Saturday, April 18, 2020

Humor in Writing

Round-robin author and participant Skye Taylor suggested this month's topic on how easy or difficult you find including humor in writing, if have you ever incorporated a true life humorous event in your own life or the life of someone you know in a book you were writing?

I must admit this month's topic is a challenge for me as I hadn't thought about it before. I've always considered humor as the comedy genre, and I know I'd be dismal at it. I think comedy is a very challenging and difficult genre. While I enjoy humor, I know I'd be lousy at writing it as my mind just doesn't (or hasn't so far) been adept at creating it. It's not that I'm incapable of enjoying humor because I do. Creating humor, though, is another matter altogether. 

Usually, any humor I engender is the laughter created by my klutzy actions. For instance, anything I'm wearing or carrying will almost inevitably catch on something as I pass by, jerking me to the side or to an abrupt stop and usually causing me to drop whatever I'm carrying. This includes purse straps, necklaces, bracelets, belt loops, shoe strings, wide sleeves, jacket linings, and pockets (and many other unexpected causes) that catch on various door parts or carts, cars, and anything else that I might walk past. I've elicited many laughs from others watching me. I suppose I could write a character with that problem. Experience, you know, gives great insight. This repetition, though, might bore the reader.

In writing, my humor is mostly conversational. Usually, this is limited to snarky asides from one character to another about different situations as they arise. I’ve never even tried to write a comedic scene.

This all led me to explore humor. So I read Jan Hornung's article about humor in The Internet Writing Journal. She advises the writer, "Don't tell the reader that something is funny. Let the reader discover this for himself. Do this by painting a picture with words that the reader can relate to with all five of his senses. Describe the smells, textures, tastes, sights, and sounds."  

I am very familiar with the concept of showing not telling, but envisioning the humorous scene might be the most difficult part, even when using exaggeration or understatement, which are also recommended for writing humor. I've read where humor is just a reversal of a possible tragedy. Even so, foreshadowing the tragedy and switching it out to a funny disaster is no easy task.

Visit the following authors on how they handle humor:

Skye Taylor 
Diane Bator 
Beverley Bateman 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Connie Vines  
Anne Stenhouse  
Margaret Fieland 
A.J. Maguire  
Victoria Chatham 
Judith Copek 


  1. Jan Hornung's advice is good to keep in mind. Show the situation and the reader will find the humor that's there without being slapped in the face with it. If you ever end up with a story that's just getting too dark and heavy, you can add that character with the getting caught on everything quirk, then use it to lighten the mood when you need to. Diversion is good, but so is breaking the tension now and then. And, as you point out, you have plenty of fodder to pick from.

  2. Skye, interesting point. This brings to mind Shakespeare. I especially remember the scene with the gravediggers in Hamlet. Here's an interesting article about humor in Hamlet

  3. Yeah, I don't really write comedy either, so that's why I had nothing to say on this subject. I've read some romance that are really amusing, making me smile, or outright laugh while I read. But my muse doesn't give me that. Instead, my books are character-driven, since I love to explore how one person learns to trust another fully. That can lead to amusing, snarky comments, but is not really funny, per se.

  4. I so identify with your problems. Mine was always long necklaces getting caught in or on something until I broke one too many and stopped wearing them. Any one of your for instances could be the basis for a humerous situation.

  5. Well written and interesting post, Rhobin. Especially your reference to Jan Hornung's article. It's very close to how I feel about humor and writing it. I enjoy it. I love it when someone makes me laugh, but for me to do it... I don't have the talent.