I love this photo by retrogamer4ever and I found it on Flicker!

I’ll admit it.  I’m not the type of person that will laugh at just anything.  In fact, I’m pretty picky about the type of comedy I’ll even try.  I won’t even try if it looks like bathroom humor.  If you’re going to hit me with slapstick, you better have a pretty gifted comedian trying to pull it off.  I think humor in a book is even harder.  There’s no facial expression to hammer a comedic point home.  No physicality.  No timing.

That being said, everyone loves to laugh.  Kids especially.  I’ve been told from editors in small markets and agents working with full-length manuscripts that if you have effective humor, your writing will go right to the top of the reading pile.  But what makes effective humor?  And how do you deliver it in a way that works?

Now, I’m certainly not the queen of comedy here, but I have a few thoughts.  If you have anything to add, please feel free.

  1. Try to come up with a funny concept.  I wrote a short story that’s gotten some positive feedback on the humor.  The concept was that a vampire becomes addicted to diabetics and suffers from a sugar addiction.  I usually get a snicker when I just pitch the idea.  After that, I didn’t need to crack too many jokes in the short story.  The idea itself was ridiculous enough.
  2. Stick your humor in the dialog.  If you have one goofy, clownish character, they could say outrageous things.  Other people’s observations of their outrageousness can also be amusing.  Think of the Weasley Twins in HARRY POTTER.  They do funny things and they say funny things.  And when, on occasion, they get serious, doesn’t it pack one heck of a wallop?
  3. Internal thought is your friend.  I love to write in the first person because you get all of the inner workings as they happen.  And some of the inner workings can be pretty funny.  SPEAK was a great example of this.  Inside her own head, Melinda was pretty darn amusing.  That’s what made the serious nature of the book bearable. Has anyone seen that movie CLUELESS from 1995?  Cher is having some pretty deep internal thoughts when she’s distracted by a cute dress.  Gets me every time.

I think that writing humor is one area where you definitely need a reader–actually a couple.  Writers might be too close to their work to know if it reads well or if it’s realistic.  We are absolutely too close to our own work to know if it’s funny.  And since humor is so subjective, I like to get my (hopefully) funny writing to as many readers as possible and take a consensus of their opinions.

Have you ever tried to write humor?  Do you instill humor into your writing?  What’s your best writing tip for capturing good humor?

Cheers to a good laugh on a Friday!

Ninja Kitty is a photo by ocsen_009 and I found it on Flickr.