Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Funny Top Ten Lists - Three Essential Secrets of Success

Target a receptive audience.

The well-known expression "preaching to the choir" perfectly describes the first essential secret of creating highly popular top ten lists: You must focus your humor on a topic that most people are predisposed to find funny.

To become successful, you must have an overall theme for your top ten lists that will immediately resonate with a mixed audience of males and females. One such possibility, and a very popular choice among those of us who compose humorous top ten lists, is to focus on the well-known fact that most people spend a shocking amount of time thinking about sex.

Men's and women's basic interests are very basic indeed. And they are not about to change anytime soon. As John Stuart Mill wisely observed, our thin veneer of civilization rubs off rather easily.

Therefore, the more earthy your theme, the more natural the message will be to your audience. The best way to brainstorm for one of these universally familiar themes is to picture yourself trapped in an elevator with twelve other people for an entire weekend.

Unless you follow this path of least resistance, you'll be knocking on closed doors. The rigid format of a top ten list makes it difficult to blaze any new or unnatural trails. So just follow the path that Mother Nature has already prepared for you. It will lead you to a brand of humor that reliably sells itself.

Keep your writing real.

Most people neither speak nor think in perfect English. So if you want to make a comedic connection with them, don't make the mistake of using perfect English in your funny top ten lists. Unfortunately, as soon as we commit our thoughts to paper, most of us adopt a far too formal, stilted style, which is foreign to both our readers and ourselves.

That's why so many people find it difficult to get laughs in print. Instead of going with the familiar flow, they try to impress readers with their command of a totally unnatural, inappropriate language. They abandon a proven communication style in favor of one that quickly becomes downright difficult to understand.

If you want to become successful creating funny top ten lists, a large vocabulary is certainly an advantage. However it's just as important to develop a properly focused vocabulary.

A properly focused vocabulary performs two essential functions. First, it ensures that you always speak directly to your carefully chosen target audience, using the specific words and style of speech they normally use themselves. It's very hard to get laughs when you're speaking a foreign language.

Secondly, a properly focused vocabulary guarantees that you use exactly the right words to paint the instant images that funny top ten lists demand. In this form of creative expression, you can only use a limited number of words. Each one must work quickly and effectively to create the desired mental image.

No matter how well you may have mastered the English language, your funny top ten lists will greatly improve if you frequently make use of both a dictionary and thesaurus. You simply won't know whether there is a funnier way to express your thoughts unless you are aware of all the possible options.

Organize your comedy resources.

A great deal of valuable information will come your way while you're performing background research on the various topics of your top ten lists. You will also find a large number of humorous words, sentences and phrases if you pay attention to television, books, magazines, newspapers and the Internet.

Some of this information can be used immediately, but most of it will prove its value in the future. Make sure that you capture all this material, by diligently taking notes; using either a note pad or voice recorder.

The easiest way to keep track of this information is by organizing it into various lists. Some useful list titles might be: "Ideas for Top 10 Lists," "Funny Sentences," and "Humorous Words and Phrases."

In this way, you can quickly build up your own comedy reference library. The big benefit is that you can draw upon this material whenever you're stuck for a word or an idea. Instead of suffering the frustration of frequent writer's blocks, you will be steadily productive. Trust me on this one. There is absolutely no substitute for good organization.

by Don G. Asmus