Running Jokes

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I like running gags in novels. No, I’m not talking about boisterous humor, necessarily, more about having threads within relationships that span time in the books. When done well, I think they not only provide insight into the characters, they draw the reader into the story by allowing them to feel they’re in on the joke. We know what’s going to happen, but that’s part of the fun. We’re inside; they are our friends now.

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In Jeanne Dark, the two lead characters share a robust and complicated relationship that includes a working partnership, romance, and a tendency to get on each other’s nerves. Instead of constantly writing scenes that talk about this, I look for small moments where differing aspects of their relationship come out. Here are a couple.

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I stood there for too long, not knowing how to respond and finding myself getting more exasperated by this crazy woman every second. Then it hit me.

“This freaking crazy magnet. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

“How do you mean?”

“That’s why you wanted to work with me.”

Her eyes flashed wide, and I saw her briefly clinch her fists. Calmly, she put her sunglasses back on and stepped backward one pace, rising onto the first step that led to the National Gallery. She signaled for me to approach, waving her free hand like an enraged traffic cop. I did so. Instead of eye to chin, we were now nearly lip to lip. I wanted to kill her … after I kissed her. I could see her nostrils flaring like some mad little French bulldog, and my realizing that I wanted her so very badly only made me angrier.

“Since obviously, we cannot work together, I will talk to Hardesty in the morning for a reassignment.”

At first, what she said didn’t register, as I was staring at her mouth. When it did, I felt a combination of sadness and relief. “Fine. You do that.”

I heard a gasp, and before I could say another word, she gave me what I thought was a smug little smile and spun on her heels, ascending the steps to the museum. I didn’t follow her. Instead, I trotted to the circle and flagged down the first taxi I could find. If she wanted a new partner, that was okay by me. Maybe now the real detective work could start. I’d always done my best work alone anyway.

Um, I meant investigative work.

***

I managed to drag myself off the bed and met her in the hallway outside our room. “You’re really bad at making exits, did you know that?”

“I am great at exiting. I’m just not so good at explaining when I want to go or asking permission like some schoolgirl. It should be obvious I am leaving when I actually put on my coat and leave.”

“You are so strange sometimes.”

“Merci. I love you too.”

I sniffed. “Are you smoking?”

“Non. At the moment, only the cigarette is smoking.”

I reached around her, took it from her, and put it out against the wall. “First of all, this is non-smoking hotel. Second, since when do you smoke?”

“Since I was twelve. Do I need your permission for that too?”

“Way,” I said.

She frowned another smile at me. “I am French. It is my right to smoke.”

“Take it up with the French Embassy.”

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19 Replies to “Running Jokes”

      1. You will always have my ear, my eyes and my heart when it comes to your writing. You are an impressive talent with the ability to hook the emotions and get your readers sitting on the edge of their seats in heated anticipation. Don’t ever give up just because you can’t hear yourself over the silence sometimes. Wordlessness can be a good thing too.

          1. Besos a ti y tus orejas. Que se despide el silencio y vuelva la sonrisa en cada palabra que escriba, y cada palabra que susurro en tu corazon.

    1. Thanks. Believe it or not, I’ve been really struggling with this one. It’s different than my other books in that it’s mostly about the plot and relationships. I’ve finally got the plot down, and I think I can just finish writing it. It took 40,000 words to get there, however. 🙂

      1. Yikers! Well then it’s a tribute to your skill that it looks so effortless. I think sometimes a lot of writing must be done before the writer gets to know the character well enough. A butterfly doesn’t fly as soon as it emerges from the chrysalis. It needs to rest and stretch it’s wings first.

  1. Your absolutely right about running jokes becoming in jokes that make the reader feel privy to information that others don’t have, thus pulling them deeper into the story. I enjoyed the passages…great dialogue, and the two personalities really come alive.

  2. There is another little ‘joke’ here that as an American you may not be aware of.
    ”Take it up with the French Embassy”’

    Embassy is/was(?) a brand of cigarette produced in the UK.

    Somethings I see are even weirder than normal weird…where’s my pills?

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