Inkpop Blog

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Writing Comedy: Inside the Mind of Adam Rex

Posted by inkpopbecki on July 7, 2010

Writing funny novels is one of the hardest things to do. Thankfully we have a bestselling author, Adam Rex here to talk to you about writing comedy and parodies. His new novel, Fat Vampire, takes a humorous look at the world of vampires. If you’d like to hear more from Adam, check out his live chat on the inkpop forum today at 5 p.m. EST.

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From end of the world apocalyptic comedies to vampire novels you have an uncanny ability to take serious subjects that are also quite popular and turn them into funny parodies. What does it take to write a parody?

I think I just enjoy approaching genre with an open mind.  I suppose I like to take the familiar trappings of a genre and try to apply them to less familiar situations and points of view.  And above all I’m always trying to write something I would want to read.

I guess I’ve never actually thought of my novels as parodies.  A parody, of course, is sort of a humorously exaggerated imitation of an already existing style or genre or story.  In my new novel, Fat Vampire, I didn’t write a funny imitation of Dracula or Twilight. I more wrote a vampire story with a different point of view from what you commonly see in other such novels.  I wanted to write about my own flaws in high school, and I thought a vampire story might be an interesting way to do that, because back in 2007 I didn’t realize that the literary landscape was about to become lousy with vampire stories.  But anyway, in Fat Vampire I wanted to explore a story in which the vampire is not the lean, sexy bad boy–rather, he’s a short Dungeons & Dragons playing social outlier who’s about to find his life getting much better and much worse at the same time.

How do you come up with ideas for your novels?

Ideas come from everywhere, but in the case of Fat Vampire I can actually trace its beginnings back to a single banner ad I saw online.  It was obviously for some vampire comic or novel or something and it was called My Dork Embrace.  I thought that was hilarious, because I assumed the title indicated that it was about a vampire that was a bit like, say, me as a freshman.  Later I realized I’d misread the ad–it was actually called My Dark Embrace–but then that left me free to write about the character I’d been imagining.

Are there requirements to writing a successful parody? Does it have to accurately represent the type of novel it is commenting upon—such as vampire novels or sf novels—or do you have the same type of freedom as any writer to create your own type of world dynamics?

You always have the freedom to create everything out of whole cloth, but I think a popular genre gives you something on which to hang your hat.  That’s what I like about it.  It’s like the genre gives you the alphabet, the common language, but like with any creative writing it’s up to you to arrange the words in a way that is uniquely your own.  You can always invent your own world dynamics, and claim that in your version vampires don’t drink blood and they control the weather and melt if you throw water on them, but then why are you even calling them vampires?  Just make up something else.  On the other hand, if you DO make them something more like traditional vampires, then you don’t have to spend half your book explaining the characteristics and rules of your fantastic creatures.  Everybody already knows about vampires.  You can just get on with your character-building and story.

What do you consider funny? How does that influence your own work?

Can there really be any other answer except, “I think funny things are funny?”  I have a lot of trouble personally deconstructing what exactly is funny, or why.  I’m a fan of the E.B. White quote that says, “Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

Having said that, I can tell you the things I like include Chuck Jones Warner Bros. cartoons, Arrested Development, The Simpsons, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Life of Brian, Patton Oswalt, Tina Fey, the public radio show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and Buster Keaton.  Maybe that’ll help you work out what I find funny and what I don’t because I can’t claim to use any comic rules or theory when I write.  But I’ve probably

absorbed a thousand subconscious ideas about what works and what doesn’t from sources like the ones I listed above, and I do draw upon all of these as I write.

Want to hear more? Stop by Adam’s live chat on the inkpop forums today at 5 p.m. EST. Read more about Fat Vampire.

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