our first child is steadily growing. After I hung up tiny clothes fresh out of the dryer last night and noticed the stroller next to the kitchen, it occurred to me that our household will be changing considerably in December.

Though I am thirty years old, the idea of being a father is a still a bit mysterious to me, and I wonder why God decided it was time for me to become one. My wife and I have been married for eight years, and we have a lot of fun together – a strong friendship on top of everything else. Several doctors said that it wasn’t possible for us to get pregnant, and in the years leading up to now, I had come to accept this possibility. It wasn’t that I had given up any hope of having children, but I realized that God was in control, and if He chose for us to continue without children, it was for good reason. Certainly there were difficult moments in thinking children may never appear, but I never felt devastated.

Now I find myself imagining life beyond the infant, fast-forwarding to an age when he or she can run and talk and play. More often I imagine a boy, perhaps because I can think back to myself at younger ages (and perhaps because I want to discard the “it” pronoun). I think about trying to figure out who this child is, who God made them to be. If God gives us a football player, for example, I’m currently of little value (other than to occasionally cry out, “False start!” when watching games). And a child who doesn’t want to be the center of attention will baffle me. How will I adapt to that child’s personality and help him to go in his specific direction?

To me, this child is not some wish fulfillment, like a box to be checked off on a list of life goals. My mission is to train this child in the way he or she should go. It’s as though I’m being given a stack of materials without any blueprints and asked to build a house. Well, it’s more like I don’t have any blueprints past the foundation (Christ is always the foundation). From that point on, I need to figure out from the house itself how it should go up. And the house doesn’t want to comply.

I’m really excited about seeing my child face to face, and I’m equally terrified at the responsibility. Fortunately, I know that God can make up for all the mistakes I’m going to make. I just want to put in the best effort that I can.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Adding Comedy

Adding comedy to works of fiction can serve to ease the tension and pace of a story. When used effectively, stories become more enjoyable. It isn’t for every tale, but if you’re considering how to best add some humor, consider two possibilities: the lighthearted character and the lighthearted observation.

The lighthearted character is one that rarely becomes serious, even if his or her life is at stake. Such characters may be humorous just by their appearance, though often it is their dialogue and actions that elicit a laugh. There should be limits to how much such characters should be used at the risk of turning the entire story into a comedy. It might also be helpful in dramatic scenes to see the comedian become grave in manner, letting the reader know just how serious the plot has become. Keep in mind that these characters shouldn’t be overly silly, or they quickly become annoying. Use discretion.
The lighthearted observation can come from any character or the narrator, whether thought or spoken. The important thing with such observations is not to milk them; by that, I mean that it is better to say less than more. Suppose, for example (and I don’t mean for this to be funny in the least), that two characters observe a chicken crossing the road. The characters might then look at one another and smile, and this serves the point. A worse approach would be to keep going after the initial observation, perhaps by adding dialogue such as: “Wasn’t that funny to see a chicken crossing the road? It’s just like the joke. I mean, we’re out here next to a road, and now we’ve seen a chicken crossing it!” End the joke promptly; the readers can pause and make additional comments or call their friends about it if they want. Don’t do that for them.

The best examples in humor that I’ve read involve characters who are unintentionally funny. I’ve seen this a lot with first person narratives, perhaps because when we tell stories in our own lives, we sometimes fail to see the humor in what we’re saying until others laugh at it. It takes a clever writer to successfully pull off such a tactic, but I think it’s something to aspire towards.

Consider the tension of a story as a level of brightness, with darkness being the most dramatic. It takes time for your eyes to adjust to darkness, and adding a comedic punch line flips the lights on full. It will take time for the reader to adjust to more drama, and that costs words. If you want to lighten the mood, instant humor might not be the best solution. Be careful and purposeful.