THE ART OF WRITING HUMOR

By: Glynn Harris

            As an outdoor writer for going on half a century, there is one style of writing I have always wanted to master, a style that I occasionally and accidentally stumble on but with no consistency. Humor writing.

            I have been an admirer of the writing of one fellow who had it down ” pat”, as in Patrick McManus who died in 2018 at the age of 85. He could reduce me to thigh-slapping guffaws every time I picked up a copy of Outdoor Life or Field and Stream magazines and read one of his humor columns.

            I even got up the nerve one time to write him a letter asking about how I could improve my humor writing. I was astounded and dumbfounded when he answered my letter with a two-page handwritten reply. One thing that stands out in my memory of his reply was that to evoke laughs from readers, the punch line was the key. Have your readers expecting what should be the obvious conclusion to one of his tales was to come out of left field with a zinger that was totally  unexpected. I have three of his books in my library that I’m going to read again after recalling what a special type of writer he was.

            I have a friend, Jim Mize, who writes humor pieces for a number of publications. The title of his three books gives an indication of what you’ll read when you pick one up….”The Summer of Our Discount Tent”; “A Creek Trickles Through it” and “Hunting With Beanpole”

            I had Mize as my guest on my Glynn Harris Outdoors radio program recently and had him discuss how he got into humor writing.

            “I’ve been writing humor stories for more than 30 years and it’s sort of interesting the way I got started,” said Mize. “I had an assignment from a magazine for a fishing story and I injected humor in my introductory and ending paragraphs. The editor contacted me and asked why I didn’t make the middle of the story funny like the beginning and end so I did.”

            Mize said that he began studying humor, how stand-up comics came up with their jokes and how they learned to create them.

            One thing Mize shared was the same thing McManus had said, and that had to do with the punch line.

            “If you’re ending your story with a predictable punch line, something the reader expects, he’s not likely to be impressed. However,” Mize continued, “if the punch line involves an element of surprise, something totally unexpected, that’s what grabs his attention.

            “My first two books contain the stand-up comedy style of stories while ‘Hunting with Beanpole” puts the main character into situations. This fictitious character is unpredictable and jumpy; he is constantly digging himself deeper into the hole he’s created. He is the sort who manages to find the cloud in every silver lining.”

            Chapter titles give you an inkling of what you’re about to enjoy as you follow along on hunting trips with this guy who always finds a way to get himself entangled in one zany episode after another. “When Boxer Shorts Save Your Life”; “The Premonition and the Talking Frog”; “The Stuffed Moose” and “The Campfire Ghost” are among the 25-plus chapters in Mize’s book.

For my readers who are interested in any or all of Mize’s humor books, each of which is illustrated by well-known cartoon artist, the late Cliff Shelby, visit his website www.acreektricklesthroughit.com. You won’t be disappointed.

FISHING REPORT

BUSSEY BRAKE – Bass fishing has been fair around timber with soft plastics picking up a few. Crappie fishing has improved with some caught out from the boat launch on shiners or jigs. Bream are fair with no report on catfish. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.

BLACK BAYOU –  Bass are fair around the grass on jigs and soft plastics. Bream and crappie are slow. Contact Honey Hole Tackle Shop 323-8707 for latest information.

OUACHITA RIVER – The river is fairly high and best crappie fishing has been in the river lakes. Bass are best where there is current with Baby Brush Hogs, crank baits and soft plastics working best. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.

LAKE D’ARBONNE – Heavy rains and run-off has caused the drawdown to be effected as water rose with current and muddy water causing problems. Bass have been best in the deeper channels on crank baits and soft plastics. Some crappie have been caught along the channel edges fishing jigs or shiners 10 feet deep in 15 foot water. No report on bream but channel catfish continue to bite off the banks on cold worms and night crawlers. For latest reports, call Anderson’s Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.

LAKE CLAIBORNE – Bass fishing has improved with mostly small to medium-sized fish caught but there was a report of a 9 pound bass caught last week. Most are hitting chartreuse spinner baits and Shaky Heads in fairly shallow water as the shad are shallow and the bass are following them in. Crappie continue to hit hair jigs around the deep tops in 16 foot water. Catfishing has been good on trotlines using blood bait and cold worms. Bream are slow and stripers are best trolling white bucktails. For latest information, call Tim Loftin at Kel’s Cove at 927-2264.

CANEY LAKE – Crappie fishing has been fair around the deeper tops on shiners or jigs. Bass have been best around the channel drops on soft plastics and crank baits. A few bream are being caught on worms and crickets with no report this week on catfish. For latest information contact Bateaux on Caney Lake at 259-6649, Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.

LAKE POVERTY POINT – Crappie are improved somewhat with some caught early mornings on jigs. Catfishing has been fair to good on blood bait. No report on bass or bream. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318-878-0101.

LAKE ST. JOHN – Crappie are improved on shiners and jigs. Bass have been fair while catfish are fair and bream are slow. For information, call Ken Mahoney at 318-201-3821.

LAKE YUCATAN – The water is near standstill and fishing has been good this week. Bass, crappie and catfish are all biting much better. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.

LAKE BRUIN – Crappie are fair on shiners while catfish are fair on cold worms. No report on bass or bream. For information, contact Carlos Gray at 318/766-0075.

Three books authored by humor writer, Jim Mize, capture the art of how writing humor is done.

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