Teen Tales: Pranks-- the funny and the not-so-funny

Oct 3, 2011

Teen Tales is a weekly feature connecting the YA experience with YA literature.

I'm going to go out on  limb here and guess that I'm not the only one who played pranks on people as a teen.

The best prank I ever played was actually in college, but I did some other silly ones in high school. Usually, these were in connection with school dances. See, where I come from, you can't just ask someone to a dance face to face. You have to be all cutsey about it.

One of my girl friends wanted to ask another friend of ours to Preference, and she came up with a diabolical plan. With his mother's permission, we sneaked into his bedroom while he was at football practice. We had four rolls of toilet paper. He had a small room. It was significantly more awesome than this picture.

Why we thought toilet-papering a guy's room was a hilarious way to ask him out, I'll never know. But it was, at the time. That's the fun about pranks-- while you're doing them, they're the funniest thing in the world.

Unless, of course, you're on the other end of the prank.

For example, my extended family once had a family reunion at a lake. My grandpa had a "water buoy," which was basically a motor on an inner-tube that pumped oxygen down a thin hose and into a scuba mask. It was so much better than snorkeling.

I was enjoying a dive, held under the surface by a weighted belt, when my oxygen suddenly cut off mid-inhale. I barely had any air in my lungs, and I was about fifteen feet under. In absolute panic, I forgot to pull the lever to drop my weighted belt as I struggled toward the surface. Finally, I broke the surface and ripped off my mask.

My cousin floated next to the water buoy, my air hose in her hand. Kinked.

Not. Funny.

Teasing and pranking can have a good place in YA lit. Not only is it something we can all connect to, but it can be a great way to portray characters and their psychology. What does the character find funny? Do the other characters get a kick out of it too, or do they get upset? Why does the character pull a prank on another-- is it just a joke, or is it meant to be cruel or embarrassing? How does a character react to a prank being played on them? Character relationships and psychology can be illustrated brilliantly through a simple prank.

So, my friends, have you ever played a prank on someone? Have you had a prank played on you? Have you ever used it in your writing? Does the word "prank" no longer sound like a word because I've used it so much in this post?


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20 comments:

Cozy in Texas said...

I stopped by your blog today.
Ann

Patty Blount said...

One of my favorite pranks was actually ypretty harmless. We used to call it 'snapping.'

Snapping someone was nothing more sinister than driving by a complete stranger and tooting your horn and waving as you went by. The goal was to get the person to wave back, thinking they know you. It was fun to see the perplexed faces.

Jessie Humphries said...

My dads the prankster actually. It's scarred me for life. Now I can't look at a man with panty hose over his head jumping out at me the same way again!

E.R. King said...

I'm not a big prankster, at least not in the physical sense. I like to tell fibs and see if people believe them. It's fun to gauge people's reactions. The trouble is I'm like the boy who cried wolf. Not many people fall for my deceptions anymore. : )

Ashley Nixon said...

I don't really like pranks...that's cause I don't want them to happen to me! But, my characters are pretty conniving in that they're always torturing one of their friends.

E. Arroyo said...

This can be an awesome filler scene. Thanks!

David Powers King said...

You're not going to believe this. Since I never got pranked, I asked my sister to play a prank on me. This was WAY back. Yep. Bucket of water poured on me when I stepped out the front door. I asked for it, didn't I? :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I'm not the best at pranks, but I have t-peed quite a few houses in my day. The prank with the hose, so not funny. I would have freaked out.

I totally have a character in mind that would pull a prank, and I can picture his co-conspirator.

Meredith said...

Ugh, I would have been SO angry if my cousin did that to me! My WiP is about four girl friends, so there are a lot of pranks. Some of which are really not funny to the victims.

Abby said...

I once had a guy ask me to a dance and he and his friend got that silly string stuff and sprayed it all over my room (amongst other things.) It was fun - I didn't care. BUT the silly string ended up sticking to the white wallpaper and we couldn't get it off! LOL. They felt so bad, but I didn't care much. It just reminded me of the fun of the dance and the fun of that boy.

Ruth Josse said...

I moved to Utah as a teen and asking dates out in extravagant ways was one of those things I had my eyes open to. My husband is a cop and he's had quite a few girls ask him to pull over their prospective dates and scare them a little before the girls come sneaking up to ask them to a dance. Kind of funny.

shelly said...

Prankity-prank-prank-prank.

Caitlin said...

Oh man, I would've been so mad about the air tube! But hehe, love the picture of your toilet papering!

When I used to work at Starbucks, after closing a group of us would hang out on the patio for a few cigarettes before setting off. Our group grew and grew until it was ten to fifteen of us hanging out on the patio after hours. Sometimes people would take off all in one car for Waffle House or a bar. For those who left their cars behind, we'd run across the street to the 24-hour Kroger and pick up massive amounts of saran wrap. Then we'd saran wrap their cars.

Mel Fowler said...

You know pranks are a hard thing. They can be funny and everyone can have a good laugh, but there is a fine line. If you step over it, things can go very wrong.

Sadly the only funny thing I've done is dye the milk green for st. patricks day... it's looked awesome with cereal!

Jolene Perry said...

I'm afraid to pull a prank in a book after reading Looking for Alaska - some GENIUS ones in there.

OK - A few years ago, this really annoying guy worked in my husband's law office. He'd go into his office, turn off the light and just use this little lamp. They all thought it was ridiculous. SO my husband (who wired both our houses) rewired his light switch so the lights were on all the time. The switch no longer worked.
It. Was. Awesome.

he left it like that for three days until the guy BEGGED for someone to "fix" his light.

i'm erin. said...

Holy NUTs! I would've kicked your cousin in the crotch. Seriously. That's terrible.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Yes, I'd say not being able to breathe is a slightly worse prank than cleaning up some toilet paper. And hey! A ready supply right there in his bedroom. I don't think I've had any pranksters in my novels. Maybe that's what my characters need...a good joke...but one with oxygen.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Oh, man. Pranks. Our biggest one I think was when my girl friends and I found out where my guy friends were having a sleepover and we left barricades with those blinking lights on his front porch and all over his driveway. The next morning we woke up at my house and found them on MY front porch! LOL
It was hilarious. :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Toilet papering a guy's room is really hilarious. I can just visualize you doing it.

Lisa Gail Green said...

I had an uncle who could convince anyone of anything. One summer (as a teen) he actually convinced me that I no longer needed a stamp to mail something. *hangs head* Not as scary as no air, but embarrassing nonetheless. :D

 
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