Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Humour, wit and character conversation: Number 4 Will Macmillan Jones

Humour.  Well, all my friends here think this one should be easy for me, since I write what is laughingly called ‘Comic fantasy’, but it isn’t really.  MTM has been a proper comedienne, and is probably much better qualified than I am to write a piece on being funny.

Where comedy is concerned, I’m a bit of an existentialist. I prefer to try and let it happen rather than define it. (Actually that’s posh speak for the fact I can’t be bothered to think about it.) But realistically, I beak it up into a few sections.

Word play, one of my favourites.  Double meanings, misunderstandings, friendly banter.

Situational comedy – placing entirely inappropriate people or places or behaviour together, and seeing what happens.  Twisting reality a little to show it from a different angle to our normal view. Plus my preference, of blending the magical and extraordinary with our own daily world.

Slapstick.  I’m just a big kid really, and the slipping on a banana trick, or the bucket of water balanced over a door, yes these make me laugh.

Spontaneity is the key.  I think some of my best lines have been throw away one line jokes that just cropped up, rather than carefully constructed artefacts.  My favourite line ever is still: “I know it’s live yoghurt, but is it meant to come when it’s called?”

I didn’t plan that one.  My personal favourite situation is the initial meeting, in mid air, of an RAF fighter jet and a drunken red dragon carrying a bass guitar.  And slapstick: having the Dark Lord use his superlative evil magical skills to distract his bank manager’s path along the pavement outside the offices, causing the bank manager to walk into a lamppost.

As a taster then, a section from The Satnav of Doom, to be released by Safkhet Publishing on 30 October 2013.

Deep within the financial headquarters of the Edern in North Wales, the CEO of the organisation slapped his hand on the polished boardroom table to attract attention.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said loudly.

By and large, he was completely ignored. Once again he slapped the table, this time with a heavy leather glove pulled from his suit pocket.

“This meeting is called to order!” he said firmly, upping his volume somewhat.

The argument continued to rage.

“The board is now in session!” he shouted, and to emphasise his point, he seized the large golden sword that lay on the conference table, and slammed it down hard. Slowly the table split in two, the halves falling inwards. Silence fell.

“Blear, whatever did you do that for?” asked Lady Hankey, glaring down her long, patrician nose at the CEO.

“That table was an antique,” agreed Lady Meillar.

“Like Blear himself,” muttered Lord Telem. “Just because the boardroom is split around the table, you didn’t have to split the boardroom table as well!” he complained, more loudly.

Comfortably settled, in a chair in the corner, Lord Tosca snored.

“I have tabled a motion!” declaimed Lord Blear.

“And look what happened to the table,” retorted Lord Emyr. “It moved.”

“If The Lady In The Lake ever finds out what you did with her enchanted sword, Blear, she’ll make your life a living hell,” warned Telem.

“Compared to dealing with you lot, that will be a step up, then!” retorted Blear.

“Extraneous insults are the sign of a poor argument,” said Lady Hankey, who was opposing Blear’s suggestion. Not because she disagreed with the idea, just that she had been opposing Blear’s suggestions to her for some time, and wasn’t going to stop now.

“Ever since a travelling enchanter sold Her that spell to turn water into wine, She’s been too drunk to bother about the sword,” Lord Telstar remarked.

Blear smirked.

“True,” agreed Lord Tosca. “The only time she comes out of The Lake now is to wave a clarinet and sing drunkenly at strangers on the shore.”

Telem and Telstar picked up the two halves of the table, and Lady Meillar glued them back together imperfectly with a wave of her hand and a spare incantation she had left over from the last Board meeting.

“Now,” said Lord Blear loudly, “if you would kindly resume your seats, I will recap on the thrust of our discussion to date in the expectation that we may, in the course of our deliberations, achieve a consensus agreement to the proposal which may then be considered to have been retrospectively authorised in regard to the initial expenditure necessarily incurred in the formalisation of the project to formal proposal stage.”

Lady Hankey glared at Lord Blear. “Am I right,” she enquired in glacial tones, “that you are confessing to allowing improper expenditure to have been incurred without the formal permission of the board?”

“No,” replied Lord Blear.

“I’m sorry?” asked Lady Hankey.

“Your apology is accepted, Lady Hankey. Now, moving on.”

“That wasn’t what I meant!”

“Perhaps not, but it is what you have said, and what has been entered in the minutes. Moving on.”

Lady Hankey sighed, but sat down with the others.

“Right,” Blear said smugly at this evidence of corporate compliance. “Briefly then.”

“Brevity is the soul of wit, I’m told,” observed Lady Meillar.

“It is not an instruction within the Corporate Governance Articles,” replied Blear.

Lady Hankey sighed again. Blear gave her a glance, but she stayed quiet.

“As you know,” he continued, “I have been approached by the Governor of The Bank of England, and the Chancellor of The Exchequer.”

“Blear always was a bit slow,” muttered Tosca to Telstar. “Anyone else would have run a mile from those two together.”

“I have asked to provide a feasibility study for the provision by our company of a new economic forecasting system for the treasury. The fee will be substantial.”

There was a murmur of approval.

“And will,” Blear gave Lady Hankey a cold glance, “dispel any lingering concerns about expenditure on this project temporarily carried within the research budget.”

Lady Hankey nodded her reluctant agreement.

Lord Blear took a satisfied breath, and a dissatisfied sip from the glass at his elbow, before continuing, “The new Prime Minister, hoping to avoid a repeat of the last serious recession, has decided that sacrificing chickens and examining their entrails has not, on balance, proved a successful mechanism for economic modelling in the last forty years and a modern system should be incorporated into the treasury’s economic forecasts. Plus, he is a vegetarian, and didn’t want to eat the chicken afterwards as was customary.”

“So,” asked Lord Telstar, “this is the plan B the chancellor was going on about in Parliament the other day?”

“No. The Treasury’s plan B was to send the Chancellor of The Exchequer around London in a taxi, and get financial advice from the driver. But the cab fares were getting a bit pricey, and the driver is retiring. Hence, a new system is considered necessary.”

“Wait a moment,” interrupted Lord Telem. “What happened to that economic forecasting software system that they bought from the Americans two years ago for about thirty million pounds?”

“A comparative exercise over two years has shown that the taxi driver was more accurate.”

“Bet the US government laughed their socks off at that,” said Lord Tosca.

“Not really,” replied Blear. “They had bought the same software, and The Governor of the Federal Bank had to keep flying over here and hiring the same taxi driver we’ve been using. That’s why the driver can afford to retire.”

“What happened to Galadriel’s Magical Mirror system?” asked Lady Meillar. “The one they used to keep in the cellar of Number 11 Downing Street?”

Blear looked a bit uncomfortable. “It’s never been the same since The Lady In The Lake used her spell on the water and turned it into merlot during a Cabinet Office party. It’s one reason the country has been in the red ever since.”

This excerpt is from The SatNav of Doom, fifth in the acclaimed ‘The Banned Underground’ fantasy series, published by Safkhet Publishing Limited and appears with their consent.

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