Sunday, December 28, 2008

Laughing Out Loud

My list of favourite authors keeps growing as I open myself to read across genres in both fiction and non-fiction. However, my all time favourites remain those who can make me laugh out loud including Erma Bombeck, Phil Callaway, Stephen Leacock, and John Mortimer.

In an attempt to emulate these greats, I’ve added such how-to books as “Comedy Writing Secrets – the best-selling book on how to think funny, write funny, act funny, and get paid for it” by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz, and “How to Write Funny – Add humor to every kind of writing” edited by John B. Kachuba.

But, as I suspected, writing humour is more difficult than I had hoped. My novel-in-progress is a contemporary story about a separated mother dealing with her daughter’s recent disclosed secret. The tone is serious and contemplative. The subject is dark and ugly.

I believe it is a good story. It has strong characters, a fast pace and interesting plot. But then, I asked myself, “Is this the type of book I would pluck off the shelf?” and I hated to admit that it wouldn’t be.

So I’m back to the drawing board – or in this case, the keyboard. I want to give my protagonist a sense of humour. I want her to tackle the disclosure with a sense of comic relief. It’s proving tougher than I thought.

I’m open to suggestions and recommendations on how you would handle this.

Kimberley Payne


N. J. Lindquist said...

Unfortunately, writing funny is extremely difficult to do. Partly that's because humour is very subjective. What I think is funny you might not, and vice versa.

I can't write "funny" but yet there is humour in much of what I write (well, I see it if no one else does!). It usually comes out of my characters or the situations they find themselves in. And sometimes it's very subtle and only someone "in the know" will pick up on it.

I have a friend who tried to write funny and couldn't; yet when she just wrote normally, people found it funny. Drove her crazy.

Of course, there are tricks you can use, as your books will tell you.

I hope you figure out what works for you, whether it's actually funny or just "light" or something different.

Bonnie Grove said...

Get your hands on some of Adrian Plass books. Blows them all away. Funniest man on the planet and a wonderful Christian to boot (he's British).

My first novel Talking to the Dead is filled with unexpected humour because, like your story, it's heavy stuff and you need human moments to break the tension.

My next novel (the one I'm working on now) is a romp of a book a full swing "Woo Hoo!" of a story that'll have people laughing - but it's all VERY serious, don't ya know. I don't have a title for it, so I'm calling it Gabby Wells the Musical for now. And yes, it's much harder than it looks. Maybe we can swap notes!


Kimberley Payne said...

Thanks N. J., I find that humour is subjective. I love British humour, yet my parents just don't get it.
I find that my humour often comes across as sarcastic and mean. I'm not sure how to soften it yet.

Kimberley Payne said...

Thanks Bonnie, I just LOVE your humour. It comes through in everything you write, including emails. I can't wait to read Talking to the Dead and the next one after that and after that...
I've heard Adrian's name before. I received a gift certificate from Chapters so now I know what I can buy.

N. J. Lindquist said...

I'll second the Adrian Plass recommendation - though I'm not sure anyone can write like him. Probably best to start with the "Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass."

Judy Millar said...

Hi Kimberley,

I suggest reading "Julie and Romeo" by Jeanne Ray (a sixtyish author who wrote this as a breakout novel). It's great fun, and you can kind of hear how she does it, by giving her protagonist far-fetched thoughts. I think it's easiest to do humour when writing in the first person. In the third person, you tend to come up with more comical situations, but you can still make your protagonist's thoughts about a serious situation lightly amusing or self-deprecating.

Good Luck!

Kimberley Payne said...

Hi Judy,

Thanks for the suggestion. My novel is in first person and giving Heather (the protagonist) far-fetched thoughts has seemed to naturally been the way to add humour. I'll keep my eyes open for your book suggestion.

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