Friday, April 13, 2012

The One Where I Stop Being Sad and Start Being Awesome (Psych!)

Before we begin: 
Don't forget to submit your entries to Melanie's First Annual Name My Book Contest. You can win additional prizes by simply submitting a comment on that post.
And a prologue:
Yesterday, Sabrina wrote a great post about how writing can connect us to each other. Maryann recently posted about how writing can change the way we view the world.  In fact, if you browse through the last few weeks on The Prosers, you'll find lots of posts dealing with why writing is meaningful. Serendipitously, after I wrote this, I realized that this post fits into that category of posts quite nicely.

Writing can take us out of ourselves. It has the power to transform our moods more powerfully than anything else I can think of, except perhaps music--which is a form of writing, so ha!

Case in point:

(Here we are at the actual blog post!)
Yesterday was a bad day. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that the fun part of the day involved the discovery that my cat has been using my daughter's closet floor as a litter box for about a week now. It went downhill from there.

Needless to say, by the time I sat down to write my blog post, all I really wanted was a good laugh.

The only joke I can ever remember:

A rope walked into a bar and ordered a drink. "We don't serve ropes here," the bartender sneered. Feeling downhearted, the rope left. Out in the parking lot, he began contorting himself into strange shapes and fraying his edges. When he was sufficiently tangled up, he walked back into the bar. "Aren't you that rope that was just in here?" the bartender asked. "No," said the rope. "I'm a frayed knot."


Lucky for anyone who wants a real laugh, I'm deeply immersed in the Psych saga at the moment. 

♥ USA Network, you really know what floats my boat. 

One of the last episodes of Psych I watched was called "An Evening With Mr. Yang." It's about the Yin/Yang killer, who likes to kidnap someone and then lead a 'worthy opponent' on a treasure hunt. If the opponent can't find the kidnapped person before time runs out, Mr. Yang kills them. So far, he's never lost. But wait! Shawn Spencer, the lead psychic for the Santa Barbara police department, is the Yin/Yang killer's newest opponent. The waitress he flirted with at lunch time is the kidnap victim. To the annoyance of everyone around him, Shawn continues cracking jokes, even as the pressure mounts.

Juliet: Do you have any thoughts Shawn?

Shawn: Yes, Jules, I do. First of all, his rhyming skills are rudimentary at best. Today and pay, die and cry? Come on, that's bush league.

Later on...

Shawn: I believe he's using the Alphabits to send a message that he too believes that breakfast for lunch is way underrated. Would anyone like to try writing this message with a burrito? Open challenge. Take a shot. (Short pause) Exactly. I rest my case. And now I want a burrito.

Gus: (pulling Shawn aside): Can I talk to you for a second, please? Dude, what are you doing?

Shawn: What are you talking about?

Gus: A girl's life is at stake, and you're acting like a jerk, making jokes...You haven't taken this thing seriously from jump street.

Shawn: Exactly.

Gus: Exactly?

Shawn: I have to work like this, OK? That guy gets in my head, and we lose. I have to do my thing. I cannot show weakness, and my fanciful rhetoric helps to defuse a situation that's very tense for the group.

Gus: But Shawn, nobody is laughing.

Shawn: Trust me. They are laughing on the inside. That's how it works, buddy. I need you to help me out here. Do you think you can do that?

Gus: I'll try.

From that moment on, Gus makes a valiant effort to be funny whenever things get too tense--making lame jokes about pancakes, pretending to be King Kong attacking a model airplane, and impersonating Michael Jackson. Everyone else thinks he's bizarre, but those tension breaking moments are exactly what Shawn needs to keep his mind sharp. Coincidentally, they are exactly the tension breakers the audience needs as well, on an intense episode of a show known more for its comedy than for its high drama.

Yes, Melanie, but I'm not a comedian. How will this help my writing???

Humor is a great tension breaker, adding a beat for the audience to take a breath and a literal step back.
(Another great Psych quote:
Juliet: Detective Lassiter is literally on fire today.
Shawn: 'Literally on fire' as in Michael Jackson in the Pepsi commercial or 'literally on fire' as in misusing the word 'literally'?)

