Friday, September 27, 2019

What Makes You Laugh? #FridayReads

One of the aphorisms we hear most frequently is that humor is subjective. All comedians know this. A comic can kill an audience with laughter on a Thursday night and put another audience into a coma with the exact same jokes on a Friday night. Who can say why?

Great humor allows us to recognize and laugh at ourselves…at our foibles, our prejudices, our unsustainable beliefs, even at our goals and aspirations. But it is difficult to find truly funny works of fiction that can resonate with universal audiences.

I often think of Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, one of my all-time favorite books. Most authors can only dream of achieving the success Amis had with his first novel, which won the 1955 Somerset Maugham Award for Fiction.

I read it in high school, 12 years or so after its 1954 publication. I still have that first U. S. edition and keep it where I can see it just by lifting my head from my keyboard. That simple act makes me smile, because seeing Lucky Jim on the book’s tattered spine always sparks happy memories.

I can still picture my teenage self with the book propped upon my knees as I followed the many misadventures of a socially and professionally awkward probationary lecturer in Medieval History at an unnamed university in the English Midlands. Jim bumbles through one disaster after another, accidentally setting the bedsheets on fire at a party hosted by his department head. Then he gets so drunk trying to work up the courage to deliver his final all-important lecture of the year that he passes out at the lectern, but not before telling his audience exactly what he thinks of the University and its inbred system of butt-kissing and sucking-up. Needless to say, Jim does not get the full-time lecturer’s job, but he gets oh, so much more. The ending is delicious.

I reread Lucky Jim again a couple of years ago and it still makes me laugh. It works because the humor flows naturally from the ineptitude of Jim’s character and none of it feels forced. Even though it’s set in a particular place and time, the all-too-human fears it highlights are universal, so successive generations of readers will continue to enjoy Lucky Jim in much the same way I did when I was 17 and a budding Hippie.

If you want to know why funny writing so appeals to me, I’ll tell you. Humor was both the sword and the shield that helped me make it through my childhood in one relatively whole piece. If I were unguarded enough to let you near anyone who attended school with me—I mean…just pick a grade—you would discover I was the class clown. Sister Agnes Cecile always understood I was the source of the muffled laughter snaking through her otherwise joyless classroom.

I suffered for the “sin” of being funny from an early age, being forced to kneel in a box of sharp gravel until my knees bled while trying to hold my nose within a tiny circle Sister had inscribed upon the blackboard. For five torturous minutes. And if I moved a muscle, five additional minutes were added.

I spent a lot of time kneeling in that sharp gravel. I knew better but like most class clowns, I could never keep my snark to myself. The little zing I got out of making people laugh was my catnip.

While being raised Catholic was surely loads of fun (please mentally insert sarcasm emoji here), it’s not where my sense of humor came from. I just happened to be born into a family of funny people. Our raucous dinner table was a round-robin of one-liners from everyone in the family, and we laughed so much that sometimes our food was cold by the time we remembered to eat it. My Sister Agnes Cecile impersonation was a family favorite, but of course, I never told my parents about the sharp gravel. I just kept telling them I had fallen off my bike and they told their friends I was their clumsy, accident-prone child.

I am sad to admit I don’t laugh nearly as much as once I did because there’s not much to laugh about in our modern world. Having worked as a journalist for three decades, I still find myself glued to the horrifying daily news cycle. And the more I try to get myself unstuck, the more I struggle with the desire to turn on the TV to see if Armageddon has started yet.

If one day I learn that it has, I’m just going to grab my baby blanket and Lucky Jim, and then go curl up in bed and read and laugh until the bright white lights explode.

Patricia B. Smith is a journalist who is the author of 11 published books, including Idiot’s Guide: Flipping Houses, Alzheimer's For Dummies and Sleep Disorders for Dummies.

Pat is also an experienced professional developmental editor who serves as an Editorial Evaluation and Developmental Coordinator for Five Star Publishing. She works with private clients as well and has helped many authors land their first publishing contracts. Many of her clients have achieved notable success, including two winners of the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-me Best Book of the Year Award.

Connect with Pat on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Finding the Funny : Five Proven Ways to Add Humour to Your Story

Unless your day job is stand-up comedy, delivering a punchline on command while you’re writing is almost as tricky as coming up with a perfectly timed repartee at a cocktail party (not three hours later, at home, when you’re trading your heels for a pair of comfy socks).

