|Photo from the archive of American Television|
While I do have a sense of humor, I don't/can't write comedy. Sure, my characters joke around a bit, and I hope my readers get a smile or two, but to bill my books as humorous fiction would end up in more 1 star reviews than [insert metaphor here.]
Writing humor is one of the places where using metaphors, clichés, and the like becomes an asset rather than a liability. Comparisons can work to your advantage. I saw this quote the other day: "Game of Thrones is a lot like Twitter. There are 140 characters and terrible things are always happening." Even though I've never watched Game of Thrones (and, as an aside, at this point I wish I did get HBO, because my daughter was an extra in one of the episodes this season), I 'get' the humor.
Insider jokes can work to a degree. Movie examples: The scene in the Indiana Jones movie where Indy reaches for his whip, but it’s not there, so he just shoots the guy. If you hadn’t seen the setup in the other movie, it wouldn’t have been funny. Or in Mr. Baseball, where Tom Selleck is confronted with a platter of sushi and decides that the little mound of green stuff is the safest way to begin. Sushi wasn’t so popular when that movie first came out, and you could tell who in the audience was ‘in’ on the setup by the pre-reaction gasps.
But writing humor is hard. When we watch a comedian, we have the voice inflection, body language, facial expressions, and timing to help sell the schtick. When the robber says to Jack Benny, "Your money or your life" and he tilts his head, lifts his hands, and waits for several long seconds before saying, "I'm thinking," the humor is front and center. Writing denies us that luxury.
Janet Evanovich, well-known for her humorous Stephanie Plum series, said, “I refuse to be politically correct.” … "We can use humor to say things that may be too painful to say any other way.” And, speaking of Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series: I handed my husband one of her books and said, "You might like this." Which led to us having to invoke the "No reading Janet Evanovich in bed" rule, because bursting out laughing kept waking the other of us.
And, although my husband and I both found Evanovich funny, our basic ideas of humor are quite different. He orders slapstick comedies from Netflix, watches reruns of the Three Stooges, and doesn't see anything funny in a romantic comedy. I'll try to explain why I've laughed so hard I'm crying at something I've watched on television, and he looks at me in total confusion. And, frankly, I doubt he'd have though it was funny even if he'd seen it himself.
Comedy uses surprise. Who didn't laugh when Grandma Mazur shot the chicken on the dining room table? Or when the character in the beauty salon says, "I have a gun," and six old ladies under hair driers pull weapons from their purses?
But no matter what, whether your humor works or it doesn't, the story has to work.
What books have you read that you've found funny? Which ones were billed as funny, but you didn't see the humor?
|Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.|