Have you ever read a silly story? Wait, let me rephrase that: Have you ever written a silly story? One that’s so completely ridiculous it makes you question your sanity (as if an author’s sanity isn’t questionable anyway)? Has that craziness ever spilled onto several pages? I’m not just talking about those cringe-worthy stories you penned when you were ten and didn’t have the faintest concept of story structure—I’m talking about now, when you have a fully informed literary mind.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably nodding to every one of those questions. Almost every author is guilty of writing silliness. And if you’re like me, you’re also probably wondering: Is it wrong to write silly stories? Is it wasteful to spend time on a stupid plot when there are so many other important subjects to write about? Is it fair to let your other stories suffer while you work on garbage?
The answer to all those questions is no. I was a bit shocked at that answer myself. But not half so shocked as when I discovered that silly stories are actually a good thing to write.
If you continue reading, I hope to show you how to turn that goofiness into gold.
1. Silly Stories Can Break Writer’s Block
Sometimes we writers cram our minds with so much knowledge that we forget how to type a single word. We’re so focused on sounding good that we won’t allow ourselves to write anything bad—and without that bad, we can’t proceed to the good stuff.
This is where silly stories step in. What if arcs didn’t matter and structure was abolished? What if grammar was eradicated? What if there were no rules at all?
Silly stories have no rules. You are the publisher of the story—you set the rules. You can defy gravity, time, and all forms of logic. Do you want to write about a jungle that grows purple bananas? Do you feel the urge to write about a book-eating dinosaur? All those things you can do and more—you’re the only one seeing the story so it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it sounds!
When you’re angry, don’t you feel so much better after you’ve released your feelings, even if only screaming them out to a brick wall? Or if you’re sad, doesn’t a good cry help? Silly stories are a place to vent your writing frustrations, relieving pressure so you can write the important stories later.
Try sitting down and purposely writing something that will break every literary law you know. Don’t worry about a thing—whether you spelled “today” as “toady” or whether a story about a museum filled with mentos has any significant takeaway value or not. The story may not win you an award, but it can get you back to pounding that keyboard. So what if the story’s worthless? Isn’t it better to write six thousand worthless words than none at all?
2. Silly Stories Can Produce Ideas
The first thing that pops into our heads isn’t always a good idea, but sometimes it is. A silly story is sorta like a bulletin board to pin your ideas on—a way to flesh ideas out and see if they work. You never know—maybe that scene where your protagonist is attacked by raspberry sharpshooters can work in your dystopian novel (minus the raspberries, of course). Maybe your silly story can even expand into something great and become a worthy story of its own. Think of Dr. Seuss. What stories are more silly than his?
But what stories are more loved than his?
My boss lady is another less-famous (or lot less famous) example. Six years ago, she wrote a ridiculous story for some friends. The story was only meant to be a joke—with inside jokes of pepperoni plants, Jell-o lakes, and hot sauce lava. A year later, writer’s block forced her to pick up her pen and write an expanded edition of that story. Removing most of the ridiculous elements, she managed to craft a halfway decent story. She edited and revised again and again, and it became the best story she ever wrote, and the idea grew into a four-book series.
Most silly stories are indeed garbage, but just because they’re garbage doesn’t mean you should throw them away. You might find that a lot of your story can be recycled into an epic new story world. Just look at Pinterest and you’ll see how you can turn any junk into a piece of art! Try digging out your outlandish stories from that dusty drawer and ask yourself how to make them meaningful. What are your favorite parts and why? What kookiness should you cut and what should you keep? What kind of emotional upheaval could you add to make it worthwhile? What lesson could you incorporate into the story?
3. Silly Stories Can Sharpen Our Skills
Tossing a bunch of crumpled paper into a tin bucket doesn’t seem like a good exercise, does it? But it gives you good aim, doesn’t it? And hey, that’s something. Likewise, silly stories can help us flex our brain muscles and aim higher.
Your story may be full of typos, plot holes, and head-hopping, but your knowledge is so deeply ground in you that it often shows up in even the silliest of stories. These stories are where you practice your skills. Practice is never meant to be good, since that’s all it is—practice. Throwing a ball fifty times only helps you hit a home run in the big game. What about experienced writers? They’ve already had tons of practice, so why bother? Don’t you know that even the most advanced baseball players are expected to show up for practice every day? Likewise, both amateurs and pros will benefit from writing such stories.
In addition, these stories can help you find your voice. Before my boss started writing that silly story, she had no voice of her own. Her style was a modern copycat of classic authors, which wasn’t bad, except it wasn’t her. When she started writing the silly story, she didn’t care about how fancy her words were or how elegant her descriptions. She wrote the way she wanted to—simple and humorous, and that is how her style was born. Oftentimes, the best way to find your voice is by letting it do what it wants and then worry about perfecting it later.
4. Silly Stories Are Just Plain Fun
Chocolate ain’t healthy. Neither is ice cream. Or Walt Disney World. But trying to stop people from doing those things is impossible. Does that mean it’s wrong? Of course not! In fact, those things are quite good simply because they make you happy. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing something simply for the sake of your own amusement.
Silly stories are like a vacation from your regular writing. They give you a much-needed break from all the hard work and help you enjoy writing for the sake of writing. I don’t call any story a waste if it makes me smile, even if it does nothing more. Maybe your story can even make others laugh. Sure, it didn’t teach them some profound revelation, but if it shed a bright spot on their day, do you call that a waste?
Now, like vacations and ice cream, you don’t want to go around writing silly stories all the time—that would be wasteful. The key is moderation. Knowing when you need to stop writing goofy and start writing serious. Always keep track of how much time you spend on the silly story versus your regular story. Ask yourself how often you write silly stories. Has your silly story been helping in any of the areas I listed? Are you using it as an excuse not to write your other stories?
Taken in moderation, silly stories are the whip cream and cherry of the writing life. Don’t be ashamed of them—hone them to your advantage! I can guarantee* you won’t be sorry, and I bet you’ll be glad you did. So pick up that pen and let it take you on a rollercoaster of ridiculous adventures (because who knows what great discoveries it may lead you to)!
*Disclaimer. This is not a lifetime guarantee. I do not claim that silly stories will benefit you in the hereafter or otherwise. Benefits of writing silly stories are subject to change and vary according to the creativity of the individual. In other words, I’m not liable for what you do with your silly stories, and please don’t sue me.