But, unlike the uselessness of a perfect comment thought up long after the moment has passed, humour can be edited into a story at any point in the process. Here are five ways to find the funny.

Make a Humour Heat Map

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Highlight the humorous passages in your manuscript in a way that suits you best. In a word processor you can use a text highlighting tool, change the font colour, or add a comment or note in the margin, either flagging these pieces as you write or going back to read for them at a later stage. (If you’ve sacrificed a tree, an old fashioned highlighter pen works just as well.)

Once this process is complete, scan through the manuscript and identify the “cold” areas as well as those sections where you might have a concentration of humorous scenes. Now determine whether you can spread the laughs out more evenly by moving certain jokes around or if you need to come up with more funny moments for the bare spots.

Tap Into Your Audience

Who are you writing for? It can help immensely to observe a group of your target demographic experiencing something funny. One of the best ways to do this is to pay attention to the audience reaction in the theatre while watching a comedy stage play or movie. Children love physical and body humour, prat falls, and silliness. Adults might respond better to witty dialogue and subtle innuendo.

Try a Different Medium

Now that you’ve noted what your audience appreciates about humour delivered via a visual medium, give it a go yourself. I recently adapted my latest children’s book as a stage play and came up with a wealth of additional banter in the dialogue and physical slapstick to go with it.

You don’t have to convert your entire book into a play or movie, though – just pull out a few of those “cold” scenes that need warming up and create a two-minute skit. Visualise your actors walking on set or stage. How do they move? Are the characters themselves humorous, or do you have to apply funny situations to uptight stick-in-the-muds? Can you add a character who is witty? Or give an existing character a deadpan delivery of desert-dry humour?

If you’re exceedingly lucky or well-networked, you might have access to a real-life actor or two who can perform your skit for your appraisal. This is particularly helpful when writing for children, because watching (or even imagining) a child delivering the lines will show you where your text is too grown-up and difficult for a young reader to manage successfully.

Take your skit back to your manuscript. Naturally you will need to make some changes to fit it into a traditional narrative, but hopefully you will find that this technique breathes new life into your characters because you have seen them fleshed out.


Another realm of humour can be found in the setting itself. This doesn’t only apply to fantasy and science fiction; even a contemporary story can have an amusing location.

Humour can be added in the names of places, the types (and names) of animals or creatures that inhabit them, and the reactions of people to both. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is, of course, the quintessential use of an exceedingly well-drawn setting as a humorous character in its own right. Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis are also particularly good at evoking amusing impressions of their Map to Everywhere series fantasy world. Here are just a few examples:

Places: Bintheyr; Khaznot Quay; Sellitall District; Nosebleed Heights; West Bublestuck; and Gutterleak Way.

Creatures: plantimals; glowglitters; giraffilisks; pirats.

Food: plummellows; toad butter; trogs’ eggs; pointimelons; prollycrabs.

If you’ve already decided on your setting, mine Google for “funny things that happen in [place name]”. Otherwise, search for “unusual travel destinations” or “weirdest places in the world” and see where your wanderings (and wonderings) take you.

Listen to (Many) Audiobooks

Train yourself in the rhythm of well-timed humour by listening to bestselling books similar to what you wish to write. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it doesn’t help to only read these silently to yourself; the cadence is in the delivery of the line, and this has to be listened to in order to be absorbed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, however, a visual reading will also work if you are able to lip read, and you will have the additional benefit of facial and body language cues.

As Diana pointed out earlier this month, touches of humour add value to any genre. So go ahead and slip an extra banana peel or two into your book.

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the chapter book The Convoluted Key, picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Copping Out, Just a Little

The theme this month is humor. At first, I thought I’d copy and paste a scene from my book Hooked, but when I read it, it really was quite raunchy. Then I read the one and two-star reviews of that book. The readers thought it was too predictable and too sexy. (There are 69 five-star reviews too, by the way.)
Well, yeah, it’s about a gorgeous ex-call girl. The funny character in the book is an oversexed hedge fund manager who owns a bordello. While naked, he’s being tempted by the beautiful call girl―a dream come true―and he spills coffee in his lap and gets a blister on his…well, use your imagination. It’s kind of a slapstick scene, and you either find it funny or you don’t. You see, there’s been a murder, and she’s working for the cops, and he’s just a schnook.

When that turned out to be a dead end for blog post material, I started reading all my one and two-star reviews for the funny ones. There weren’t any. I got depressed and watched a movie. Then I thought, wait, how many are there? 34 one and two-star reviews on 1003 Amazon reviews, and one, one-star review loved the book. That’s not bad, so I wasn’t depressed anymore.

I turned to an old faithful, salty Dorothy Parker.
I wish I had a fraction of her wit, though she said herself, “There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words."

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”
“I hate writing, I love having written.”
“Don't look at me in that tone of voice.”
“Tell him I was too f’n busy-- or vice versa.”
“Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”
“That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say 'No' in any of them.”
“She was pleased to have him come and never sorry to see him go.”
“It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”
“A hangover is the wrath of grapes.”
“I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

There are more, but I’ll end with a bit of my own humorous poetry, though humor is in the eye of the beholder.


When Webster wrote his dictionary,
and Roget wrote his Thesaurus,
they had in mind to educate,
in a way so’s not to bore us.

They wrote on Music, Art and Beauty,
each harder to define,
on Hate and Joy and Motherhood,
on Thou and Bread and Wine.

The definition so hard for me,
and one I can’t defend,
is how they tend to miss the point,
when describing what’s a friend.

The meaning of that simple word,
they wrote more than one way.
but I’ve my own description
to relay without delay.

A friend is tried and true of heart,
a platonic kind of love.
One who takes you as you are,
and who you’d fart in front of.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Laugh or Cry, Your Choice

This post was originally written and posted in September 2019, but in so many ways it is still applicable. This has been such a challenging ten months for so many of us since the first wave of the Corona virus brought us COVID 19, and now we're bracing for the second wave. How do we stay positive and upbeat through all the ways it impacts our lives?

It was easier, I think, to deal with the challenges and limitations back in the spring when we thought they were short term.  We were positive. We were strong. We girded our loins and covered our faces and said we would get through this. We had no idea the pandemic would drag on this long and certainly didn't envision celebrating winter holidays without the usual family gatherings. For many of us, Thanksgiving was a bust, and the Winter Solstice Holidays, Christmas for me, aren't shaping up much better.  

So, what do we do? Like I said back in September 2019, we can laugh or we can cry.

I'll do my best to follow the advice I offered back then.

So, this month is all about humor here at the Blood Red Pencil. For those of us who are struggling with health and other personal issues, finding humor can be difficult on some days. Yet, that is what I spent many years doing while raising my five kids. I used to joke that it was either write the humorous columns for a Dallas Suburban newspaper, or check myself into the mental hospital at Terrill, Texas. Five kids, ranging in age from nine to three; the youngest being a set of twins, could challenge the emotional equilibrium of many a woman. (If not you, just keep it to yourself, thank you very much. :-) )

All through our married life my husband and I used humor as a coping mechanism when things became difficult. Not always, but often, because we realized it was easier, and perhaps better, to laugh than to cry. We enjoyed reading humor columns and books, primarily from Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. While I enjoyed both, I was drawn more to Erma. Probably because I truly believe that we women, especially mothers, have a special connection that draws us together – some female hormonal magnet maybe. 😊

I loved Erma’s columns in the newspapers, and her books; especially If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits. I read that so often, I swear I wore the ink off the words, so you can imagine how thrilled and humbled I was to be sometimes called “the Erma Bombeck of Plano.” And I had to stop wearing ratty shorts to go to the grocery store in case someone recognized me. My mugshot ran with the weekly column, so I could no longer wander through the cereal aisle incognito.

The one time that humor wasn’t our friend was when our middle son, Michael, was in the hospital, with what we later found out was a mild occurrence of Guillain Barre Syndrome. Before the full diagnosis came through, the doctor wanted a psych evaluation to rule out some kind of dissociative disorder. Michael was a junior in high school, under a lot of stress, so it was possible that his brain had just checked out, so to speak, and that’s why his legs were not working. There was some logic to that, so we agreed to the consult.

The psychiatrist walked into Michael’s room and saw the bunny slippers, that had been a gift from his girlfriend, and all of the posters tacked up around his room from his theater friends. And then Michael handed the psychiatrist a cartoon that I'd clipped out of the newspaper. It was a joke about seeing a shrink, and we were hoping it would elicit a chuckle and make the moment less serious for Michael. He was already scared enough, and it was primarily the humor that was keeping him afloat.

