Don’t discount corny

Currently reading: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas (but that one’s not published yet) If it helps, I just finished reading My One and Only by Kristan Higgins and it was AWESOME. (Contemporary romance.)

So the other night, I went for coffee with a woman who coached 3-year-old soccer last fall. We met up to talk about writing, because she wants to be a writer. Since I can talk about books and writing until I’m blue in the face, I was happy to go. And I had an awesome time.

She’s a high school English teacher, and she was telling me about a project where her students needed to write a short book for grade school kids. Like first graders. She told me about one boy who wrote a story about a kid who was bullied, so he went and learned Tai Kwon Do, and then he was able to come back and kick the bully’s ass.

She explained to the student (and I’m paraphrasing here) that they couldn’t give a first grader a story like that, because the parents would be on the phone in a heartbeat. So she had him rewrite it, where the bullied kid learned Tai Kwon Do, and he went with the intention of beating up the bully, but instead, they become friends.

And then she kind of rolled her eyes and said, “You know, corny ending…”

But I said, “No! That’s great! Don’t discount corny!”

Yes, it’s cliched. Yes, it’s been done a million times. But if you can pull of corny, there’s something deeply satisfying about it. When something is corny, we’re really just calling it corny because we don’t want to acknowledge that it’s really something kinda moving. Right? If your husband comes home and starts smooching all over you and telling you how much he loves you, you’ll push him away and giggle and tell him to stop being so corny. (Or silly. Or whatever.)

But really you love it. Come on. Don’t lie.

I just read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and there’s a character named Tiny. He’s almost flamboyantly gay, but you can’t help but love him. Every time he says something wise, you expect it to sound over-the-top and not take him seriously, but because he takes himself seriously and doesn’t back away from sounding corny, it just plain works. (Fantastic book, by the way.)

We’re always looking for ways to be new and different. No one wants to seem cliched. I get it.

But don’t discount corny.

I mean, look at this. The whole movie is really crap, but who wouldn’t love this moment? Even if they won’t admit it?

7 thoughts on “Don’t discount corny

  1. Well, yes, but you have to take the intended audience into account, and the English teacher should’ve explained that to the high school boy. What’s corny to an adult or a teen may not be corny to a 6-year-old. It may just be a happy ending.

    I had my creative writing class (mostly 8th graders) practice switching audiences with explaining why their room was dirty. They had to write three explanations: one to Sherlock Holmes, one to a group of Disney Princess wannabes, and one to a vampire. They really got into it, and their work showed that they grasped the concept on a basic level. (They all liked doing the little girl one best; most of them tried to convince the girls to clean the room for them and find the magic item of some sort. Funny.)

  2. I think that’s an interesting way of looking at what’s corny and what’s not. IMO, a lot of corny stuff is cliched and overtired, you know? All the moving stuff I actually acknowledge as moving. But I guess it varies from person to person. 🙂

  3. I was wondering the same thing Tom was. Maybe the guy in the audience with the hot pink tight pants was *tad* more flamboyant?

    And I think you said it perfectly … about “owning” it, whatever “it” may be: corny, cheesy, melodramatic, etc. If the author believes it and the characters believe it, the readers are a lot more likely to believe it.

  4. I secretly love that movie…and She’s All That and Sweet Home Alabama. All have sweet, corny endings. And yet, I re-watch them every time.

    Oh yeah…and The Proposal. Love that one too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *