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Saturday, 16 November 2013

Adding comedy to your manuscript whatever the genre

By
R.J. Crayton

Whatever genre people write in, there has to be a touch of comedy somewhere in the manuscript. Why? Because in real life, people try to make things funny. They do it because that’s their personality, or to break the tension, or to entice a lover, or because that’s what the situation calls for. Every person you have ever met has told a joke and had someone laugh at it. The computer nerd whose jargon everyone else ignores has friends who will laugh hysterically at some jargon-filled joke very few would find funny.

 So, if you want to infuse humor into your books in appropriate places but don’t feel you’re particularly humorous, don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to try to see the humorous side of things.

1. Try to look at things in a different light. The best comedy often comes from looking at things from a fresh perspective. My six-year-old daughter, for some reason, was looking at the milk carton, and turns to me with a look of utter horror on her face. “Mom, why is it only one percent milk? What is the rest of it?”  Yikes. She’d be right if the one percent referred to the milk content, not the milk fat content. (Sadly, in a bad mommy moment, I laughed hysterically at her question, causing her to look at me like I'd been conspiring to feed her 99 percent bat sweat for many years.) Regardless, a fresh look at something can often provide a wealth of comedy.


2. Say something utterly ridiculous. Dave Barry has made a career of this. The title of his new book (out in March): You can date boys when you’re 40 is a great example of this. The fact that it is a completely unreasonable statement is what makes it funny.  Unfortunately, I can pull lessons of ridiculous statements from my own family history. My grandfather was a traditionalist when it came to names, and gave his children names like Jerry, Allen, Gloria, Tracy, etc. (my grandfather had 10 kids. I won’t name all of them for you; I actually don’t remember all their names--kidding). So, when my father named me Rasheeda, my grandfather says to his son. “That girl ain’t never gonna learn how to spell that name.”  To which my father replies. “Nope, dad, your granddaughter won’t be able to figure out how to string together eight letters.”  Yes, say the absurd. You can say it and leave it for the reader. Or you can have another character point out the absurdity of it. In either case, the ridiculous often leads to laughter.

3. Point out the 800-pound gorilla.  Fiction writers know that sometimes to facilitate twists and turns in novels, we have to twerk stuff a bit (though not as much as Miley Cyrus at the VMAs). Now I realize I meant to say "tweak stuff a bit." However twerking your stories is probably pretty interesting, too. So, should there be twerking or something else absurd in your novel, you can use that to generate comedy. It’s best to just acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla that is sending your story down a bizarre path. There’s this cute line in Twilight (yeah, go on, hate on Twilight; I know you want to) where Edward says to Bella, “So I tell you I can read minds, and you think there's something wrong with you?” That is a perfect line of humor because it acknowledges the nuttiness of a mind-reading vampire. It works because it pokes fun at the novel. It’s endearing, because it says, I know this is absurd, but that’s OK, go with it.

4. The final rule of adding comedy to a novel is that not every joke has to be funny. We’re not running a comedy club. We’re writing a novel. Our fiction can be fantastic in many ways, but it also has to be human. The truth about humans is that most jokes we tell to our friends aren’t bust-a-gut funny. They simply make our friends smile, and further endear us to them. In my novel, Life First, a character whose head was forcibly shaved  gets asked how she is. “I’m peachy,” the character replies, rubbing the peach fuzz blossoming on her scalp. The friend laughs and admits that’s a terrible joke. But that’s the point. Some jokes are poor excuses for jokes, but we laugh because our friend tried. We find it kind, endearing and ultimately human when another person tries to make us laugh — whether they succeed or not. So, when trying to add comedy to your writing, just remember to have fun and make the effort. If you are having fun with your characters, there’s a pretty good chance the reader will, too.


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“This novel was a poignant, riveting, thought provoking read that had me entranced from page one until the very end. In simple speak, I literally could not put it down.” - 5 Star Review, Griffin's Honey Blog

Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The mentally ill are sterilized, abortions are illegal and those who refuse to donate an organ when told are sentenced to death.

Determined not to give up her kidney or die, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.


RJ Crayton grew up in Illinois and now lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. She is a fiction writer by day and a ninja mom by night (what is a ninja mom, you ask? It's the same as a regular mom, only by adding the word ninja, it explicitly reveals the stealth and awesomeness required for the job of mom). 

Before having children, Crayton was a journalist. She's worked at big publications like the Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star, and little publications like Solid Waste Report and Education Technology News.  

Crayton's dystopian thriller, Life First, was published in June. The sequel, Second Life, comes out Dec. 4. You can find out more about her at http://rjcrayton.com. She loves connecting with readers. If you talk to her, she’ll talk back, so please check out her.




3 comments:

Patsy said...

I'm not sure that every piece of writing MUST have a comedy element, but I do agree humour can work in a wide range of genres.

Louise Wise said...

Just an odd line here and there to lift the dark. Life is ridiculously funny as times, even when it's tragic.

Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku said...

Witty dialogue wins it for me when I read romance novels.

Hello! I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect! Here's mine: http://flirtyandfeistyromance.blogspot.co.uk

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