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You'll learn more by analyzing his stories on your own
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.