The psychiatrist didn’t find any of what he saw amusing. He considered it totally inappropriate that Michael was laughing. That Michael was joking around. That our whole family was joking. And definitely not the cartoon. He immediately started a process to have Michael admitted to the psych ward. Luckily, I intervened before the transfer, and we were able to bring our son home. Unfortunately, once the humor balloon had been popped, he lost much of his coping skills, and his recovery took a bit of a downward turn. (By the way, we later had a different psych doctor evaluate Michael, and he came out just fine. And we still laugh about the uptight psychiatrist who had no sense of humor.)

Many of us have a humor balloon that buoys us up when we are about to go deep into that ocean of despair and depression, and now I cling desperately to mine as I deal with the severe head pain left to me from my bout with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. It’s been difficult for me and my kids to find the humor in some of the health challenges that I have. When we do joke and laugh about Mister Ramsay Hunt, that humor takes a real dark side, and there are things said that cannot be published on a family-friendly blog.

But we do laugh, and laughter is the best medicine.

Like so many other writers I know who are struggling with chronic pain and health issues, it has been difficult for me to work at anything close to my previous productivity these past four years. When I have a bit of reprieve from the severe pain, so I can actually focus, I work on projects that don’t require a lot of brain power, which is why any serious writing has taken such a long time to complete. It took three years to finish my latest novel, Evelyn Evolving, which is the only thing I’ve written in the last four years from beginning to end.

Which is why I decided that I should work on other projects that didn't need that kind of  focus. One of those projects involved taking my humor columns and compiling them into a book, A Dead Tomato Plant and A Paycheck. Since I only had to organize previously written material and write transitions, that could be accomplished in small increments of time, and I had great fun revisiting those crazy days of parenting.

We all face different life challenges and have different coping skills. Do you use humor as a primary coping mechanism? Do you believe that “laughter is the best medicine”?

Posted by Maryann Miller  You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Pageread her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Sense of Humor is a Precious Gift

After a few weeks of patience-testing events, as in "life happens," it was a pleasure last week (here in September) to have a day when I could relax in my lawn chair and watch the neighbor’s half dead tree (a really big tree) get dismantled and dropped by one of those expert tree removal companies. Besides that, I had the arborist from my other favorite tree company stopping by to tell me how to take care of the new trees in our yard to get them ready for winter.

In late April, I had visited a large tree farm and purchased two crabapple trees and a Sensation boxelder. Their guys planted the trees in June, and I had meticulously watered and inspected them according to instructions. They were looking great!

The arborist arrived and I explained about the new trees and what I needed to know for fall and winter care. He looked at the trees and described the trunk wrapping and mulching process. As we were ending the discussion, I pointed to my boxelder and briefly explained our hopes for fast growth and nice spreading for shade at the hottest corner of our house.

The arborist looked around, then back at the tree I’d waved at.

Arborist: “That one? That’s a pear.”

The pear tree



Me: “A pear! Are you kidding me?”

Arborist: “It’s definitely a pear.”

Me: Speechless, standing there with my mouth open, staring at the tree. Yes, I had noticed its shape was a little different than the one I thought I’d selected, but two months had gone by between purchase date and planting date. I blamed my memory. The fact that pear leaves and boxelder leaves do not resemble each other completely sailed over my head without even a second’s pause in my brain.

The arborist gave me advice about calling the tree farm and spoke very highly of their reputation. So as soon as he was gone, I pulled out the copy of my purchase record (to confirm I really had purchased a boxelder) and called the tree farm.

Me: Full explanation of what, where, how, when….and a weak attempt to explain "why" to the tree farm lady on the phone.



Tree farm lady: Could you email us some pictures?

So I went outside with my tablet and took four shots of the tree and emailed them. A little later, the tree farm lady called back and said, “That’s definitely a pear!”

To make a long story a little shorter, the next morning I went back to the tree farm, selected a new boxelder, and the tree farm guys came that afternoon to swap out the trees. I apologized to the pear when I was told its next destination was the chipper, a sad consequence.

I never figured out who was most embarrassed, me or the tree farm folks.

Most of all, having told the story on myself and laughed about the goof several times now, has helped ease my impatience and annoyance at those “life happens” events I mentioned earlier. Getting angry would have made all of it worse instead of better.


