Funny or in poor taste?

Have you ever noticed what makes you laugh?  Sometimes it’s the cute things that children say, or a pet chasing it’s tail, or a gurgling baby’s coos.  But sometimes, and I’d wager far more than you’d like to admit, laughter comes from situations that make you uncomfortable.

BUT…NEVER EVER JOKE ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS POOR TASTE!  If your topic is a cancer patient don’t belittle their experience. Don’t make fun of the downtrodden in a way that is done in poor taste.  Make your humor uplifting, not destructive.  There’s a fine line.  DON’T CROSS IT or you will lose readers!

My all time favorite show to watch with my husband is the Office (the American version).  Don’t ask me why…it’s just something we did together.  And to be honest, it took me a while to get into the show.  Why?  Two words. Michael Scott.  Could that man get any more agonizing to watch?

Foot in mouth situations, awkward dialogue and moments of “oh my gosh you’re not really going to do that, are you?” left me squirming in my seat.  I laughed, but it was almost painful.  And now…guess who I dearly miss from the show?  Michael!  He became my favorite character?  Why?

Humor in the face of unbearably difficult situations help us to cope with tension.  It’s like that in life.  A comment made to break to the ice.  Sarcasm during an awkward silence.  Laughter to ease the pain of walking around the office all day with your skirt tucked into your underwear.  (This has never happened to me, but I’ve seen it!)

We laugh to relieve tension.  We laugh to sooth our nerves.  We laugh because we need that comic release.  Life is full of humerous things…and your book shouldn’t be any different.

But how do you create humor in your book?  First off, let me say that you can laugh even in the middle of a horror novel.  Laughter is not concentrated to only comedic novels. 

Think about what makes you laugh.  Is it a witty joke?  A sarcastic comment?  A bumbling clown that tumbles into a pit of cream?  Whatever your humor style might be…be aware that your readers will all be different.  Try to incorporate several types.

My favorite, thanks to my English husband, is sarcasm.  I live with it and I’ve grown to love it.  I enjoy characters that are witty, full of snap sarcastic comments and willing to take as much as they dish out.  But that’s just me.

So in my new teen fantasy novel, Forbidden, I created a brother and sister duo that are full of witty quips.  The sister, Sadie, is full of sarcasm and William powers right through them with his own snide comments.  I knew that my novel would be darker than anything I’ve written to date and I needed that comic relief mingled in.  Sadie’s humerous remarks are her way of dealing with the revelation that there is an entire world of dark and dangerous beings that they never knew existed.  It’s her self defense mechanism which makes her feel more realistic.

I watched a fantastic movie over the weeked with my family, Dolphin Tale, and there was one character that had my son nearly in tears with laughter.  A pelican.  That annoying bird was a menace to anyone who entered that hospital.  Which proves that your humor doesn’t have to come from a human. 

Humor can spread among several characters, each taking a different form.  It’s your choice how and when you create it, but in my opinion a little humor keeps the plot flowing, especially if I’m reading a horror novel and I’m too afraid to turn off my light to go to sleep!

Don’t think you’re funny?  That’s ok…you might not be.  But that doesn’t mean your character can’t be.  Go to the mall and listen.  You’ll hear all kinds of interesting conversations there.  Go online, research jokes.  Or simply call someone for a chat.  You might be funnier than you realize you are.

Creating a character that isn’t afraid to laugh at themselves makes them more likeable and memorable.  Let them have some of your own insecurities and then laugh about it.  Create situations that will naturally involve humor.  Let it flow, and get out of the way! 

Before you publish your novel let some HONEST friends and family review your book.  Ask them what they liked and didn’t, and why.  They may tell you that you’re the funniest person to walk the face of the earth, or they may tell you that your jokes are wooden and unbearable.  Either way, you need their feedback.

And as always my favorite piece of advice to anyone wanting to become an author…write how you speak.  Read it out loud.  If it doesn’t flow, cut it!

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