Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Problem Explained

Jack Handy cracks me up. By chance, I have been struggling with a bank robbery plot element in my current work in progress. I've decided to drop it because I just can't figure out a way to make it believable (for a 12 and 13 year old set of characters).

Then
I came across this bit of brilliance in The New Yorker..it is by Jack Handy (of SNL fame) and it pretty much summed up my novel issues. NOTE that the original is much longer and I shortened it for this post.


THE PLAN by Jack Handy

The plan isn’t foolproof. For it to work, certain things must happen:

—The door to the vault must have accidentally been left open by the cleaning woman.

—The guard must bend over to tie his shoes and somehow he gets all the shoelaces tied together. He can’t get them apart, so he takes out his gun and shoots all his bullets at the knot. But he misses. Then he just lies down on the floor and goes to sleep.

—Most of the customers in the bank must happen to be wearing Nixon masks, so when we come in wearing our Nixon masks it doesn’t alarm anyone.

—The monkeys must grab the bags of money and not just shriek and go running all over the place, like they did in the practice run.

—The security cameras must be the early, old-timey kind that don’t actually take pictures.

—If somebody runs out of the bank and yells, “Help! The bank is being robbed!,” he must be a neighborhood crazy person who people just laugh at.

—Any fingerprints we leave must be erased by the monkeys.

—When we exit the bank, there must be a parade going by, so our getaway car, which is decorated to look like a float, can blend right in.

—At the rendezvous point, there must be an empty parking space with a meter that takes hundred-dollar bills.

—The robbery is blamed on the monkeys.

Question: Do you ever go this far in your writing -- trying mightily to make something work when, really, it just needs to go -- or am I the only one?

15 comments:

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I can imagine this plot working in certain types of middle grade novels! :) Hilarious! It wouldn't work so well, though, if you're going for realism.

I left something in once that should have been cut, and I think it killed the whole novel! I learned my lesson. :)

Amy

Tess said...

Amy: that would be one over the top novel! Man, it makes my bank robbery issues seem like a walk in the park - funny though and made me giggle.

Your comment has me curious...what was that something?

Martin Willoughby said...

That kind of scene works brilliantly...in a farce or comedy. Otherwise, I'd drop it.

Tess said...

Okay pals...this wasn't really in my novel! it's a joke :D Yes, I did have to drop a bank robbery element to a certain degree because I couldn't make it work but I never went to Jack Handy lengths. Just to clarify so you know I haven't totally lost it...yet ;)

Paige said...

Hey, it could happen.

Paul Greci said...

You know, right now I'm trying to think through some plot-related things for a new WIP and yeah, I go in pretty deep and right now I'm not sure what is going to work...hmmm....

Sara McClung ♥ said...

LOL I just cracked right up reading that list :)

You know, I am so freaking stubborn that I usually never drop things. Even when I probably should. Instead, I suck hours and days away from my CPs while I bribe them into helping me brainstorm a solution. They just LOVE me ;-)

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh, I've dropped tons of things. Even when they sort of did work. Whatever moves the story forward. That's how I roll these days. If it doesn't, it goes.

Megan Frances said...

I think my background as a newspaper editor has helped me accept the need to be ruthless about making cuts. But Jack Handy is on to something -- a few random action scenes involving monkeys would be great for comic relief.

BTW, thanks for commenting on my interview with Patti Lee Gauch, Tess. I really enjoyed my conversations with her. How wonderful you had her as a mentor.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I love Jack Handy!

Domey Malasarn said...

This is a hilarious list! I think I can use this to make more of my plans work out. I don't think I've ever given up on a scene that I wanted to have in a book because I didn't know how to write it. I just try my best.

Heidi Willis said...

That made me laugh! I think in the movies it really does work that way - everything is so convenient.

I have struggled to make something work before. Sometimes I can get it. Sometimes I have to let it drop. Usually, if I get to the dropping point, it's because I've screwed things up so badly I don't like anything any more. Those "bank robbery scenes" can be like a cancer that destroys everything around it too.

BUT - I always tuck it in a file to use in a later story. :)

Mary Aalgaard said...

That's great. Dare to write boldly, like that!

Robyn Campbell said...

Jack Handy is awesomely cool, Tess old pal. Ahahahahahahaha

Tess said...

thanks for giggling along with me!