Is It Still Funny the Second Time Around?

My friends can tell you that I can be a funny guy at times. Not all the time, maybe, but who is? Still, I manage a few zingers now and again, and I’ve been known to make people’s heads explode—not literally, that’d be gross—and to make people snarf their drinks from time to time.

But, before No Small Bills, I’d never written funny.

Not flat-out funny, at least. I’d done wry, certainly, and over the top, and slightly tongue in cheek. I’d done amusing moments and funny lines—hell, I wrote two Eureka novels! But I’d never written anything that was just utterly goofball off-the-wall silly funny.

When I sat down to write a new, wholly original novel a few years back, however, I flipped through my catalog of story ideas—most writers have them—and DuckBob was the one that jumped out at me. And it was clearly going to have to be funny. After all, he has the head of a duck—it was either going to be an insanely silly book or a deep philosophical treatise told through surreal metaphor. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or The Metamorphosis.

Not surprisingly, I sided with Adams over Kafka. Also, not a huge fan of cockroaches.

That left me with the task of writing something funny, though. Not as easy as it sounds.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I had it in me. But I was more than willing to give it a try. I let my “inner silly” loose, and rocketed through a crazy tale of interstellar trains, outer-space greasy spoons, color thefts, killer shrimp, prison breaks, car accidents, taffy pulls, and so much more (if none of this sounds familiar to you, go and read the book! Go on—I’ll wait). I wound up having an absolute blast writing it—and, at least according to what people who’ve read it have told me, I succeeded. It’s funny. Very funny.

No Small Bills did well enough that I knew there was room in this world for a few more tales about DuckBob and his pals. Plus, I loved writing about DuckBob so much, I wanted to get back in there and see what happened next!

But then the awful question arose—could I be funny a second time?

Especially since, with No Small Bills, I didn’t really have a plan. I just started writing and let DuckBob determine where things went—which, if you know DuckBob, explains a lot! With the sequel, Too Small for Tall, I reverted to my usual writing habits and plotted the thing out beforehand. Not every nook and cranny, certainly, but at least the basic storyline. I’d already had an idea of how to start it—with cookies!—and of what would happen next, and although I left room for DuckBob’s usual silliness, I did figure out where the plot was going from start to finish. No Small Bills is a cosmic road trip, after all, so it can meander all over the place. Too Small for Tall is actually a police procedural, when you get right down to it, and that requires a bit more structure.

Would that ruin the sense of silly spontaneity, though? Would it feel more forced than the first book, more staid and structured? Less funny?

I wasn’t sure. But this was how the book came together, so I was just going to have to go with it.

I’m happy with how it turned out. I think Too Small for Tall is just as silly and goofy and funny as No Small Bills. There’s still lots of wackiness—floating bowling balls and cookie zombies and disco aliens and hot-tubbing earthworms—and of course DuckBob’s trademark snark. It does have a tighter structure, but I think that fits with what’s going on and with where everyone is in their own headspace—including DuckBob himself.

I think it’s as funny. What do you think? Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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