Tessa Dare | New York Times Bestselling Author
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Tuesday, January 13th, 2009
Face-First. Or, Why I Write Slapstick Physical Comedy

The short answer is, because I live it.

Seriously, when my books come out, I expect I’ll get some comments on the fact that they include a fair amount of slapstickyness.  People stumbling, tripping, falling on faces and arses (usually the heroines).  Some people like that kind of comedy in moderation (raises hand) and others don’t–it’s not ALL there is to my books, of course.  But I write it in because…honestly, I don’t know how to write a heroine who doesn’t fall on her face occasionally.  Because I do it all the time.

Right after New Year, for instance, I made a lunging grab for my younger dareling as he took off across the parking lot.  My boot caught on the curb, I fell swiftly and hard, and I ripped a newish pair of jeans and still have yellowing bruises on both knees. *sigh*  Yep, that’s me.  As my grandmother used to say, “Just call me Grace!”

These incidents also factor into my own real-life romance.  It’s astounding that Mr. Dare convinced me to marry him at all, considering that I incurred some serious blunt trauma on one of our first dates.  And it was all his fault. Yes.  It was.

See, we were at the Getty Center in LA (and the man was getting some serious points for taking me to an art museum on one of our first dates.  I’m not sure he’s taken me to an art museum since, but…)  The Getty Center is several galleries, connected by terraces and and pathways overlooking a beautifully landscaped hillside garden and the LA skyline.  It’s stunning.  In my case, literally. :)

So we were standing on one of these terraces, holding hands and taking in the breathtaking view, and Mr. Dare (whom I have since learned is prone to these sudden bursts of energy and movement, not unlike a predatory cat) decided we should take off quickly for another gallery, because the museum was closing soon.  He took off, dragging me by the hand behind him while I was still looking at the hillside garden, and

BAM.

He pulled me face-first into a very large, very metal flagpole.  Seriously.  You know that cliche, “He didn’t know what hit him”?  I was living it.  I had no clue what had just happened to me, only that my head was ringing and my sunglasses were broken and I was swaying on my feet.  Actually, it’s probably a good thing I was wearing the sunglasses, because although they cut into my temple and made it bleed (!), they probably sustained the brunt of the impact.

So we spent our last half-hour at the Getty Center sitting on a bench applying ice packs to my head.  It was really fun explaining to the security guard for his incident report that I’d…yeah, walked into a pole.  Really hard.

Anyway, if anyone ever wonders why I write these scenes–it’s because I live them!  And because clearly blunt head trauma aides blossoming romance.  Mr. Dare convinced me to marry him just two months later.  And my head is still ringing.  :)

Do you write (or live) slapstick comedy?  Do you enjoy reading it or not?

20 comments to “Face-First. Or, Why I Write Slapstick Physical Comedy”

  1. terrio
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    1
      · January 13th, 2009 at 10:30 am · Link

    I don’t mind some physical comedy. And I didn’t come away from reading your book thinking there was a lot of it. It must have been just the right amount since I mostly just remembering smiling and sighing (and crying at one point) while reading.

    I don’t think I could write without funny stuff. My heroine isn’t really clutzy, she just ends up on her arse several times. At least three times within the first 24 hours of meeting the hero. And as is to be expected, at least two times it was all his fault. :)

    That blunt trauma to the head sounds painful. Mr. Dare must be one charming devil to overcome that. LOL!



  2. Elyssa Papa
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    2
      · January 13th, 2009 at 12:52 pm · Link

    As another fellow klutz, I can relate to this totally. Cooking disasters, falling off stages and on treadmills (talk about humiliation and the ouch factor), and doing things at the least opportune moment (like walking in on someone else’s interview). It’s also why most of my heroines get themselves in embarrassing situations and why there’s humor in my manuscripts. You can make people cry, but making them laugh is difficult. Just think of all the failed SNL sketches. *g*

    Besides, your heroines have a lot of heart. You can’t read Lucy, Sophia, or Bel without rooting for them and caring what happens to them. The lighthearted moments makes them that more endearing; there’s no such thing as “perfect.”

    And whoever buys and reads your books will love them.



  3. kelly krysten
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    3
      · January 13th, 2009 at 5:45 pm · Link

    Yah, know, it’s not so bad that I’m clutzy except when I’m just walking along and trip on air. I don’t get it. It makes no sense! I don’t drag my feet or anything. I guess I just get so lost in thought that I forget to…walk properly?*g* I inherited this from my mother. We’re always crashing into things and falling over. Luckily we’ve learned to laugh it off.

