Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing with Humor: Tickle that Funny Bone!

Laura Barnes has interviewed me for a post about my experiences with social networking. The post appeared on Saturday, and can be found HERE. I've been given a nifty Savvy Sensation Award, along with it. Thanks, Laura!

Humor is a great thing to have in a novel. It can lighten an otherwise overly dreary book, brighten a dark one (like, morbid humor, anyone?) or add slapstick to a zany plotline.

But writing it is often harder than it seems it should be. Humor is SO subjective. What tickles one person's funny bones leaves another one scratching his or her head. My funny bone is rather easy to stimulate when I'm reading. I'm easily amused, even by something as subtle as phrasing or wording.

As far as writing goes, I remember one contemporary novel I finished, thinking I had included humorous situations in there. My hubbs read it and said, "Hey, I know what you could do to improve this story--add some humor into it." *headsmack* Other readers had found parts of it amusing; it was a more subtle kind of humor I guess. Just goes to show--subjective, subjective, subjective! LOL

1. Slapstick-like humor in the MG novel SAVVY by Ingrid Law:

Lill chose that moment to try to turn on the television, wanting to check the weather. We all turned to her with a sudden shout of "DON'T!" that nearly made that poor woman sprout wings and fly. Fish stood up so fast he knocked his plate of waffles facedown onto the floor. (page 235, paperback edition)

2. Weasley-type humor in HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS:

"When I get married," said Fred, tugging at the collar of his own robes, "I won't be bothering with any of this nonsense. You can all wear what you like, and I'll put a full Body-Bind Curse on Mum until it's over." (page 138, hardback edition)

3. Down-home humor in the MG series HANK THE COWDOG by John Erickson:

[Hank's talking about another dog who's sleeping in his spot]
He didn't want to move so I went to sterner measures, put some fangs on him. That moved him out, and he didn't show no signs of lameness either. I have an idea that where Drover is lamest is between his ears. (page 4, book #1 in the series)

Humor Contest: an experiment
At the beginning of this month ex-agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford held a 350-word humor contest. Seriously, if you have time, read through some of these entries. Some I thought not funny at all, others hilarious. Probably the ones YOU will think are funny will be completely different from the ones I did! Very interesting.

The contest entries--all 242--HERE.
People voted for their faves of the 3 Finalists HERE
The Winner HERE.

Do you have a short humorous excerpt to share from a novel or your own work?
Do you use humor in your own writings--or do you avoid it since it's so subjective?
When reading, do you find that the more you know about a novel's situation or characters, the funnier you find certain scenes?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TAG--I'm It

Yes, it's true. I've been Tagged, this time by Misha. Visit her cute li'l blog HERE.
I will answer the new Tag questions now.

1. Are you a rutabaga?
LOL. Seriously, this is a question? Of course I'm a rutabaga.

2. Who is your current crush?
Not really a "crush" but I'm really enamored by this song by Adele called "Rolling in the Deep." She has a great voice and the song is way catchy. Cool video, too--in one part there's a whole room filled with water glasses, and when the drum beats, the water ripples and shakes. The linky is HERE.

3. Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile.
Ain't this just adorable? So tiny! I want one.

[NOTE: photo removed after Roni Loren's summer of 2012 blogpost about using copyrighted photos on blogs!]

4. When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato?
Yesterday! My mom has a small garden, and she shares her overflow of gardeny abundance. Yummers! I get cute little cukes and sweet little zucchs too.

5. Name one habit that causes other people to plot your demise?
Spontaneously erupting into R2D2-like noises when the mood strikes. It makes some people with a low tolerance for goofy (ahem, my mom) to feel inspired to tell me to stop.

6. What is the weirdest, most-disgusting job you've ever had to do?
Um, probably rinsing cloth diapers in the toilet when my daughters were babies. Followed in a close tie by cleaning up after my girls when they were sick/hurling and didn't get out of bed in time. Ah, fond motherly memories. Let's go back and do it again…

The most disgusting job my grandmother had to do was clean up after my sister and me one time after we'd filled the sink with dirty dishes and left it there for a week. This happened in a little house on her property that we used for a play house (it doubled as a place to butcher chickens). Poor Grandma had to reach into that sink of disgusting water and pull the plug--talk about slimy hurking GROSSITY. There was even a slug or 2 oozing around in the sink. One of the few (perhaps only) times I remember my grandmother being peeved at us. Oops, heh-heh.

