Published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, this piece explores the intersections between joke structures, fiction, and cognitive psychology.
Sometimes writing fiction is a joke — literally. Not a haha-joke, but writing that takes the basic structure of a joke. And this can be a good thing, depending on how the punchline is delivered. The best punchlines are paradoxical, in that they’re wholly unexpected but, with some reframing or slight information juggling, completely obvious in that I-should-have-seen-it-coming sort of way. As someone who greatly enjoys both standup comedy and novels, it wasn’t hard for me to make this connection, one that I’m sure many have made before. But beyond structural consonance, I suspect that there is something, or many things, going on between the narrative structure of punchlines and enjoyable surprises in fiction, movies, and stories in general.