10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing with Humor
We can all agree that we can do without more stress and struggles in our lives.
Ain’t nobody got time for more sorrow, more angst, and more horror. I think life has enough of that, I mean, just open up a news tab and you can get your fill.
Humor is a survival technique we all need to embrace.
I write with a dab of humor. (Okay maybe more than a dab.) After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then where is the joy in that? As a reader, I want to escape into a book and have an adventure. I want to feel like The Hobbit leaving the shire yelling, “I’m going on an adventure!”
Now that adventure can include action, drama, and underlying seriousness, but I want to laugh aloud. I want to forget about the real world around me for a few hours.
As a writer, I want to bring that world to you.
Writing with humor is not for everyone. It has been said that either you can do it, and do it well, or you can’t. Either it is in your nature or it’s not. I agree to some extent, but like any skill, you can learn to improve.
So how can you improve your own attempts to write with humour?
“I regard the writing of humor as a supreme artistic challenge.”
—Herman Wouk, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
10 THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT WRITING WITH HUMOR
- Pay Attention: Start paying attention to what makes people laugh around you. Pay attention to what causes you to giggle. Study your favorite TV shows and how they deliver the punch lines. Watch stand-up comedians and watch how they set up their jokes and then coax laughter from the crowd. I may, or may not have watched countless Rowan Atkinson videos while doing my research.
- Give Your Reader Permission to Laugh: This might seem like a moot point, but giving your reader that sense of freedom to giggle brings down barriers and allows the reader to become fully on board with your way of expressing humor.
- The Rule of 3’s: In Comedy, you often hear things told in threes, for example, the three men who walk into a bar. Or, two things that are expected and then one that is unexpected ….or three elements that build up to a punchline. Use these in your writing. I find putting in the unexpected really works for me. This works well when you misdirect your reader and then add that unexpected element.
- Exaggeration or Hyperbole: Use this device to create effective moments of drama or laughter. Be careful not to come across as melodramatic, but in the right setting, these work well. Dialogue can often highlight these two best.
- A Word of Caution: Be careful when you use sarcasm. It does not always translate on to the page and can be misunderstood. Make sure it works well. Otherwise, stay away. Mean spirited and humiliating humor is uncalled for, always. It’s just not classy, so don’t go there.
- Metaphors: Choose metaphors chosen for comedic effect.
- Keep the focus on your story: Do not distract your reader too much with your sparkling wit. Humor should be like salt flavoring your work and not overpowering it.
- Word Choice: Use giggle-inducing words: Bamboozled, bazinga, buccaneer, cantankerous, cattywampus, conniption, didgeridoo, gumption, hullabaloo, kerplunk, loopy, lackadaisical, persnickety, waddle, and wonky. There are more, look them up.
- Tell it like it is: Sometimes just telling it like it really happened is funny enough on its own! Situations can present themselves as comedies, so don’t be afraid to tell it like it is. Plain and simple, with a bit of pizazz of course.
- Have fun with it: Don’t force it. Humor has to be organic, natural, and relatable.
Do you naturally tend toward humor in your reading and writing? Do you have to work at it?
*this blog post was originally published in 2019 on ReneeGrendon.com (Word Crafting), written by Melony Teague
Melony Teague is a Freelance Writer, Biographer and Author. She loves to bring more laughter to this crazy world. She loves to uncover stories hiding in plain view, but they are remarkable nonetheless and believes that everyone has a story to tell…and sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. She teaches seniors how to write their personal stories.
Her inspirational devotional for writers, As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers released in 2016 and her debut Contemporary Romance, A Promise to Keep is out now and available here.
Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter: @melonyteague
Member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)
Feature Image: Photo by Karina Thomson on Unsplash