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Sunday, April 13, 2014

J - Joking around

I really do want my writing to have humor in it, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. Does that mean I'm not a funny person?

I sure hope not :)
I have known to make people laugh, but it's a lot harder to write humor into books than to be humorous out loud. Or at least it is for me. Sometimes I try to make my characters be funny, but then I feel like all the other characters look at him/her and thing "What is wrong with you?"

So how in the world do I allow a character to joke around, tease, make jokes, or be sarcastic?
Well, I'm not entirely sure, but I have some ideas

1 - find a funny person and watch them - closely
2 - if reading it aloud doesn't make me chuckle, or at least smile, then I missed the spot
3 - time to move on from just smirking, grinning broadly, and adding a lilt to the voice. Clearly there are better methods
4 - read, read, read humorous books.

I'm not saying I want to write a humor book, but I'd like my characters to not always be so very serious!

So we have established that I am not the funniest writer ever. But I want to try and joke around in my books a bit!

What is your advice? How to I write better humor into a novel?


  1. This is a fantastic topic. Humor is tough to pull off. I think putting serious people in awkward situations is potentially funny. Also, the setting can infuse humor into an otherwise average scene. Say, a couple having a fight at home is normal, but take that fight and place it on an escalator at the mall, and you have the potential for some fun. Humor can also add an emotional punch. If that couple's fight was funny, but ends with their break-up, that break-up is such an emotional 180 that feels heavier.

    Great blog! Good luck on the A to Z Challenge.

    JC Gatlin, Mystery Author

  2. Watch Everybody Loves Raymond. Humor abounds there. I just found out yesterday that my oldest son is taking a summer class at the University of Utah on Humor. Really. It's not just how to tell jokes, but the history behind humor and the human need to laugh, or something like that. After his taking years of engineering classes, this boy needs a class that lighthearted.

  3. In order to find the heart of funny in your story, I'd start by drawing your characters as stick figures and making little comics out of the scenes, or write a speech bubble and have a character say something about another character. I've done this since I was a kid, and for some reason it really brings out the kookiness in what you're writing. If you find something really funny, consider giving that line to someone in your story. I absolutely adore self-aware humor--not quite breaking the fourth wall--where characters observe the ridiculousness of their own situations.

    In a more technical aspect, google "types of humor" and you get a break-down of what humor actually is, and why it gets the reaction it does. Understanding what kind of humor your character uses can create a lot of depth. I have some characters that are witty, but they're sarcastic and dry. Other characters are self-deprecating, while others are just plain goofy. I stick to each of their humor-styles to create character consistency and contrast.

    When writing dialogue that's meant to be humorous, I always write it out by hand. Writing longhand activates the part of your brain connected to memory more than using the keyboard does, and humor is actually all about making unexpected connections between things, which requires you to use that part of your brain. Pretty cool.

    I don't worry about whether or not my own writing makes me laugh (or cry). I'm too close to it. It's like trying to tickle yourself. I wouldn't give up on a scene just because I didn't react to it myself. I'd rather test it on other people and see how they respond.

    My last bit of advice is to learn to create inside jokes with your reader. For instance, in order to love the Avengers, people have to have at least a layman's knowledge of who all the characters are, hence each character getting their own film, and then in the Avengers, everything seems funnier because the audience is in on the jokes. Lines like "I'm always angry" in Avengers, or Loki impersonating Captain America in Thor 2, none of that would be funny without setup earlier, and it's not funny to anyone who doesn't follow the franchise. Logan's line about "yellow spandex" in the first X-men movie made people crack up--if they were familiar with the comics and cartoons. Inside jokes make people laugh even harder than a lot of regular ones because it makes people feel special and a little prideful. They feel like they're in the club, so they're responding to a lot more than the humor. They're responding emotionally, nostalgically, even.

    Now let's see if my book is actually funny, kay?

  4. I'm going to go out on a limb and hope you won't mind my offering a link to my website, wherein I discuss some humor writing tips. My system, which I've called SQUID, is aimed at making it easier for writers to remember the tricks to easily adding a little humor. But, at the bottom of the page you'll find links to other blogs and individuals who can help you take humor beyond the basics. Hopefully it'll be helpful!

  5. For me, when writing, people are not funny - the situation is funny. Life is funny. Something that would make your head and chuckle in life, that is the humor I like. I am not a funny person, but everyone that has read stuff always gets one LOL moment - usually saying "yep, I know that happens". If you really would like to get some humor in your writing, take something you found funny and write about it. For me, sitting at a Walmart waiting, I saw a young child being asked to use his "inside voice" and a thought popped in my head - this is a REALLY BIG inside - and I wrote a flash on that ( I think the hardest part of humor is if you are trying to write humor to match someone ELSE'S, not your humor. Good luck - Erin Penn (a-to-z participant;

  6. Written humor is difficult. So much of humor is through facial expression and tone of voice, both of which are difficult to communicate in writing.

    AJ's AtoZ wHooligan
    Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

  7. You guys are all wonderful!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me :) I'll put it to good use!


Thank you for your comments!