7. Where da muffin top at?
I like Misha's answer and will plagiarize/share it: If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

8. What author introduced you to your genre?
After I read SKINNED by Robin Wasserman I was interested in giving science fiction a whirl. I remembered an old story idea of mine from the 1990s, which became SHAPERS, my agented novel. My novel is light sci-fi, not full-blown sci-fi. I like that kind better; it's more along the lines of what SKINNED is (light sci-fi). SKINNED is the story of a girl whose body dies in a car crash. Her brain waves get put into a very lifelike "mech" body, a robot of sorts, where issues of humanness and identity arise.

9. Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.
EGO diligo scribo, quod EGO sum an artifex. EGO quoque utor lectio.

Translated, this means: I love to write, and I am an artist. I also enjoy reading.
No, I don't know Latin--I morphed those words into Latin via a translation site!

Have you heard Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" song?
Have you read SKINNED by Robin Wasserman?
Are you a rutabaga, and where did you hide da muffin top?
What author or book inspired you to delve into YOUR genre, or writing in general?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


[ah-nuh-maw-tuh-pee-uh. Say that fast, ten times. I dare ya.]

Even if you don't know the term, you've probably seen it in action. (Yes, I had to use Spell Check to spell it, though I did have only one letter incorrect.) Onomatopoeia is a word that evokes a SOUND, and is spelled like it sounds. These words are incredibly fun to use.

Whoosh, crash, tinkle, boom, swish, thump, clink, cuckoo, sizzle, woof.

1. Found in nursery rhymes and picture books. "Baa-baa Black Sheep," anyone?
2. Used for great effect in poems. Like the line in Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem "Come Down, O Maid": …the murmuring of innumerable bees.
3. Evokes certain moods for the reader, whether comical, tense, or easygoing.
4. Adds "audible" interest to otherwise ordinary passages in novels.

1. Your own brain: make it up. Be creative!
2. Visit the site Examples of Onomatopoeia for sound ideas if you're stuck. You can click on a letter of the alphabet and get lists of common onomatopoeic words.
3. Another good resource is Angela Ackerman's The Bookshelf Muse blogsite. She has lists of sounds under her Setting Thesaurus, for a wide variety of settings. Check out those and other great lists on her right sidebar.

Making Up Your Own
In the title of this post, I invented an onomatopoeic word: bloosh. It's spelled like it sounds. I am delighted when authors go beyond stock sound words and make up their own. It makes me smile to find them, such as in the novel I read this last week, ENTWINED by Heather Dixon. I ran across the following inventive sound words or combinations:

1. oosh eesh oosh eesh: sound of the MC's boots after falling into a river, while walking
2. thumpfwhap: someone throwing someone else against a wall in anger
3. stomp-click-stomps: sounds of the twelve princesses dancing in boots
4. psss psss psss: whispered conversation of the princesses at the dinner table
5. FFFFputputputput! --the multiple shooting of tiny cupid arrows

CAUTION: Tone and Mood
Onomatopoeic words don't always have to be silly-sounding words; Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem is a case in point. But they DO often add a playful, comical tone to a passage of writing. So beware--you wouldn't want to use a word like "bloosh" in a serious or dramatic scene unless you are trying to diffuse some tension or lighten the mood. Always consider the overall intent of a scene.

What's your favorite onomatopoeic/sound word?
Do you consciously use onomatopoeia in your writings?
Have you ever made up onomatopoeic words in your writing?
Have you visited The Bookshelf Muse and made use of Angela's helpful lists?
Have you read Heather Dixon's ENTWINED yet?


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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dialogue: Showing Character

Thanks to Alexia Chamberlynn who gave me the Liebster Blog award on Sunday.
What a cute award! Click her name to visit her site and see what's going on with her.

Have you ever thought about the many varied ways people can say things? You can use these different responses to show your character's personality in your dialogue scenes. They are a great way to Show rather than Tell about your character.

For instance, think about the many ways a character could word his or her reaction to something negative, as well as to something positive:

Opposing or Negative Reactions
1. No way!
2. I can't believe you just said that.
3. Uh…I don't think so.
4. Yeah, right.
5. Gimme a break.
6. Are you kidding?
7. You've gotta be kidding.
8. You're pulling my leg.
9. Like, I'm sure.
10. That's crazy.
11. Forget it.
12. Nah.
13. Nope.
14. Ditch that.
15. That's the stupidest thing I ever heard.
16. [expletive] that!
17. No [expletive]!
18. Put a lid on it.
19. What've you been smokin'?
20. Oh yeah?

Affirmative or Positive Reactions
1. All right!
2. Right on!
3. Cool.
4. Awesome.
5. That's great!
6. That's freaking fantastic!
7. Shiny. (as in the TV series Firefly--or make up your own slang)
8. That's the best news I've had all day!
9. I'm sooo excited!
10. Omigosh/Oh my god/OMG/Oh my gosh.
11. No way! (notice how this can be positive or negative; context is key)
12. Woohoo!
13. Yep.
14. Yeah!
15. Yay!
16. YES!!
17. Hip-hip-hooray!
18. That's so wonderful.
19. Whee!
20. Far out.