In fact, two of the main reasons we laugh are 
(1)when we are surprised by the incongruity of two things, or 
(2)when we experience a welcomed relief from anxiety. (

For this reason, humor can be an especially important tool in a MG/YA writer's arsenal. Moments that might otherwise terrify younger readers are made bearable by the sagacious use of humor.

Take the novel A Tale Dark and Grimm, which was recommended to me as being a great read aloud for 6 year olds. Taking my source at its word, I let my oldest daughter read it to the other children. They loved it! They were riveted by every word and (literally) howled with laughter. A few days later, when I read it myself, I was shocked at the blood and gore; the horror and creepiness of the book. I couldn't believe my kids read it without having nightmares. It was the humor that did it. Take this passage:

The oven became hotter and hotter, and Hansel began to sweat. Then a delicious smell wafted to his nostrils. "Oh no!" he thought. "I'm cooking!" He sniffed at the air. "And I smell delicious!” 

Or how about:

“Are there any small children in the room now? If so, it would be best if we just...hurried them off to bed. Because this is where things start to get, well...awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way."

In conclusion, let me end with a few more Psych quotes, just to make sure I've completely shaken my own bad mood.

Shawn: The raven crows only at midnight, dusk is for the rooster's cackle.

Shawn: "How can you tell someone is a compulsive liar? I mean, assuming that their pants aren't on fire."

Gus: Shawn? What the heck are you doing here? 
Shawn: I should ask you the same question. 
Gus: I work here! 
Shawn: I should ask you a different question. 

Shawn: Dude. Some guy in a wolf costume with a light saber just said hi to you. 
Gus: I don't know that guy. 
Shawn: He looked right at you. 
Gus: He was mistaken. 
Shawn: He said, 'Hi, Gus.' And then, another dude with a cape and a codpiece gave you a half-nod. 

Shawn: Oh, you mean my pilot's license? That's out back in the Cessna. Or perhaps you're referring to my license to kill. Revoked. Trouble at the Kazakhstan border. I could give you the details but then I'd have to kill you, which I can't do because my license to kill has been revoked. 

Receptionist: There's a Lieutenant Crunch here to see you.
Gus: Crunch?
Shawn (dressed in a civil war uniform): Actually, I've been promoted. It's Captain Crunch.

Gus:  Brazilian airport codes. How do you know that? 
Shawn: I lived in an airport for a month, Gus. 
Gus: That was Tom Hanks in The Terminal. 
Shawn: Same difference. 


  1. Well, should you ever need them, I know LOTS of terrible jokes.


    What's the difference between an aspirin and an elephant?

    One's small, round and white, and the other is big, gray and wrinkly.


    I'll have to check out that show; good comedies are few and far between.

    1. Hey Sabrina! How can you tell when an elephant's been in your fridge?

      He leaves footprints in the butter.

    2. How can you tell if an elephant is depressed.

      He says, "I'm depressed."

      I love Psych. Gus and Shawn are so darn funny. I think sometimes that it's the writing that makes it funny, but really, Shawn can make the word "Banana" hilarious.

      That's talent.

  2. I've never seen Psyche, but from what you posted here, it looks pretty funny. I'll have to check it out.

    I agree that humor in the darkest part of the story really works well. I wish I was more funny, but we all have our weaknesses.

    Sorry about the cat mess. That does not sound fun at all. Although someday, you will laugh at it. :)

  3. Psych was one of the first shows we started watching on netflix, but it took a while for me to get into it. Only when all the available Burn Notices were gone did I get desperate enough to try it again. Now I can't believe I waited this long! The comic timing of Gus and Shawn is amazing.

  4. I've never seen Psych either, but, I will definitely give it a good look.
    Your cat may be having some "moving blues". Too bad for you though.

  5. Psych is great. Absolutely love the comic timing between the characters. And my kids have fun hunting for the pineapple hidden in each episode.

    1. There's a pineapple hidden in each episode??? How cool is that? I knew there was something going on with the pineapples, but I didn't know what. Now I have to start over!


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