Writing Cartoon Captions to Sharpen Your Wit – A great exercise to improve your humor skills.
- At first glance, you may not have a single idea for a caption when you set your eyes on the cartoon. Don’t worry, ideas will come. Study the cartoon. Let it stew. Let it simmer. I didn’t come up with a dozen captions the first time I sat down to write.
- Write down ideas as they come to you. Even write down captions that aren’t funny. You may be able to twist them into something better in the editing process. This is a numbers game. If your goal is to have one funny caption, set a goal of writing ten captions. Or write twenty. The more you push yourself, the more creative your ideas will become as you stretch.
- As is often said, good writing is rewriting. Write down several captions. Then sleep on it. The next day edit what you wrote the day before. Study the placement of the punchwords, the words that drive the joke.
- In rewriting, fair becomes good. Good becomes excellent. The cartoon caption contest featured a cartoon with a speaker standing behind a lectern with a wide-eyed, surprised look on his face. One of the first captions I wrote was, “The speaker was shocked to see that the audience was still awake!” That was eventually changed to, “A speaker imagining a Powerhouse Pros audience in their underwear!” This was a line referring to the specific Toastmasters Club sponsoring the contest. This line does four important things. It justifies the look on the speakers face. It customizes the caption for the group. It links the common advice “control nervousness by imagining the audience in their underwear” to the cartoon. It placed the punch word “underwear” at the very end of the caption.
- Study the details of the cartoon and ask yourself, what could this detail mean? What else could this be? In the contest, the cartoon showed the speaker’s head tilting wildly to the right. A caption could be, “It was obvious that the speaker leaned to the right.” This caption plays with the connection between alternate meanings of the word “right”.
- One of the basic humor writing skills is to look for connections. How can you relate the details of the cartoon to specific things about your work group, about your civic club, about your association, about your reader’s profession? Humor is often about connecting two things which were previously unconnected.
- As I review the dozen captions I wrote for the contest, the majority of them were customized using “inside information” harvested from my knowledge of the group. I used buzz words, activities, habits and names of people to drive the humor in my captions. Those customized captions would not be funny to you. But this is one of the most sure-fire ways to write humor that hits the mark with the target audience. And that is what counts!
- Our Toastmasters Club held caption writing contests between every meeting. I got into the habit of writing ten captions for nearly every contest. I commented to the President, “I could write thirty captions.” So the next week I wrote thirty. I could have written a hundred…but didn’t tell anyone.
- Take the challenge to try the caption writing exercise. You don’t do it to become a cartoon writer. You do it to exercise your creativity and sharpen your ability to see and create humor in all areas of your life.
Copyright 2005 by John Kinde
By John Kinde, Motivational Humorist from Las Vegas, NV.
(702) 263-4363 www.humorpower.com