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The Place of the Pun

A pun is a play on words, a statement that turns spelling or phrases around in a humorous manner. I can paddle, canoe? (I can paddle, can you?) When avoiding chores around then house, mother is the necessity of invention (necessity is the mother of invention).

I had a teacher who hated puns and said they were the lowest form of writing. The TV show Get Smart, a comedy where Don Adams played an inept secret agent when spy movies were popular, was running at the time. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, each episode contained an onslaught of puns in a style Brooks used in his parody films such as Blazing Saddles and Space Balls.

My teacher despised the show and used it as an example of what should never be done. Her idea of good writing was Shakespeare.

I loved Get Smart and all the puns. I can still watch it today and laugh Thinking back, I don't believe that teacher actually understood Shakespeare's works because they're loaded with puns. However, the language and culture has changed so much over 500 years. Many people today don't recognize the humor.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audiences in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audience in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

For puns to work, they must contain know cultural references. That modern audiences don't always get the puns in Shakespeare's plays doesn't mean people today are dumb. They just don't have the same connection to the older culture and language. Even for subcultures within any modern societies, the puns will differ and may not me understood by people in other groups.

It takes a lot of wit and intelligence to write puns. They make us pause, shake our heads, and if their really good, groan when people get them.

Keep going through the first draft

A portfolio of William Shakespeare's plays
The first draft of a novel is the initial creation of the story. The result will produce a manuscript, not a publishable book. The manuscript must be rewritten several times to craft a book. There will be many false starts, weak writing and mistakes. That doesn’t matter. I never write outlines; I just begin with a situation, put characters in it under pleasure and see what happens. Not everyone works this way. If you do write outlines before starting a book, don’t feel you must constrain yourself to them. You don’t fully know the story you’re writing or the characters you’re creating until you work with the prose for a while.

As you write, concepts will come to mind that you hadn’t thought of. You will realize the true nature of relationship between characters and imagine new twists in the plot. Put these things down and let your imagination run free. If you start on a divergent path, follow it to see where it leads. You may eliminate it later, but explore it anyway. It might lead to something better than you originally envisioned. The final book may bear little resemblance to what you considered in the beginning.

Never go back and edit anything in the first draft as you write. If you realize something needs to change at the beginning, make a note on the side and continue as if that change had been made, then fix the beginning in subsequent drafts.
Now there's only one true rule in writing - you can do anything you can get away with, however the trick is in knowing what that is, and that requires a knowledge of writing guidelines. It also takes experience.

Practice good writing from the beginning. Watch grammar, avoid clichés and be selective with adverbs as you create the first draft. Don't fall back on sloppy writing. Build a story, don't just dump words. Train yourself to be a better writer with each sentence. This will allow you to grow as an author because writing is a life long learning experience. It also makes life easier with the second, third, fourth and subsequent drafts to craft a manuscript into a book, short story or article.

The Importance of Mythology in Our Modern World

A Dragon Rises
A Dragon Rises

We live in a world of high technology where food production, communications, transportation, medicine and other industries improve our lives.

Through science, we understand the basis of life with discoveries in DNA, the formation of stars, the causes of illnesses and ways to cure them, and much more. Mythology seems to have no place. We no longer look to spirits or curses as the cause of sickness.

Folk tales and remedies have been replaced by research and medical practice. Some feel this relegates mythology to those absurd stories our ignorant ancestors told to try and explain the world. Yet, those holding this attitude miss the true purpose and power of myth to humans.

Mythologies in all cultures say much more about human nature than any physical aspects. All the gods of myths are manifestations of human strengths and failings. As such, mythology is the original literature.
Literature is a much-misunderstood term. It is simply fiction that explores the human condition and gives readers the opportunity to examine themselves. It is an expression of the human spirit in a nonreligious sense, and doesn’t require dense prose with convoluted structures. Mythology is a vehicle that can do this.

Today, mythology can be found in magical realism, science fiction and fantasy works.The reason Star Wars touched a nerve and became an overnight sensation wasn’t because of spaceships or blasters. In truth, Star Wars isn’t really science fiction as much as it is space opera. A 19th century sailing ship could have been substituted for the Millennium Falcon with cutlasses for light sabers, muzzle loaded pistols for blasters, misfit sailors as comic relief for CP30 and R2D2 and a sorcerer pirate captain for Darth Vader.

The basic story would have held up along with the mythology of The Force and the theme of self discovery.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has battles and action, political intrigue and noble acts, yet the core of the story is the exploration of human nature caught between the forces of evil desire and heroic service. Professor Tolkien knew and understood the place of mythology from his studies and research into legendary stories such as Beowulf. He said he wanted to give England a modern myth because it had none.

When a story is set in a galaxy far, far away or a created world that never existed, authors can discuss serious questions such as greed, avarice, prejudice, oppression, altruism and equality in ways that might be ignored or rejected by some readers who oppose these themes.

Mythology, science fiction, fantasy and magical realism can tell stories with universal themes that comment on human nature. Through engaging characters, good and bad, set in immersive worlds, authors can explore who we are and how we can live together in society.

Of course, some stories are written as pure, entertaining romps where the action and adventure are more important than the characters inner struggles. These can be great fun to read and I enjoy them.
Mythology can open minds and change people’s lives. May the force be with you, always.

An honest critique is a gift

When you give a critique, concentrate on the execution of the work, not the author or the themes.

Writing is hard and can be frustrating when you can’t express what you want or have trouble moving forward. A critique can help if given with respect. Point out both what works and what doesn’t. Never slam a writer, though it’s a service to say the writing doesn’t convince you of a theme or action or character development.

Those who receive critiques should take them in without defending themselves and consider if they can help improve both the writer and the work. It’s important to realize the critique is one person’s opinion. Other people may have different observations.

There are those who look only for praise. Some consider their writing as their blood on the page or their baby being murdered before their eyes by a critique. Such people will consider anything negative as a personal attack and may not consider any observations or suggestion.

It’s not your responsibility as a person giving a critique if the person receiving it feels under attack as long as you are respectful and cover only the work.

Mutual Respect in Business Pays Off

Many companies, large and small, still live with the 19th century notion that managers have to stand over employees to make certain they’re working. Yet, evidence shows when managers set clear goals and allow employees, who know the details of the work, the leeway to function in their most efficient ways, productivity and profits increase. In too many respects, western business culture still holds feudal attitudes of lords and peasants rather than as partners who are all required to achieve goals and all deserve equal respect.