All these reactions have slightly different nuances of meaning. They show different types of characters--consistent with their upbringing, social/economic status, self-confidence, vocabulary, energy levels, culture, etc. Such variety! Don't get stuck with one type of response. Choose the responses that fit your characters, and keep the usage consistent.

Can you add to this list of positive or negative reactions?
How would the character in YOUR novel react to either good or bad news, or both?
Have you ever thought about how these subtle differences relate to your characters and your dialogue scenes? Have you made adjustments for consistency?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Page Critique: SHADOWS & LIGHT

Today's post is a first-page critique of a YA fantasy entitled SHADOWS AND LIGHT by CherylAnne Ham. Please add your feedback to help!

Note: If you haven't Liked my new author page on Facebook, please stop by and do so HERE. Or use the linky in my sidebar. A few lovely people have Liked me, so join in!

Shadows and Light

I neared the wooden chair set at the opposite end of the room. The council watched in silence. Their judgement burned hotter than the fires blazing in the twin hearths. Black shadows whirled and danced up the gray stone walls, and orange-yellow firelight battled the darkness invading through long narrow windows.

Sweat beaded on my brow.

I turned and sat, forcing myself to meet their stares. As I waited for something, anything, to happen, I became hyperaware of every movement. I blinked too often. My hand twitched once in my lap. Could they hear me breathing? No. They couldn't possibly.

The wet sound of chairman Beane clearing his throat broke the silence. "Please state your name and age."

His white council robe hung from thin shoulders, and his watery eyes bulged as if he'd been slapped hard on the back. Mother had described him as direct and rational. Stories of the punishments he'd dealt alluded to a deficiency in compassion.

I gathered my strength. I had broken no laws. There was nothing to fear.

"My name." My voice cracked and I took a deep breath. "My name is Jazzlyn, daughter of Fayette and many great-granddaughter of Alexandrina. I was born on this day seventeen years ago."

Another deep breath. No need to be afraid.

"Very good." The chairman nodded. "And do you know why we've called on you today?"

I had a pretty good idea, but was it appropriate to tell him so?


Character Names
It could just be me, but the name Beane reminds me of the comedian Mr. Bean in the UK. (Whereas my daughter said it reminded her of Sean Bean from LOTR, ha.) Also, even without that connotation, since a bean is food, to me it sounds informal or comical--rather than the idea of the compassionless, severe council leader I think you're going for. It sorta depends on how his character plays out, and how much he's a force to be reckoned with.

Number of Adjectives
There are a fair number of adjectives in this piece. I love to sprinkle them around liberally myself, and always have to pare them down (if I notice they're there LOL). Only keep adjectives that truly add to the descriptions. For instance, shadows are usually black, and aren't stone walls usually gray? Ditto for the flames being orange-red--however, that sentence as a whole does have a rhythm that seems to compare the various colors, which might make the adjectives more acceptable. In the first sentence of the fifth paragraph, however, almost every noun is described. A white council robe, thin shoulders, watery eyes. Are all these needed?

Wording and Little Things
1. I thought "judgement" was misspelled. It's usually spelled without an "e." But apparently I guess it can be either way--although with an "e" is the British spelling.
2. Why "turned and sat" instead of just sat? The MC was facing and walking toward the chair and the council, so she shouldn't have to turn. Or…at least I assumed she was walking toward the council at the same time she approached the chair.
3. I'm not sure of the "wet" sound of clearing Beane's throat. Clearing a throat seems more a raspy, dry, or rough sound to me. Also, clearing his throat in general makes Beane sound like he's nervous for some reason. Is he?
4. Kind of an echo with "good." Beane says "very good" and then Jazzlyn thinks "pretty good." May want to change one of these.

Summary: Kudos
I found mostly little picky things. There is a nice lyrical voice here, which lends itself well to the fantasy genre. I especially like the phrasing the "deficiency in compassion." Jazzlyn seems a character the reader would come to relate to, and there is a good sense of conflict in these first 250 words. We want to know WHY Jazzlyn has been summoned by the council on her birthday. Even though Jazzlyn tells herself she has nothing to fear, the reader suspects something more negative or sinister is going on, which creates good tension and interest.

Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Do you think clearing someone's throat could be a "wet" sound?
How do you feel about the number of adjectives in this piece?
What do you think of having an antagonist with the name Beane? Does it seem to fit for the chairman of the council?