    As for physical comedy? I love it. I like it in movies-Matthew Perry and Jim Carrey are awesome at it. And it definitely helps me connect with a heroine when she’s clutzy. I read and view in movies the clutzy heroine so much that I’m lead to believe a lot of writers are clutzy too.*shrugs*Who knows…



  4. Janga
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    4
      · January 13th, 2009 at 8:29 pm · Link

    I actually have a friend named Grace from my undergrad days who was sheer poetry on a basketball or tennis court and a disaster off court. She met the man who became her DH on a blind date. He came to the dorm to pick her up, and she fell coming down the stairs and landed at his feet. When he took her to the ritziest restaurant in the big city closest to our campus to propose, she fell out of the booth and her engagement ring landed in the drink of a man in the opposite booth. These are true stories. I couldn’t make up anything as funny.

    I’ve had my klutzy moments, although nothing to equal Grace. My most embarrassing moments have usually been verbal rather than physical. There was the time I was critiquing a certain man’s technique in a barroom conversation with friends. I was speaking rather loudly in order to be heard over the band. “He’s nothing but slam, bam, thank you, ma’am,” I said just at the second the band took a break. I got more applause than the band did. :)

    I think readers will relate to the slap-stick moments in your books and find your heroines endearing.



  5. Maggie Robinson
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    5
      · January 14th, 2009 at 2:58 am · Link

    You are talking to a woman who slipped on ice and slid under her car last month, causing Daughter #1 to buy me ice creepers for Christmas to put on my shoes. I’ve walked into glass doors. Fallen in front of the coolest fraternity table in the college campus snack bar. In a skirt. Gotten out of the car in front of a general store to have a different skirt fall to the ground (bad zipper). So far no head trauma though, although I suspect I was dropped on my head a time or two by my parents. I’d like someone to blame.

    Physical humor is delightful—can’t wait to read yours!



  6. Tiffany
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    6
      · January 14th, 2009 at 4:35 am · Link

    Maggie, I’ve walked into many a glass doors. I often smash my shoulder into something because i just miss a wall when I’m walking.

    I love physical humour. And love your characters!

    I’m very klutzy I have no idea why. And it appears I’ve passed it on to my own kids. It’s sheer talent to be able to trip over your own feet—often. :)



  7. Kim
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    7
      · January 14th, 2009 at 6:27 am · Link

    OMG! It is amazing he persuaded you to marry him. LOL.

    I love to read comedy. I read for enjoyment and to get away from life. Laughs only make it that more enjoyable.



  8. kelly krysten
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    8
      · January 14th, 2009 at 6:42 am · Link

    Hmmm…interesting to note that I’m a klutzy typer as well. Spelling klutz with a ‘C’. Not my finest hour.*g*



  9. Mr Dare
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    9
      · January 14th, 2009 at 8:17 am · Link

    Who’s to say that it wasn’t part of the plan? I like to call it the clinch as that “little” bump took away Ms Dare’s common sense and eventually led us to the courthouse (for our marriage certificate that is). The best thing I’ve ever done!!!



  10. Tessa
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    10
      · January 14th, 2009 at 8:28 am · Link

    Oh, my goodness. What great stories! You all are making me feel much better about my own klutziness. To be fair to Mr. Dare, I have to admit that it was mostly because I was not looking where we were going. I could have easily side-stepped the thing, had I not been running in one direction and gazing off into another.

    Terri, you know I’ve been teased about this book for … um, years now! I want to read it! I love it when h/hs knock each other on the butt. One of my heroines actually vomits on the hero (obviously not in the book you read) – score! ALOP probably has the lowest slapstick factor of the three books, just because Bel is not so clumsy as Lucy and is not in an unfamiliar, constantly shifting boat like Sophia. But I’m so glad it all worked for you, and especially thrilled that you cried! It’s a little bit twisted, how awesome it feels to make people cry. :)

    Elyssa, I think you do this as well as any writer I know – using slapstick comedy to reveal a heroine’s insecurities and endear her to the reader. I always love and cheer for your heroines.

    Kelly Krysten, I’m so glad to hear you share my propensity for stumbling on air! I wouldn’t be surprised either, if writers are generally more clumsy. For one thing, my head is often somewhere else while I’m walking…I’m always thinking about my characters or an upcoming scene.

    Janga, your friend Grace sounds like my kind of girl! And it’s reassuring to know that even those of us not prone to physical stumbles can make verbal ones (what does it mean if I make my share of both?). But…am I the only one who really wants to know what and who Janga was talking about with that Wham, Bam comment? Whoa…

    Okay, Maggie. I think you have stolen the slapstick tiara. Those are some great stories. But I’m glad your daughter bought you the ice creepers (though this california girl has no idea what they are), because that sliding under the car thing sounds scary!

    Tiffany, I’m always bumping a shoulder against door frames, too. Or running my hip into a table corner – I usually have one or two little round bruises on my thigh to prove it. I never seem to learn!

    Kim, as Mr. Dare’s comment shows, he actually credits this incident with his success in wooing me. LOL.

    KK – I thought it was an alternate spelling? No worries!



