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


  1. I might use a scene from one of my books too, but I'll have to decide if it's x-rated before I do.

    1. LOL. The reason I used a scene from my book was simple: I didn't want to violate any copyright laws. Several years ago, I attended a seminar that really hit us on the folly of quoting other authors without written permission, so I'm a bit gun shy about doing that. Otherwise, I'm sure I could have used a better quote from another writer.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook