Good humor makes me laugh, but I didn’t inherit the funny gene.
Funny movies uplift my spirits. My husband rolls in laughter during Funniest Home Videos. Lucille Ball’s antics send me into fits of laughter. Why can some writers magically infuse humor and others? Well, some of us don’t have the magic wand.
My children waited in anticipation for the punchline at the end of The Monster at the End of This Book. Mo Williams delights young readers with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The storytelling and illustrations infuse good storytelling and a laugh.
Despite my intense appreciation of humor in books or on the screen, why can’t I write funny stories? Erma Bombeck kept me sane as I raised children. Dave Berry never failed to highlight the small absurdities of life in general. The antics of Sheldon and friends never fail to make me laugh no matter how many times I’ve watched each episode.
Why can’t I do funny?
Advice for Writers
The first line of defense — check the internet. How do writers craft a humorous story or script? A quick internet search delivered a few choices leading me to an article by the New York Book Editors on How to Write Humor.
I’m set, but the article starts with a grave disclaimer, “Humor is not one-size-fits-all. Humor is subjective. What’s funny to me may not be funny to you.”
No joke! Therein lies my biggest obstacle. How do I even begin to know what you think is funny? As a serious child and a helplessly serious and reflective adult, I enjoy a limited amount of slapstick. Still, a steady diet will send me running for Thoreau, Frost, or quiet yoga practice to reflect on the meaning of life.
10 Things to Remember When Writing Humor
Like all good listicles, the writers promise me a pathway to increasing my humor craft. With anticipation, I wait for the silver bullet that will suddenly immerse me in the world of comedy and laughter. My writing will run over with humorous anecdotes and send you away laughing.
1. Reasons to include humor in your story.
Advice: Life has light-hearted moments. Include them in your writing to capture the beauty of life.
2. What is humor?
Advice: “No one knows how to definitively answer that question.” (Great, thanks.)
3. Study humor.
Advice: Don’t just consume humor. Figure out how to capture the magic. (Well, how?)
4. Don’t try to be funny.
Advice: Don’t try to be funny. Write to make yourself laugh.
5. Mind the genre.
Advice: You can add humor to almost any genre, but some readers tolerate more humor than others. (See suggestion #2)
6. Make fun of the entire genre.
Advice: Create spoofs, caricatures, and exaggeration, but don’t cross the line into meanness. (I see more of this humor every day. No thanks.)
7. Know your reader.
Advice: Know your audience and what the reader understands. (See suggestion #2)
8. Use humor for characterization.
Advice: Use humor to develop a character or make the narrator funny. (Read Snappsy the Alligator Did Not Ask to Be in This Book by Julie Falatko for a good example.)
9. Use humor to develop the relationship between reader and narrator.
Advice: Strengthen the bond between narrator and reader by putting your characters in funny circumstances. Then the characters see the comedy of their actions, and the reader can relate to those situations. (Maybe)
10. Use humor in the dialogue.
Advice: Adding funny moments through dialogue reveals character traits, adjusts story pacing, diminishes tension, or increases it.
What About the Not So Humorous?
The article ends by reminding the writer, me, that humor is an indispensable tool because “ Every writer should be able to wield humor whenever necessary.”
Does this mean I will never reach writerhood unless I can conjure up some humor? Without a bit of funny, a hearty laugh, life can turn to a constant shade of gray and despair. After all, laughter is the best medicine. I would also contend that laughter between friends eases the deepest sadness.
If humor cannot be defined, can we even measure it? Following the advice in suggestion #4, I’ve chuckled several times while writing this story—so it must be humorous. All skills require practice, and obviously, I still need much more.
One morning, this silly frog planted himself on my front window. We stared at each other for a few minutes. Neither of us laughed, but I thought he was trying to brighten my day with his silly grin.
Humorous? What do you think?