Sunday, May 27, 2012

On Blowing Up a Whale. Or: Just (close your eyes and) Do It

I blew up a whale in the P-Town Queen. Now, before you call the Humane Society, the animal rights activists and the oceanographic institute, let me add that the whale was dead. The whale was, in fact, rotting away on the beach.  And also, please note that it was a pretend whale. The whale does not exist, never has existed, and never will exist in real life.

 I mention the whale thing not only as a shameless ploy at promotion ( The P-Town Queen comes out June 4! That’s next week! Mark your calendars!), but also to illustrate a point.  Writing comedy requires extreme foolhardiness and a touch of courage.  The foolhardy part is fairly obvious; people in their right minds do not blow up whales. The courage comes into play because no doubt someone somewhere will take offense.  I once wrote that I thought Braille on the drive through ATM was funny and, sure enough, someone accused me of hating blind people.  I was mortified. I do not hate blind people. I think Braille and anything else that helps blind people to function in society is a wholly wonderful thing. But I don’t think blind people ought to drive cars. 

The whale blow up idea came from my friend Sherry.  I had shared a bit of the story with her when it was still a work in progress. I was writing some scenes about a dead whale on the beach. I’d included the dead whale because the main character is an oceanographer and whale beaching is a somewhat regular occurrence on Cape Cod Bay.  Sherry told me about this You Tube video:

As you can see, the whale blow up thing actually happened.  You can’t make this stuff up.  It should be noted that it happened in the 1970s and that it happened in Oregon and not on Cape Cod. It should also be noted that oceanographic groups would more than likely not allow it to happen in this day and age. I ignored today’s standards and moved the blow up through time and space. That’s the beauty of fiction. You can do stuff like that.  I love it that you can do stuff like that.
I debated for days as to whether or not to include the scene. I was afraid of what people would think. In real life, I am not the sort of person who blows up whales.  But this isn’t about real life. This is about telling a story—a funny story. And the video was, in my humble opinion, funny. So funny, in fact, that I had tears rolling down my cheeks the first time I saw it.  And because it was so funny, I knew I had to include it, even if it meant the PETA people would forever ban me.  It took a whole lot of foolhardy and maybe just a drop of courage to include it.  I’m not sorry I did. I’m not sorry at all.


Read all about the whale blow up and more! The P-Town Queen comes to Champagne Books on June 4!


Anonymous said...

Now now. You know radicals have no sense of humor. Green peace will be driving circles around your house screaming in a foghorn and throwing stink bombs in your window. You are in trouble now girl (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2011)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

It is funny. Another thing that writing humor takes is rhythm, and you've got rhythm; you've got rhythm, who could ask for anything more..."

Unknown said...

I might have to change my name and address. Just call me Mary Smith..

Thanks Julie! I've not thought about it, but your right about the rhythm thing. Tap dancing finally pays off!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Every famous comedian was a musician first. Yeah, tap dancing around the issue has done it for you.