I went to see J. Elvis Weinstein the other night. He headlined at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis and drew an enthusiastic crowd, despite dire warnings from talking heads about an impending sleet and slush apocalypse. I got some good, healthful laughs and a wonderful reminder about plotting a novel.
From a stand-up comic?
After all, whether it’s a novel, a screen play, a lyric or a standup routine, the author is telling a story.
I realized that the show was much more than a series of jokes. It was instead a series of elements, carefully woven into a subliminal story line that plumbed the human condition with warmth and humor. Things mentioned early, like teeth grinding, got a laugh and got fixed in our minds. They disappeared, to return later and fit with other carefully positioned elements. The conclusion carried some of the elation of pushing that last piece of a 3000-piece puzzle in place and made the final laugh so much the bigger.
In rewriting my third novel, I’m trying to balance dropping those elements that are important to the conclusion in place delicately enough so, like Weinstein’s stand-up routine, the reader will put them all together just a second after the big reveal and realize that they knew all along what was going to happen, but were not aware they knew.
A lesson well taught.