That’s why a sense of humor, and being able to laugh at ourselves, is a precious gift. Do you have a favorite story you like to tell on yourself?

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is also now available in a large print edition. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” will appear in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, scheduled to be released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Touches of Humor Relieve Stress in Tense Scenes

Like movie and television dramas, books may make one who is engaged in the story weary. A little bit of humor can provide momentary relief from the tension and perhaps coax a smile from the reader. The excerpt below demonstrates how low-key comic relief can work without digressing from the flow or story line.

     “Why can’t we call the FBI or the police or somebody?”
“And tell them what? We suspect your brother-in-law of being a jerk with a hidden agenda. We believe he sent his former mistress flowers. He spent years beating her, but she won’t own up to that little fact. Do you think they’ll take us seriously when we add we also believe the friend he recommended to us—and who is an excellent employee—is somebody other than who he says he is and has an ulterior motive for being here? Kohler Long and its management, of course, are above reproach. Sounds to me like a bad movie script.”
“We can prove Rance Dillon is not the man’s real name.”
Quin laughed. “I’m not sure that’s a crime unless he’s also not the person whose social security number he gave us.”
“Still, it all adds up to be quite suspicious.” She frowned and sipped her raspberry flavored iced tea.
“Suspicious to us. To somebody else, we could seem to be a collective case of paranoia.”
“Do you think that’s all it is? Paranoia?”
“No, I don’t, but we have few verifiable facts to go on. That fails to make a substantial case.”
Her frustrated sigh said it all. “So, what do we do?”
“The same thing we’ve been doing, only keep a closer eye on Oren. Also, we must find a safe place for Yoshi and Micah.”
“Maybe those teenagers who helped her out would have an idea. I have their phone numbers.”
“The fewer people who know her whereabouts right now, the better. What about her family?”
“Her father may be living. He was in Honolulu the last she knew. He forbade her to marry Oren, and they argued. She hasn’t spoken to him for seven years.”
“Let’s put Markie on the Internet to find him. Yoshi is a kind, well-educated, refined woman. The man who headed up the family she came from must be a gentleman of honor and distinction.”
“You base all that on a casual acquaintance with his daughter?”
“Trust me on this one, Kate…I’m sorry…Katherine.”
“It’s all right, Quin, you can call me Kate. I’m not as touchy about it as I used to be—unless it’s coming out of Oren’s mouth. Besides, you’ve proven yourself to be a faithful and loyal friend.”
“That sounds like you’re describing your dog.”
She tried not to laugh but didn’t totally succeed. “He’s a faithful and loyal friend, too.”
“Thanks a lot…Kate.”
Again, she was serious. “I’ll ask Markie to do a search for Mr. Yamamoto as soon as she gets home from work.” She paused. “He could be dead, you know.”
“Maybe, but maybe not. We need to know.” He paid their bill, and they walked out into the afternoon sun. “If she can find him, I’ll call the man myself. If Yoshi were my daughter, I would want to know what’s going on in her life. I would also want to know my grandson. He’s that kind of a man, too; I can almost guarantee it.”
“She comes from another culture. Their ways may be different.”

Because the above excerpt is only part of the scene, it may not seem to make a lot of sense. However, it is addressing a very dangerous situation. The hint of humor is slight, yet it allows the reader to catch her breath before reading on. Overall, this is a serious story, but some light scenes with humorous touches dot its pages to give the reader a break. Do you use humor in your stories? Can you share an example with us?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thrillers. You can contact her at websites: and

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Humor Isn't Just for Comedies

Source: Bored Panda
I watched a horror movie recently which contained several laugh out loud moments. The movie wasn't satire or parody, but the main character had hilarious lines while navigating traumatic action. Humor released the tension gas pedal just enough without ruining the plot.

If handled properly, humor can be utilized in any genre. Let's explore a few examples.

In a Comedy, the plot thrives on the writer's ability to be funny. They must master plant and pay off. They learn to set up the joke, stretch it, then drive the punch line home or twist it. Rhythm is critical. It can't be one continuous joke or gag. It is important to know how to reign in the humor when needed.

Con, Heist, and Prison Break stories have moments of great tension during attempts to achieve the plot goal. A few funny lines can break up the tension after a near miss or a play gone wrong. The main character or one of the secondary characters can be a smart aleck.