  11. Tessa
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    11
      · January 14th, 2009 at 8:32 am · Link

    And Mr. Dare – Little did you know, I’d already made up my mind to marry you. You’re just lucky the resolution didn’t fall out of my head when I hit that pole! XOXO



  12. Antonia Girmacea
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    12
      · January 14th, 2009 at 9:28 am · Link

    I like slapstick comedies and I can’t wait to read your books. I’m a klutz too, though I’ve never hit a flagpole before. Bushes are my dear friends though. :)



  13. irisheyes
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    13
      · January 14th, 2009 at 8:24 pm · Link

    Hilarious, Tessa! I think I’m more of a verbal klutz than a physical one. Although, when I was pregnant my sense of equilibrium was waaaaay off. I was constantly walking into door jams. My DD on the other hand can fall off a chair while sitting on it. I’ve seen it – it’s amazing. I think she figits (is that a word) so much it’s just a matter of time before she seriously hurts herself!

    As for the verbal klutziness, I’m extremely famous for the double entendre (?) without knowing what I’m saying. I’ve gotten much better over the years, but, unfortunately now that I’ve got all the slang from my generation covered (and believe me it’s taken years!!!) now I have to start worrying about my children’s!

    I can’t wait to read your kultzy heroine.



  14. Evangeline
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    14
      · January 14th, 2009 at 8:59 pm · Link

    I love physical comedy. One of my favorite scenes, in one of the innumerable screwball comedies I’ve seen, the hero keeps flipping over things and running into walls when he sees the heroine (The Lady Eve, with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, btw).



  15. Keira Soleore
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    15
      · January 16th, 2009 at 1:42 pm · Link

    You clearly fell very hard in love. :) I’m such a klutz that I like it when heroines aren’t thoroughly self-assured and accomplished. Since pregnancy, my tendency to run into things has quadrupled (just as my brain quartered). Related? Hm.



  16. Maya M.
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    16
      · January 17th, 2009 at 9:02 pm · Link

    first time here, found you via courtney milan’s site –
    yes, i love well-done slapstick, to watch/read and to put in my MSs. Really hard to do well, very easy to do poorly – but which is which? All the contests I’ve entered give contradictory assessments….



  17. Santa
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    17
      · January 17th, 2009 at 9:17 pm · Link

    I adore physical comedy. I love to read it and I love to watch the great ones do it on TV and in the movies. Lucille Ball and Jack Ritter were naturals.

    I don’t think I’m as much a klutz as I seem to cause others to, um, falter. I was helping my boyfriend with a school project for his people with special needs class. I was his seeing eye guide. Poor dear. I saw him into doorways, poles and the occasional clothing rack. Despite the bumps and bruises he went on to get an A and eventually asked me to marry him.



  18. Tessa
    Comment
    18
      · January 20th, 2009 at 8:55 am · Link

    Oh, thank you to everyone for sharing more great stories!

    Antonia, I can’t wait for you to read my books either! It sounds like they’ll be right up your alley. Or bush. :)

    Oh, irisheyes, I was a mess while pregnant. I fell on my belly while pregnant with my first (in grass, at least), and it was so scary! But I guess that’s what all the amniotic fluid is for…

    Evangeline – I can’t believe I haven’t seen that movie yet. It’s been on my list for ages. *prompts Mr. Dare to check Netflix queue*

    Welcome, Maya! I agree that slapstick can be well-done or not, depending. And I don’t know that I have the answers to which is which..we’ll see when my books are reviewed. But my feeling is that it’s used best as a way to strip down the characters’ defenses and/or pride, and get to the emotional heart of the matter.

    Keira – I didn’t know you were expecting! Congratulations! And yes, bid a fond farewell to an alarming number of brain cells.

    Aw, Santa – just like my romance, in reverse! But remind me not to hold your hand in DC. :)



  19. Keira Soleore
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    19
      · January 22nd, 2009 at 8:43 am · Link

    No, no, Tessa. I wish I were expecting. But my happy event happened six years ago. :)



  20. Helen Nazzaro
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    20
      · December 6th, 2010 at 6:32 am · Link

    The day I met my husband (the 4th of July) we were having lunch at a friend’s house. I was trying to daintily cut my fried chicken with a plastic knife, when the knife slipped and launched a few melon balls off my plate and across the table. They rolled right up to his plate, of course. I’ll never forget how he looked down at the melon balls and then up at me with a twinkle in his eyes. Thankfully, he didn’t laugh out loud. I was mortified, but he swears that was what first endeared me to him. I’d rather tell people that when we met I saw fireworks … since then there have been incidents such as you described, plus the day I tucked the back of my skirt in my panty hose in the ladies room of a client’s office…and didn’t realize it until the receptionist called me over to her desk to tell me-with a room full of people in the waiting room BEHIND me. I’ve also fallen UP stairs while carrying heavy objects, which caused my momentum to launch me into a heavy GLASS wall (fortunately it didn’t break-but I had a pretty good headache)…as well as walking into all kinds of things while craning my neck to look around me as I walk. Yes, I love your books because your characters are not perfect. They may be beautiful, but they show us that even beautiful people have their emabarrassing moments.