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?


  1. I love a dry wit with sarcasm and I usually have one or two characters in my novels spread it around.
    I enjoy entertaining and funny situations in books as well!

    Thanks for all the links, Carol. :)

  2. I do use humour in my novels, but it's not always to everyone's taste. I can't help it though -- it's just how I write, love it or hate it!

  3. I love humor. Like you, I am easily amused. But writing humor is tricky, as you said. It's so subjective. I think it has to come naturally to even have a chance of working well.

  4. I like joking aroung a lot as it is, so when I write I try not to force the humor. If it happens it happens. And at times it does. Then I make sure to reread so my characters don't sound goofy. It's fun. People shouldn't be stuffy. It's not good for our health. :)

  5. I am terrible at WRITING humor, but I like what you cited in Harry Potter. It's CLEVER, and that's what I'm a huge fan of. Like Carrie Harris's BAD TASTE IN BOYS. That was clever.

  6. you are so right, writing humor is very tricky. you do it well and consistently, you will make money, however.
    down home humor is my kind of humor for sure:)
    thanks for your encouragement to keep writing the seasons. much appreciated:)

  7. Great examples of humour. I use a small amount in my own writing and I use different types depending on the scene. Humour makes such a huge difference to a book.

  8. I write more ironically than humourously. Humour needs to be done well. Talli's flows easily or seems to.


  9. I LOVE reading humor in stories, but I so can't do it. At. All. When my readers tell me a scene is funny (only in my MG stuff, my YA stuff is dark and angsty, NO humor there!) I'm always shocked, because I certainly didn't put it there on purpose!

    Loved the "wesley-type" humor. :D

  10. I don't think I'm very good at writing humor but it did come fairly easy with one of my characters. But like you said, not sure if it would be humorous to anyone else. :)

  11. I love humor!!!!! We need to laugh more. I am planning on writing a laugh out loud novel. I have several funny picture books ready.

    Love HANK THE COWDOG. I need to get that book.

    Excellent post, Carol! *waving*

  12. I think humor is a building of circumstances that equal funny. Awkward situations tickle sore. I can't release my humorous excerpt because it's currently under consideration, but I LOVE me a little laugh here and there. Yay for funny writing!

  13. I'm jealous of those who do humor well. When I do it, it is usually not on purpose.

    The Weasley-type tends to be a favorite of mine.

  14. oh, man. I guess I throw in humor occasionally. It's hard, like you said b/c humor is so subjective. But I'll have betas say, "This was SO FUNNY!" And I'm like what. Then they'll tell me, and I try to learn from it~ :D <3

  15. This is a great post because humor is really important in writing. Books don't have to be humorous, but don't we all like to laugh, even occasionally to break the tension? Thanks for the tips!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  16. My funny bone doesn't always work in my own writing. But I use dark humor mostly because I'm pretty good at sarcasm. Still, not something I'd ever brag about :) You just have to know my sense of humor to "get it" I guess.

    But I find I do have to get to know the characters in a book I'm reading before I truly enjoy the humor. Perhaps it is a personal bias, lol.


  17. I don't include a lot of humor, and when I do, it's usually subtle. It's something I've been trying to work on, but it's a stretch for me. I think I'll go read some of those entries. Maybe they'll provide some inspiration.

  18. I like to add little bits of humor... more so in some books than others, because mostly for me it comes from the character's voice, and so depends on the character. Love your examples!

  19. Humor is the best no matter what genre. I usually image the funny peeps in my life and what they'd say or do in my novel situations and that humor comes thru in my characters.
    I figure without these real life wise-crackers life would be so mundane. But you're so right, we don;t all laugh at the same thing.
    I don't get the really raunchy sleazy humor at all. To me, it's just not funny. I like comedic genius. Cuz let's face it, you have to be smart to truly funny. Jim Carrey is a prime example of comedic genius. He makes an excellent subject study.

  20. Humor is really subjective, but one of my most favorite things about novels. Slap-stick will get me everytime though, which is probably why that shoes up in my novels the most. The fact that I'm a bit of a clutz probably also factors in.

  21. My earlier wips were devoid of humor, but in the past few years humor shines through my work. I believe it's because my writing used to be forced and when I started writing I was trying to emulate my favorite authors. I love humor and reading humorous books.


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