In Fantasy, there is room for funny creatures or snarky magical sidekicks to provide comic relief. Attempts to solve the problem can go hilariously wrong whether they are magical spells that fail or actions that land the characters in a smelly bog.

The Gothic genre is the least suited to humorous intrusions. It is crucial to keep the gloomy, eerie setting intact. However, there is room for a protagonist's muttered comments or interior narration as she navigates her new home and meets the strange inhabitants.

In Horror, as mentioned above, humor can be injected to release built-up tension. Tone matters. If your story is a serious confrontation with evil, humor may not be appropriate. For example, the movie The Exorcist had no room for funny lines. Stephen King is a master of mixing humor with horror.

Historical stories also have room for snarky characters depending on the tone of the story. I recently watched a series called Hell on Wheels about the building of the transcontinental railroad. The main character was a confederate soldier and man of few words. He remained stoic in most situations, but occasionally he'd enter the fray with a refrain of "Well, shit."

In a Literary drama for example, there are people weeping at a funeral, but someone gets the giggles or the orator says something about the deceased that strikes the audience as funny. A character can use humor to deliver a truth no one else wants to acknowledge.

With Mystery it really depends on the subgenre and topic. In an intense police procedural searching for a rapist or serial killer, humor might be out of place. In a cozy murder mystery, the investigator might see the humor in the quirky denizens and vagaries of small town life. The tone in cozies is light and a natural fit for humor.

In Romance, a shared sense of humor can bring the couple closer together. It feels good when someone "gets" you. And a partner who can laugh with you through life's travails is one worth keeping. But the character should never be cruel or make their partner the butt of jokes. That's not funny.

Science Fiction is another genre ripe for a snarky protagonist or side kick, rogue robots, and humorous situations with malfunctioning tech. Again, it comes down to how serious the tone is.

Thriller and Suspense is another iffy category based on tone. One liners to break tension may be appropriate. If the tone is light enough, sarcastic characters or humorous observations may also fit the plot. Characters often banter with their partners and coworkers to lighten the mood while working on intense cases.

Westerns are generally played straight and serious, but not always. In a shootout, the protagonist and antagonist could exchange humorous insults. A gun could misfire or a shooter miss resulting in a funny catastrophe. A pioneer might rely on humor to survive the punishing conditions. The settlers might find moments of humor amid the drudgery.

When critique partners or beta readers run through your manuscript, have them mark places where they laughed. Make sure you wanted them to find that passage funny. If you thought something was funny but it missed the mark, revise it.

Further reading:

What is Tone?

Examples of Tone

Watch That Tone

Injecting Humor

Humor, Satire, and Wit

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Writers Gotta Read, Right? Looking for Laughs

Since we are focusing on the humorous side of things this month at the Blood Red Pencil, it's only right that I provide some light-hearted reading possibilities for your consideration. Let's start with mysteries (because I am all about the mysteries).
Image by Prawny from Pixabay

To building family bonding over belly laughs, you might want to glance through one of the following lists:
Going broader in scope, there's Listopia's every-genre-plus-non-fiction-plus-whatever-else-you-can-think-of list of Best Humorous Books. With 3,805 books listed, there's probably something for everyone.

And finally—because we are writers here, right?—here is a post from The Writing Cooperative: 7 Ways to Become a Master Humor Writer When You Don't Think You Have a Funnybone

So whether you are in the mood for reading or writing,  you now have no excuse! Get laughing!

 Do you have a book you think is a fine example of humorous writing? We'd love to hear about it, just leave your suggestion in a comment below...

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Writing Workshops October to November 2019

Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company.

Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

October 1-13, 2019 Women Writing the West Conference, San Antonio TX.

October 4-7, 2019 INd'Scribe Con and Book Festival, Burbank, California
October 17-20, 2019 GayRomLit Retreat, Portsmouth, Virginia,
October 25-27, 2019 Magna Cum Murder, Columbia Club, Indianapolis, Indiana

October 24-27, 2019 Sirens Conference (Fantasy), Beaver Creek, Colorado

October 25-27, 2019 Surrey International Writer's Conference, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
October 31 - November, 2019, Highlights Idea Generator for Novelists, Milanville, PA

November TBA, 2019 Algonkian Monterey Writer Retreat, CA

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.