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The Deer on a Bicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the fourteenth McManus book, but it significantly departs from his usual amusing compilations. In this 2000 edition, McManus assembles an accumulation of his Pacific Northwest Writing Workshops. In this contribution, he uses a fictional student, named "Newton", to ask questions similar to those McManus received at those teaching sessions. There are numerous relevant gems of advice for humor writers, but much of the lessons can be extrapolated for all writers.

One piece of humor writing advice follows:

"Newton: Why do you give your characters and places such odd names? If Retch and I stop for breakfast at Gert's Gas & Grub, the reader can be pretty sure this is not a place where customers expect cloth napkins. Because of the brevity required for short humor, one must constantly look for ways to save words"

Following the tutorials, our author goes on to showcase a dozen of his favorite short episodes, each followed by an explanation of his writing thought process. Very instructive and highly recommended for would-be writers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the fourteenth McManus book, but it significantly departs from his usual amusing compilations. In this 2000 edition, McManus assembles an accumulation of his Pacific Northwest Writing Workshops. In this contribution, he uses a fictional student, named "Newton", to ask questions similar to those McManus received at those teaching sessions. There are numerous relevant gems of advice for humor writers, but much of the lessons can be extrapolated for all writers.

One piece of humor writing advice follows:

"Newton: Why do you give your characters and places such odd names? If Retch and I stop for breakfast at Gert's Gas & Grub, the reader can be pretty sure this is not a place where customers expect cloth napkinsBecause of the brevity required for short humor, one must constantly look for ways to save words"

Following the tutorials, the author goes on to showcase a dozen of his favorite short episodes, each followed by an explanation of his writing thought process. Very instructive and highly recommended for would-be writers of all genres! [[ASIN:0910055629 The Deer on a Bicycle
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on October 26, 2002
When I heard McManus had written a book on how to write humor, I almost started counting my royalties in advance. If the master is revealing all his secrets, I thought, now I'd be able to quit my dreary job working as a sex therapist and make a living writing humor, instead.
Well, it seems like McManus didn't put much effort into this one. There are very few techniques listed. A common McManus technique is something I call the "unattributed action." This is a sentence like: "The screams could be heard for miles." Now, of course, he would have set it up that we expect those to be the screams of children in the pool or whatever, only to learn that it's McManus himself screaming. This technique was not even discussed at all.
I imagined that the book would be a large collection of techniques like this and examples where he had used them in his stories. Unfortunately, there are very few actual humor writing techniques in this book.
Instead, we're left with a vague, "come up with a humorous idea," "write in scenes whenever possible," etc. That is about 10 pages in the book.
If you'll look at the sample pages you'll notice that even the table of contents is just a random hodgepodge of questions in no particular order. Most of them not actually about writing humor. Over 50% of the book is reprints of previously written material with BRIEF commentaries.
Now, I'm thankful that McManus even ATTEMPTED to share this information with us, but, sadly, it seems like he didn't put much effort into it.
Of course, because every teeny bit of information helps, you should probably read it anyway; but don't pay for it. It's not like you're going to have every other page highlighted. There are only about 10 sentences worth highlighting in the book.
One thing I DID like was the list of books and authors that influenced him at the end of the book. I will definitely be checking those out.
In summary, though, save your money: You'll actually learn more just by analyzing his stories on your own, and asking yourself this question when you laugh: Why is this funny? and then by incorporating your answers into your own writing.
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Patrick McManus has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. I loved to read his columns as a child. I'd sneak away with my father's hunting and fishing magazines just to read the humorous writings of McManus like other children did with their dad's Playboy magazines.
It wasn't until I was an adult that I truly appreciated McManus' humor. And, now, as an author myself, I have come to understand his writing.
This book gives great insight into what makes McManus write. He uses past essays to help describe the techniques he uses. Most of all, he gives all of us a glimpse into what makes McManus funny.
If you're looking for the "secret" that makes McManus an awesome author, you won't find it in black and white. It's more like studying a master and hoping that some day you can be half as good. No one can be another McManus, but if you study his writings and study his words on writing humor, you might, JUST MIGHT, get to be half as funny.
So, as Grasshopper learned from his master, you too can learn from this master.
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Potential purchasers of this excellent book should understand that this is not your normal Patrick McManus book. This book is *not* a collection of McManus stories, although some stories are used to illustrate concepts. Rather, this is an excellent book on the craft and art of humor writing. For people just interested in McManus' writing, this might be somewhat of the "magic behind the magician" variety...sometimes, you don't want to know how the feat is accomplished. For writers, or anyone who wants to know how Pat got into the business, and how he manages to keep at the top, this is an excellent book.
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on August 21, 2002
For those of us who write and want to inject a bit of humor in our writing, Patrick McManus has given us an invaluable tool with this book. It's not only instructive and reflective on what makes humor humorous, it's also a funny book in itself. It probably helps that I love to read McManus's wild stories and find them hilarious. But he's a good enough story teller that anyone will find him a good tutor. The only disappointing thing was to learn that many of his stories are complete fiction (and not loosely based on some real event in his past). He sure had me convinced.
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on September 23, 2013
This particular book was not as interesting to my husband as Patricks other books but then it was written more for those interested in writing books
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on October 26, 2014
great author:humor old style ,
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