There’s a Mike Birbiglia joke about how some quotes attributed to famous people are really just sayings that predated that person but they were the one who everyone remembered saying it (funny in his original version). It’s hard not to think of that when reading this piece of advice from ace science-fiction writer and editor Frederik Pohl:
Students of playwriting at the University of Texas (so one of them told me long ago, leaving an indelible impression on my mind) used to be told that there were only three reasons for including any given line in a play: To show character; to advance the action; or to get a laugh…
Clearly that advice was around before Pohl, and likely before whichever teacher delivered it to those students. But it’s grand wisdom nonetheless and if you have ever read any of Pohl’s witty, page-turning science fiction, you know that he followed the lesson to a tee.
So for the sake of convenience and giving a somewhat overlooked writer his due, let’s credit Pohl with this one.