The Joke is Still Funny

I read, saw, or imagined an interview once with some icon of comedy playwriting who said that it was always such a relief to put on that first performance for an audience and hear them laugh because after a while, the joke just isn’t funny anymore. You become immune to it.

I think story ideas are like that too. Loglines. They lose their punch over time in your own mind. It’s not until you get them in front of fresh eyes, or pitch them to new ears, that you realize, remember, or understand for the first time in a lightning-strike epiphany that, yes, you’ve really got something.

Earlier today, just for shits and giggles as my writer friend said, Andrea Brown literary agent Jennifer Laughran (@literaticat) held a Tweet-a-Query challenge via her Twitter feed.

TWITTER QUERY CHALLENGE! Pitch me your (real or fake) book in ONE TWEET. Must include type of book (YA, MG, etc) & an irresistible logline.

Well, it just happens I’m working on a Young Adult novel. Or will be, after I finish The Last Screenplay I Ever Write (blog post on that coming soon). The plan is, actually, to novelize my screenplay Troop 51 Saves the World. This is, frankly, a kick-ass screenplay that I had a lot of fun writing. I know that’s terribly braggy of me to say, but honestly I don’t say that about all my scripts, and besides, I have plenty of self-doubt in other areas to make up for it.

But the point is, I’ve pitched this one before. As a screenplay pitch, I found varying degrees of success which seemed entirely to depend on external factors (they have a movie like that in development, they aren’t doing “kid” movies anymore, they just read about a similar project…) and not on the pitch itself. So I’ve lived with this idea for along time and kind of forgotten if it had any punch to it.

Jennifer’s Tweet-a-Query was a fun, no-fail way to send up a test baloon. So I Tweeted.

12yo overachiever leads world’s worst boy scouts in earning toughest merit badge yet – saving the world from alien invasion.

Well, the 140 character limit doesn’t lend itself to elegance. But that’s the core of the idea. The one I’ve been living with for two years, the one I pitched at Screenwriting Expo, the one that got the script to a couple of quarter-finals.

I was stunned by the reactions. The positive, I’d-love-to-read-this-one reactions. The winner was to be determined by vote in the comments of Jennifer’s blog entry, and my query garnered a lot of enthusiasm.

In fact, I won.

I was very humbled and happy. Because I had forgotten. Because the joke stopped being funny for me.

I feel very encouraged now. I always knew this story was a screenplay. It is now a young adult novel as well. And it’s a very different thing to write a book you know people are already excited about. I’ll be querying Jennifer when the novel is done.

And next time, I get more than 140 characters.


  1. That’s very cool indeed. Twitter is a great place to test high concepts and see if they fly, particularly on a contest like that.

    I should ask my followers to do the same thing – perhaps for a Web series or short film they’re planning to make.

    (Incidentally – yeah, I’d read that. Sounds rather Heinleinian.)


  2. Have not visited here for a while. To this day I Google Man Bites Hollywood, and up pops David Anaxagoras. While the name David remains in my memory banks, Anaxagoras fails time and time again to stick. Even if the name were to stick, I would never get the spelling correct. I see the red curtain has gone along with the whole Hollywood / Cinema vibe. I like the Pirate ship. I’m still learning to write, and am convince I’m dyslexic. Still I struggle to begin anything new. A new approach is required.


  3. Shaun, welcome back. Yes, another redesign. I kept it simple this time, mostly because I lack the design skill to do anything fancy. Good luck with your writing.


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