True as this is of writing in general, it seems to me particularly true of writing the monologue, for the monologue is one of those precise forms of the art of writing that may best be compared to the miniature, where every stroke must be true and unhesitating and where all combine unerringly to form the composite whole.
In preparing monologue material the writer usually is working in the sounds of spoken—and mis-spoken—words, and the humor that lies in the twisting of ideas into surprising conclusions. He seldom deliberately searches for a theme—more often some laugh-provoking incident or sentence gives him an idea and he builds it into a monologue with its subject for the theme.
1. Themes to Avoid
Anything at all in the whole range of subjects with which life abounds will lend itself for a monologue theme—provided the writer can without straining twist it to the angle of humor; but propriety demands that nothing blatantly suggestive shall be treated, and common sense dictates that no theme of merely local interest shall be used, when the purpose of the monologue is to entertain the whole country. Of course if a monologue is designed to entertain merely a certain class or the residents of a certain city or section only, the very theme—for instance, some purely local happening or trade interest—that you would avoid using in a monologue planned for national use, would be the happiest theme that could be chosen. But, as the ambitious monologue writer does not wish to confine himself to a local or a sectional subject and market, let us consider here only themes that have universal appeal.
II. A FEW THEMES OF UNIVERSAL INTEREST
Politics Woman Suffrage Love Drink Marriage Baseball Woman’s Dress Money
While there are many more themes that can be twisted to universal interest—and anyone could multiply the number given—these few are used in whole or in part in nearly every successful monologue now being presented. And, they offer to the new writer the surest ground to build a new monologue. That they have all been done before is no reason why they should not be done again: the new author has only to do them better—and a little different. It is all a matter of fresh vision. What is there in any art that is really new—but treatment?
Do not make the fatal mistake of supposing that these few themes are the only themes possessing universal interest. Anything in the whole wide world may be the subject for a monologue, when transmuted by the magic of common sense and uncommon ability into universal fun.
III. HOW TO BEGIN TO WRITE
As a monologue is a collection of carefully selected and smoothly blended points or gags, with a suitable introduction to the routine —each point and gag being a complete, separate entity, and the introduction being as truly distinct—the monologue writer, unlike the playlet writer, may begin to write anywhere. He may even write the last point or gag used in the routine before he writes the first. Or he may write the twelfth point before he writes either the first one or the last one. But usually, he writes his introduction first.