Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it, you might say. Write something funny. But is it that easy? Think about it. How many programmes on TV have some people rolling about in hysterics, and leave others cold? Do you see what I mean? Humour is a personal thing, and the hardest part about writing it is that if you try too hard, it falls flat. If that happens too often in your book, then the reader will give up. That is something you seriously do not want to happen. So, how to write humour. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, is it?
Let’s learn from the experts. You will have your own favourites. Study them. What do they do, and how do they do it? In my opinion the best writer in the world of humorous fantasy was Terry Pratchett. The humour seems to flow from his fingertips with ease and effortless regularity. It probably wasn’t that easy for Sir Terry, but the thought that it is adds to the humour. One of my favourite classic lines from Terry (and there are so many) is this extract taken from The Wee Free Men (Yes, even the title is funny):
“Ordinary fortune-tellers tell you what you want to happen; witches tell you what’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. Strangely enough, witches tend to be more accurate but less popular.”
Hope Terry wouldn’t have minded me quoting that. Do you find that funny? I certainly do, but Terry wrote it in all seriousness as if simply stating a fact. I think that is part of his success. He didn’t force his humour down your throat. He let it sit there quietly and unassumingly inviting you to laugh. What a writer.
So, the best humour sneaks up on you unexpectedly and blends in with the tale. Having a character tell a really funny joke won’t have the same impact because a) the reader might not find it funny and b) you are telling your reader to laugh. The reader is in charge when reading your book. They don’t want to be told what to do.
Shall we get back to how to write humour? This will come from within, and be your own personal touch to your writing. If you want to write humour, then you must be someone who likes to laugh and who has a gift for amusing your friends in ‘real life’. You say something unexpectedly, someone laughs. Remember it, and use it. The best humour is uncomplicated and comes naturally. Never have a character say something like ‘This is really funny, you’ll split your sides.’ That is asking for trouble. You are expecting a laugh, but the funny remark that is now expected might not have the desired effect. Have humour sneak up on your reader. If they don’t find it funny, then you have not promised them that it will be in the first place. If it does make them laugh, then its simplicity has done the trick.
You will find your own niche when writing humour, and the more you write, the easier it will get. Never be without a pen and paper, and if you hear or see something that amuses you, jot it down. This is not to ‘copy’ funny things that others say or do, but to get you to see humour in the simplest things. Once you begin to see it, it will be much easier to write.
I find that when writing humorous fantasy, I like to turn the real world, and its expectations, on its head. I think that this works well in ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’ where my main character is a young witch. Warty, yellow and ugly she is not. Gertie is cute, pretty, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. That doesn’t make her journey into witch-hood any the easier. Nor does the fact that any spells she tries tend to have the opposite effect. Do you see what I mean? If readers are expecting everything to be as it is in life, then the unexpected can amuse them. I hope so anyway! I follow a similar theme in ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’. Finn is a leprechaun, but unfortunately one who was never blessed by the Good Luck Fairy. