photo by Kabilan Subramanian
To hang a lantern (or “hang a lamp”) is to call attention to an inconsistency in the story by having a character notice the inconsistency. It’s the writer’s way of telling the reader “I did this on purpose; it’s not a mistake.”
Kramer bursting through Jerry’s door. Garfield kicking Odie off the table. Michael Scott turning an innocent statement into an innuendo by adding “that’s what she said!”
What do all these things have in common?
They are all arsidities!
What the heck is an arsidity?
There’s a scene in the Great Muppet Caper, in which Lady Holiday explains to Miss Piggy the backstory for the entire movie.
Miss Piggy: Why are you telling me all this?
Lady Holiday: It’s plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.
There are dozens of rules in writing – ones you should follow and ones you should break – but there are three basic tenets at the core of good fiction that you ought to know. I’ll expand on the Three Laws as we go along. For now, here’s an overview: