♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Is humor an important element in your stories?
Do you ever laugh at something you’ve written??
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Humor is an important part of life and thus it is an important element of storytelling. Even dramatic pieces benefit from a well placed, appropriate piece of humor. Humor is how we cope with difficulty and often how we celebrate life. Comedy is a relief. Scientific studies have even shown how laughter can improve health.
Writing comedy is far more difficult than most realize. Having a sense of humor is only the beginning. Unfortunately, would be jokers usually fail, because they mistake the grotesque for humor. Shock can be a reaction to some jokes, but it should not be the defining emotion one gets from a joke. How many times have you been witness to a teenagers dirty joke?
Not everyone who wants to write comedy can. Not everyone who wants to be comic can. Comedy requires sensitivity and understanding, mostly of one’s fellow humans. When a person cannot sense the emotional response that they are getting from their attempts at humor, they cannot tell, either, if it’s working. Similarly, are the troll humorists. They’re not doing it to amuse the audience. It’s about themselves. That’s not comedy.
Some people really do think comedy is only about the satisfaction they get from upsetting others. While that can be useful in rare cases, such as attempting to make others examine their dangerous choices, it’s mostly not useful at all. You may argue that satire does this, but I’d argue in return that satire is a fine art that reaches beyond upset.
Ill-timed humor is nearly as bad as humor in poor taste or victimizing humor. Fortunately, it usually only leaves those who experience it with bad taste they soon get over. Unfortunately, the writer or comic who committed the faux pas will be avoided in the future. Timing, after all, is key in humor.
A colleague of mine went to college with Andy Kaufman. She told me that he spent most of his time reading the newspaper and learning. When he had filled his mind, he attempted sets on audiences. She said he was very nice, as well. Kaufman studied humans, and he cared for them. His goal was making them laugh.
So, too, a writer who wants to use comedy will need to do just as much research as they would for any other project–perhaps more. I have had my share of pushback on the type of research I recommend for writers, because it requires a substantial time investment. What those who disagree miss is the payoff from that painstaking effort.
When you craft something with the intent of presenting it to a public audience, why would you short shrift that effort? That would be like taking a piece of clay to the wheel and making a lump of nothing, while expecting customers to marvel at your pottery prowess. If you’re unwilling to put in the time, it will show.
Preparing your humor writing will take time, but that pay off is immense. When writing any genre, elements of humor can help ease the tension. Humor can also display bonding between characters–bonding, even, between reader and characters. Of all the characters you’ve read, do you find the amusing ones the most endearing?
Humor ideally takes many forms. What one reader will find hysterical, another reader will barely titter at. Understanding common intertexts and cultural points can improve the reception, but ultimately the success of the jokes is going to rely on not only clarity but the reader’s ability to understand and connect to it.
Humor finds its place in all of my works. Evan from Blue Honor is a great source of humor for the readers. The tit-for-tat between Claire and Carsten is not just building tension and the relationship. It makes the reader connect with the humorous and familiar kind of back and forth one sees in friendly rivals. It eases the darkness of the work, and helps the reader see Carsten as human, not a monster, and thus someone Claire may rely on to get her through.
In The Trailokya Series, there are many moments of humor. The material is so dark, and the things the characters face are life-changing. Heavy material such as that can bog down a narrative if humor isn’t there to lighten the load at opportune times. For instance, depicting sexual assault is traumatic to a reader. If there was no humor to open the valve and take the pressure off, it would become overbearing.
Comic relief is a useful tool in writing. Just use it carefully. The grotesque, timing, and other points must all be appropriately gauged for your material. Don’t ham-fist the joke like a teenager trolling on Twitter. Your work should reflect your skill, not a lack of skill! It’s not easy. But, the payoff is worth the effort.
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