Writing a cartoon caption or even a catchy introduction requires thinking that is truly outside the box. The following information is designed to get the creative process flowing.
How you approach the task helps to stimulate the thinking process. Before even beginning to create a caption, keep these in mind.
- The more practice, the better. Quality comes with practice. For each caption considered, write at least ten more. Push yourself. Come back later and write five more. If you can write twenty, make it twenty-five. Sometimes the last line is the best.
- Find a humor partner. Discuss several ideas about the cartoon, then write your own lines individually. Compare notes. By combining and improving on each others material, you fuel creativity for better writing.
- Write captions that aren’t funny. This is a basic principle of brainstorming. Early in the creative process, don’t censor. Let the ideas flow and record them all. Finally, twist them around into something better in the editing process.
- Write down several captions. Study the placement of the punchwords, the words that drive the joke. They should normally be at the end of the punchline. Eliminate excess words. Look for colorful and funny words. And then rewrite again.
- Be patient. At first glance, when you look at a cartoon, you may not have a single idea for a caption. Don’t worry, ideas will come. Study the cartoon. Let it develop on its own.
- It’s about connections. One of the basic humor writing skills for any situation is to look for a link to something else. Humor is often about connecting two things that were previously unrelated.
Now that you have the correct mindset, what techniques can help get ideas flowing? Look at the cartoon or topic and see it from different angles. What is really going on? Is there a line in there somewhere that can be tweaked differently? What is a theme that might not be so obvious? This is a time for coloring outside the lines.
- What is the most obvious thing happening? Is it funny just by itself? What makes it funny?
- Can you now twist that a bit. Take the opposite viewpoint. Is it funny? Can it be tweaked somewhat?
- What is NOT obvious? Sometimes an implied thought is evident because of the action. Is that funny? Can it be reversed?
- Are there any obvious questions? What if this happened? What if that happened?
- What is missing from the cartoon? Again, color outside the lines. Approach the events from a different angle.
- What could have happened or might happen next? Look for humor in follow-up events. Can something go wrong? Can something go right?
- What could happen in an insignificant detail? Is there a secondary happening in the cartoon? Is the background funny?
With these questions in mind, look for opportunities to hone your skill. Cartoon caption contests, introduction speeches, and article writing are all types of documents that could be improved with judicious use of captions.
- Enter contests frequently. Or, challenge yourself without a contest. Find an existing cartoon and hide the caption while you try to write your own. You will find many in magazines and newspapers everywhere. Then compare your lines with the published caption.
- Customize a caption for a specific group. How can you relate the details of the cartoon to specific things about a work group, a civic club or association, or any other public entity? Use buzz words, activities, habits and names of people to make your point.
- Put it away for a while. After drafting several lines, do something else for a day or so. When you review them, you will discover a fresh perspective. The brain has been working even when you were off doing something else.
- The improvement cycle. Practice makes perfect. Fair becomes good. Good becomes excellent. Excellent becomes outstanding.
Challenge yourself to practice writing cartoon captions. Not necessarily to become a caption writer, but do it to exercise your creativity and sharpen your ability to see and create humor in all areas of your life. Once you get started, it will be come kind of addictive. It is also a good conversation starter and exhibits a rounded personality.