“The writer has to take the most used, most familiar objects — nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs — ball them together and make them bounce.”
— Maya Angelou
I can’t resist putting words together in a way that’s funny or playful. Here are three of my tried and true tips for adding wordplay to your stories!
1. Read mentor texts filled with well chosen wordplay. Reading stellar mentor texts will inspire you in your quest for word induced comedy. Some of my favorite pun filled stories are 7 Ate 9, by Tara Lazar and Ross MacDonald, Love, Triangle, by Marcie Colleen and Bob Shea, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s beloved trio: Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink.
2. Write a list of all the idioms, jokes, puns and other fun words that pertain to your story. For example, I wrote a manuscript called Ramio and Mooliet. Here is the list of wordplay I wrote for myself while drafting the story:
Cow puns: deja moo, udder disaster, holy cow, till the cows come home, cowmooflaged, cowincidence, amoosed, cow jumping over the moon, over the moon about their friendship, cry over spilled milk, cowtastrophe, cower, coward, mooooved
Sheep puns: black sheep in the family, wolf in sheep’s clothing, counting sheep, pull the wool over someone’s eyes, relationsheep, partnersheep, sheepish, ewe-you, rambunctious
3. Pay attention to your plot and find wordplay that enhances the story you already have. When I wrote Ramio and Mooliet, I considered using the phrase “COW EYES” because Mooliet was a cow in love with Ramio and if she gave him cow eyes, there would be a fun double meaning.
BONUS TIP: Keep your wordplay consistent. One of my critique partners recently reminded me of this when she read one of my manuscripts and wrote: “Where’s the pun?” I had puns or wordplay in ALMOST every stanza of a story. Almost doesn’t cut it.
Here’s some wordplay from Ramio and Mooliet:
The sheep glared. “Why can’t you control your sister? You ruined our fence!”
The cows stared. “It’s our fence! Your brother’s rambunctious behavior wrecked everything!”
How do ewe add wordplay to your manuscripts?