My funny bone is broken, so I invited author Jennifer DiGiovanni to chat about writing believable comedy.
So, Jennifer… Three goats walk into a bar and…
Writing funny is harder than it seems, but even the saddest stories need a bit of levity now and then.
Whether you’re trying to write hilarious, laugh out loud dialogue, or simply float a smile in your reader’s mind, you can learn to use humor effectively in your stories.
Funny = Timing
Pay close attention to the timing of a scene when using humor. Take a look at where you are within the framework of your story. Has a tragic even occurred in each of your last three chapters? Maybe you could add a dash of lightness and help your characters find the humor in some small part of their dire situation. You may also want to inject humor into plot twists to make them more shocking or effective. If a couple is secretly dating, they could be discovered when someone finds a love letter. Or, the love letter could become a text message filled with silly terms of endearments and heart emojis that’s accidently sent to out to the whole school.
Build on realistic situations to amp up the laugh factor
If you base a scene on a real life situation, think about how you could *realistically* extend the drama to make the scene funnier. Take the example of a lab experiment gone awry. Personally, I was never very adept at handling animal dissection or the sight of blood in the science lab. Memories of AP Bio still make me shudder. Did I ever actually get sick or pass out in class? No. Could it have happened? Very easily. If I’d skipped breakfast, if someone called me out on the green tint to my face or if some other unexpected problem occurred during the lab experiment. Taking this one example, you can easily find ways to build the scene to a tipping point and then unleash a bit of humor. Just remember to ask yourself with each new twist and turn, could this really happen?
Finding Humor in the Simple Things
You can also use more subtle humor to lighten up a scene. Minor ironic situations often draw a smile from a reader. As a teen, and even today, I loved to sleep in, but for some reason I’m never able to achieve the solid eight to ten hours I believe I deserve. Do you know how frustrating that is? Whether it’s someone waking me up to ask me if I’m sleeping in, a sleepwalking child passing through my bedroom, or the squirrel tapping on my window, there’s no worse way to start my day than being shaken out of a deep sleep. Thus, this typical everyday situation can serve as the basis for a relatable and funny situation within your writing.
Rely on Beta Readers and Critique Partners
To help with humor, rely on your beta readers and critique partners. Something may seem absolutely hilarious the first time you write it. Fifty drafts later, you may not even find one shred of humor on the page. Are you tired of reading your own words or is what you write truly not funny? This is where beta readers and CPs help. They bring fresh eyes to a manuscript and help you pinpoint what truly is funny in your work. They can also tell you when you’ve crossed the sensitivity line. If I’m ever unsure about something I’ve intended to be funny, I’m always grateful to have an honest writing friend’s opinion.
Practice, practice, practice
Writing humor takes practice and gradually, it should feel more natural to infuse in your stories. Also, funny situations and ideas often come out of nowhere, so be sure to jot down or text yourself notes to help remind you later, when you sit down to write that next humor-filled chapter.
School days don’t get easier just because you’re a senior! It’s the final semester of senior year, and everyone at Harmony High can’t wait to find out the results of the Senior Superlative votes! But the balloon bursts in Sadie’s face when she discovers she’s been voted “Most Likely to Get Married” to Andy – a boy she’s never dated or ever thought of as a potential boyfriend. Completely and utter mortification sets in. To prove high school means something more than a Senior Superlative award, Sadie and her best friend Jana decide to create their own list of awesome non-academic achievements to be completed before graduation. Yet, the harder Sadie works to show everyone she’s not the least bit attracted to Andy, the more appealing he becomes. Typical for the girl who can’t seem to achieve anything important, even the completion of one lousy college application. When senioritis kicks in and the school year dwindles down to mere weeks, Sadie decides to risk her good girl reputation to prove that an Awesome Achievement means much more than any Senior Superlative vote. By the time Sadie realizes her epic screw-up, she just might have lost her chance at the prom date of her dreams.
Releasing in September: My Disastrous Summer Vacation (a novella) – and – My Junior Year of Loathing