liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Adventures in Obit Writing 101

Breaking radio silence because I...

Okay, I admit it. I can't stop laughing.

So, yesterday we make funeral arrangements. We went with the Italian Tribe's family undertaker, who is pretty much one-stop shopping. He deals with everything, he gives us "the family discount," and we give him money.

(Well, we give him money after inspecting the itemized bill, of course. Bless the People's Republic of Massachusetts, because itemized bills for funerals aren't just good business, but they're also the freakin' law.)

In any case, one of the items that are included in the one-stop shopping is a paid obit for the local paper. Great!

He will write it. Not so great!

As someone who, when visiting the parental units on Sundays, would read the obit page of the local paper for the sheer joy of insanely written obits with massive misspellings, timelines that didn't make sense, and leaps in logic that defied comprehension, there was no way I was going to overburden the clearly already overburdened copy editors at the local paper.

I insisted: I see it first.

Funeral director has no problems with that. Great!

Side note here: Back in the day, when I was a newspaper reporter, myself and every single one of my co-workers had to come up through the obits desk. Every single one of us had to write obits for almost zero pay. Some for months, some for years. I did my time in college by writing obits for a very large metropolitan daily every weekend for three years (this was so I wouldn't have to do it after I graduated college).

The idea here is your basic obit is your basic newspaper story in structure and style. If you can't write an obit, then you need to pack your bags and go find another line of work. It was the proving ground to prove you could do it.

So, back to today.

I get the obit from the funeral director. As I'm reading, I start giggling. Then I'm laughing. Finally, I'm laughing so hard that I can't catch my breath.

I have discovered the source of the local paper's obit insanity.

Turns out, the funeral directors pretty much write the obits and submit them directly into the local newspaper's electronic submission system. Then they go directly into the newspaper.

There is no one reading them. No one copy-editing them. No one even checking that the obit makes a lick of sense (my dad's obit had him becoming a mailman when he was 8 years-old). As for misspellings? Fuhgedaboutit.

Needless to say, I tore the whole thing apart and re-wrote it. I left in the personal stuff the funeral director included (sooooo not okay back in the day, but hey, back in the day you didn't pay for it), but otherwise it was re-written and restructured within an inch of its life.

Guaranteed it will be the best-written obit to hit the local paper in months. Guaran-fucking-teed. And that's just based on the fact that all of the words are spelled correctly.

I think I've hit on the perfect post-retirement job when I retire a few decades from now.

I'm gonna go around to all of the local funeral homes and offer to write all of the obits for $20 a pop. Back in the day, I could pound out four to five obits an hour. Get yourself a steady stream of five to 10 obits a day, that's one to two hours' worth of work a day, and that's $100 to $200 a day.

It's totally a plan.

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