Funny Pages with Patrick Wensink

In this four-week workshop, Patrick Wensink will teach you to develop your sense of humor in your writing—and then how to use the tools of comedy to write stronger plots.

Your Instructor: Patrick Wensink, author of Broken Piano for President

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: August 9, 2018 - September 6, 2018

Enrollment: Limited to 16 students

Price: $325

Class Description

Humor is a tool. 

You can endear yourself to readers by making them laugh.

You can add propulsion to your plots by using the tools of improv. 

Patrick Wensink can show you how to make humor work for you.

He's the best-selling author of Broken Piano for President (a.k.a. the Jack Daniels cover book), and a member of Louisville improv legends Project Improv. He's taught for us twice now, to high praise from students... so we've decided to take his two short classes and combine them into one, in-depth workshop. 

In the first two weeks of the course, he'll teach you how to bring your own sense of humor out in your writing. Which can be tough. A joke that kills at the bar could land flat on the page, or your absurdly funny plot can come off as absurdly confusing. 

Patrick will show you that you're already a lot closer to writing funny stuff than you thought. Because humor writing has a lot less to do with being funny, and more to do with story structure.

Then, in the second two weeks, you'll learn how to utilize the tools of improv in your writing. Staring at a blank page, even with a great story idea tucked inside your mind, can be one of the most intimidating experiences imaginable. But improv techniques and exercises can teach you to trust your instincts and build a compelling story or novel from nothing but a few fragments—or even nothing at all.

Because that's what improvisational theater groups do—teach a basic set of principles that allow performers to create stories from nothing, featuring rounded characters, interesting plots and, most importantly, momentum. 

The goal of the class is to develop your existing sense of humor and eliminate the dread from a blank page.

And, most of all, to have some fun. 

This class will include in-depth lectures, writing assignments to put the lessons into practice, and interaction with Patrick and fellow students, from Q&A's to critiques. 

What This Class Covers

Week 1: Crazy Vs. Not Crazy

Think back to the funniest novel or movie you know. Chances are, the story falls into one of two categories: sane protagonist vs. a  crazy world (think Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five or Jerry from Seinfeld), or crazy protagonist vs. a sane world (and there is no better example than Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces).

Knowing how these intricate setups work is like building a mousetrap, and will help you ground your story in humor.

Week 2: Third Time’s a Charm

There is no harder working humor writer than the standup comedian. While there isn't a lot of fiction potential in jokes about white people and their dancing style, the logic standups use can be invaluable to the fiction writer seeking some levity in their work. This week, the class will learn the joke-writing maxim that everything is funnier in threes. Also, the class will discover how metaphor and simile are also a solid way to add humor.

As a bonus, Patrick will berate students regarding the criminal misuse of irony in humor writing.

Week 3: Making Something Out of Nothing

Every improv scene begins by using four simple rules for setting characters, relationships, objectives and settings. No matter if students are writing horror, drama, comedy, crime or some melting pot, compelling fiction also employs these four rules.

Opening a story by utilizing these techniques will set the stage for a book or short story that has the momentum to push beyond any 50 page stall, and is sturdy enough to embrace literary surprises as they appear.

Week 4: Overcoming Literary Quicksand

Ever wonder how folks at improv groups like Second City or Who’s Line is it Anyway? can construct interesting characters and vivid storylines on the spot? Because of one simple rule in the improv handbook. Students stuck on a story or wrestling with writer’s block will see their work instantly take off and veer in unforeseen directions by applying this major improv rule to their fiction.

And the second-biggest rule will teach students to cut out a character’s quizzical nature and make them action-oriented, which gives stories that momentum readers can’t put down and writers can’t stop writing.

Goals Of This Class

  • Develop your natural sense of humor
  • Learn classic comedy setups
  • Discover the story structure of comedy
  • Never suffer writer’s block—knowing improv means you always have a little creative spark waiting to ignite, even on “off” days.
  • Trust your instincts as a writer
  • Know how to construct a well-rounded story with realistic characters, believable settings and an intriguing plot—with or without a brilliant idea tucked in your brain.
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