Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing to the Punchline: True Grit

I'm reading True Grit now, and it's fantastic.  If you saw both movies and wondered, the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges hit it closer to the mark.

Here's a short excerpt from early in the book.  I share it because it's an example of something I've mentioned before... in all good writing, but especially in humor, write to the punchline.  If you make the last word an essential word, the reader will keep reading right to the end.

*   *   *

"I will inform them myself," said I.  "Who is the best marshal they have?"

The sheriff thought on it for a minute.  He said, "I would have to weigh that proposition.  There is near about two hundred of them.  I reckon William Waters is the best tracker.  He is a half-breed Comanche and it is something to see, watching him cut for sign.  The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn.  He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don't enter into his thinking.  He loves to pull a cork.  Now L.T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive.  He may let one get by now and then but he believes even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake.  Also the court does not pay any fees for dead men.  Quinn is a good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot.  He will not plant evidence or abuse a prisoner.  He is straight as a string.  Yes, I will say Quinn is about the best they have."

I said, "Where can I find this Rooster?"

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