Humor takes work in writing

I was driving my friend and her two nieces around one day on some errands, and I was about to drop her off to see her boyfriend before I took the girls back to their parents when the older girl asked, “Can we go see Austin too?”

Since it was supposed to be a date, my friend looks back at her niece and said, “No, sorry. Short people aren’t allowed.”

I looked over at her and immediately said, “Doesn’t that exclude you, then?” (My friend is about 5’2” tall, and is always commenting on how she hates being short.)

It was one of few times in my life where I’ve recognized a door opening and stepped through it with a comment that was actually a little funny. I’m not as witty as I would like to be (my younger brother got all of those specific genes). I’m usually the one who is opening the doors for other people to step through. While I can easily laugh at myself, sometimes I wish I had a few of those wits and could more easily write a humorous scene in my book.

I agonize over my characters’ dialogue sometimes, or a scene, wondering if something I wrote is just funny to me or if it will actually make some readers chuckle, too. I would love to have the capacity to write something like Jasper Fforde’s sarcastically dry humor in his Thursday Next series, or some of the puns that occur in Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels. Though these books sometimes rely on the absurd to increase the humor, there are still wits behind them, and I am enveloped with envy over anyone who has that talent.

That’s why I appreciate blog posts, articles, and anything that can provide tips and tricks to help. Most writers agree that writing “funny” isn’t easy, and so every once in a while I find something new that provides me with some insight. Here are a couple I found at Writer’s Digest that I felt worth reading:

This article by Leigh Anne Jasheway says that humor is good to put into your writing because it helps to humanize your characters, cementing a bond with readers, and also increases a reader’s chance of remembering more of your book. Words with a K sound, evidently, are funniest. The rule of three is interesting, too.

Here is a list by Jasheway of a bunch of words that are inherently funny, evidently. Always good to note what words seem to get a smile.

Tim Bete references Neil Simon’s play The Sunshine Boys in his article and recommends reading the passages out loud and listening to how they sound; if they sound funny, the humorous sentence will be more humorous. Also, use specific words, not generic (“car” versus “Ford Focus”, “many” versus “twelve”).

Finally, here’s something Jon Friedman, the producer of “The Rejection Show,” said about writing funny: “Write in a way that makes you laugh and try not to think of what others want. Trust your own instincts and take risks. It’s okay to write something that doesn’t work and, when you do, try to think of it as one step closer to writing something great.”

I'm a lover of writing and books. I graduated from South Dakota State with a master's degree in communications in 2011, the same year I was first published. I'm a wife and mom, and I work in content and digital marketing in South Dakota.

Posted in Writing tips

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