Five Writing Lessons I Learned From “Dumb and Dumber”

Believe it or not, Dumb and Dumber had more to offer than a couple of rad bowl cuts (speaking of which, I hope you caught the excellent “Bowlin'” video featuring Chris Tomlin, Tyler Stanton and Tripp Crosby).

If you can get past the scenes of frozen snot, exploding farts and of course the most annoying sound in the world, there are a few gems hidden in there, things that every writer needs to pick up on. 17 years later, here is what I remember:

1) Always keep your reader guessing. Lloyd trades in their awesome doggy-mobile for a moped. He pulls up beside Harry, who is walking along a deserted highway. Harry sees the moped, and you’re waiting for him to go off on Lloyd. But they kept me guessing:

“Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!”

2) 3rd Person Omniscient can be a fun point-of-view to write from because your reader knows more than your characters, and you can use this to your advantage. For example, when a thug sneaks into Harry and Lloyd’s apartment and cuts off the head of their parakeet, we know it’s a reference to the horse’s head in The Godfather…but Lloyd sees it as just another piece of bad luck:

“We got no food, no jobs… our PETS’ HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”

3) As I mentioned in Five Writing Lessons I Learned From Napoleon Dynamite, creative dialogue can help your reader learn more about your characters, as well as inject some humor:

“Yeah I called her up. She gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her, or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention.”

4) Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life (via Anne Lamott). And this exchange in Dumb and Dumber proves it:

Lloyd: You’re it.
Harry: You’re it.
Lloyd: You’re it, quitsies!
Harry: Anti-quitsies, you’re it, quitsies, no anti-quitsies, no startsies!
Lloyd: You can’t do that!
Harry: Can too!
Lloyd: Cannot, stamp it!
Harry: Can too, double stamp it, no erasies!
Lloyd: Cannot, triple stamp, no erasies, Touch blue make it true.
Harry: No, you can’t do that… you can’t triple stamp a double stamp, you can’t triple stamp a double stamp! Lloyd!
Lloyd: [hands over ears] LA LA LA LA LA LA!

5) Sometimes, if you’re story is going no where, try flipping it on its head. Like this awesome trailer, where Dumb and Dumber becomes Inception:

What were your favorite scenes from Dumb and Dumber?

15 Replies to “Five Writing Lessons I Learned From “Dumb and Dumber””

  1. Ohmyawesome! This post is so full of win! Gripes!

    Favorite scene is a tie between lighting the fart on fire and the line “What do you think the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me, ending up together? … So you’re saying there’s a chance!”

  2. The scene you mention in point 2 is pretty funny along with the kid who gets the bird and says “Pretty bird, pretty bird.” The dumbest movie that I love, probably.

  3. Love Dumb and Dumber! Favorite quotes:
    “Samsonite! I was way off!”

    “If I know Mary, she will invite us in for tea and scrumpetts!”

    And the one that Lloyd says to the old lady in the motorized wheelchair about what they say about old people.

    Oh wait one more.: “Big Gulp, huh? Well, see ya later!”

  4. I think the best scene is when their in the diner and lloyd makes the flow joke and both of them start laughing, lloyds laugh is funny but harrys laugh is hilarious!, it gets me everytime

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