The Way You Tell ’em

Did you hear the one....?

Did you hear the one….?

A one-act play I penned was recently selected as runner-up in the STERTS annual competition and will receive a rehearsed reading in the Cornish Theatre as part of the prize for the same on December 7th, a night I’m very much looking forward to. If anyone is in the Liskeard area, it would be great if you could come along.

The play in question was initially inspired by a joke so I thought I’d revisit why jokes are such a great source of plot ideas. They are plots in miniature. Stories sealed up and ready to go. You’ve got your beginning, middle, end, your conflict, your characters – flaws and all. All you’ve got to do is flesh it out, expand on it, change gender and setting if possible. And no, your ‘adaptation’ doesn’t have to be funny because many jokes (indeed, stories) need an element of tragedy to make comedy (and vice versa) and you can just crank up the aspect you want to emphasize.

Here’s the joke that gave me the idea for ‘The Angel of Szepfalu’:

“It was Ryan’s funeral and the pallbearers were carrying the casket out from the church. When they bumped into a pillar, one of them heard a moan from inside the coffin. They opened the lid and found Ryan alive. He lived for another ten years before he properly died. Another funeral was held for him and, as the pallbearers were carrying out the coffin, Mrs Ryan shouted “Now, watch out for that pillar!”

OK, it’s the way ya tell ‘em… But the point is that they don’t have to be the funniest jokes – just so long as there is a story in there, a universal truth with which your readers will react and engage. Wordplay/puns won’t work so well, go for the story…

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About suehealy

Multi award winning Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by the Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Heinrich Boll Association and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her 2016 play ‘Brazen Strap’ ran at the King’s Head Theatre, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has also shown at the Hackney Attic and Etcetera Theatres in London. Sue’s nine radio dramas have broadcast on BBC Radio 4, WLRfm, KCLR96fm. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, she spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. Presently, she is London-based, researching a PhD on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre. View all posts by suehealy

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