“Tom Swiftly” and Puns: The Bad and the Lame

WritersBlockI completed the second draft of “Tom Swiftly and His Incredible Traffic Model”. It is an improvement, but there is a problem I haven’t decided how to deal with yet.

I’m not sure if Tom Swiftlys are considered puns or not, but I would lump the two together. They are both words at play. As it stands, most lines of the story are either a Tom Swiftly or a pun. Maybe that is a bit of over kill.

The problem I have is that in order to have the story follow a plot, I needed to create some new Tom Swiftlys. I was fortunate in that I was able to find a fair number of pre-existing Tom Swiftlys I could repurpose. However, many of the ones I created were not of the same quality.

Now, bad Tom Swiftlys and bad puns are often what you want. They both provoke the groans that the punster desires. While some of my Tom Swiftlys are bad, many might be better described as lame. I fear that they cannot elicit the groan I aim for. I don’t want readers to think “that’s awful” and really mean it.

The dilemma for me is what I do about them.

  • I could simply remove the Tom Swiftly and leave the sentence as a straight line to move the story forward. My goal with this story was be to have every sentence be a Tom Swiftly or a pun. I am reluctant to lose too many Tom Swiftlys, even if they are lame.
  • I could just leave them as they are, publish and hope that the readers will accept the occasional clunker. While this keeps up my Tom Swiftly count, I worry that too many clunkers will disappoint readers and drive them away.
  • I could take my time to develop bad Tom Swiftlys to replace the lame ones. When I did the second draft, I was able to eliminate replace some of the lame Tom Swiftlys with bad Tom Swiftlys. This would be the best option, but would may take a long time and many rewrites before I can publish.

I am not sure how reliable my judgement is when I decide if a Tom Swiftly is bad or lame. Maybe the ones I worry about will work, and the ones I think are bad are really lame.

What I lean toward now is to publish and have readers tell me which are bad and which are lame. Since it is all on-line, I can always do a release 1.1 or 1.2 to address the lameness problem.

I should end this post with a bad Tom Swiftly, but I wasn’t able to come up with one.

Note: I wasn’t sure the proper way to pluralize Tom Swiftly. In the end I decided to use Tom Swiftlys rather than Tom Swiftlies. Maybe someone who knows for sure can give me some advice.

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