When I made my boyfriend-must-have list back in middle school, sense of humor was No. 1.
I’m happy to report that I married a man who can joke! Occasionally, this tendency needs a bit of correction in the form of a glare and a stern warning. “Excuse me? There’s nothing to laugh about in this situation.”
Still, I’m sold on funny. When I read, the thing that makes a novel work for me is the protagonist’s ability to crack me up.
Last month, when I was putting together my last-as-editor Chick Lit Writers of the World RWA chapter newsletter, a few of the chapter’s PAN members agreed to offer advice on writing humor. For our blog, I chose a couple of comments that spoke to me, and I hope you’ll be interested in discussing them.
Both these authors say they rely on revision to get to funny.
According to Maureen McGowan*, “Humor is one of the trickiest things to write.”
But stories allow writers to revise “to choose the right words and put them in the right order for timing and impact.” She cautions against losing the punch line “in the middle of a long convoluted sentence or paragraph.”
Megan Crane** says, “I'm always much funnier three days later and in retrospect, and thanks to revision, your characters get to be that funny right off the bat!”
The best comedy, she says, is organic. “It should come from the characters' observations of their world and each other. This is actually easier to do than trying to come up with clever jokes to insert here and there in your manuscript. It's a question of shading the characters' dialogue toward wit, which you can do each time you revise.
You just have to pay attention to what you, personally, find funny, and what your characters find funny, and let that come out in the way you tell your story. Funny follows. And so will readers.”
What do you think? Does humor influence which books you choose? How do you incorporate humor in your work? What have you learned about writing humor?
*Maureen is a two-time Golden Heart finalist and the author of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer. Last month, she announced a contract for a three-book post-apocalyptic YA trilogy.
**USA Today bestselling women’s fiction author Megan Crane, author of BookSense Notable Frenemies, also writes category romance under the name Caitlin Crews.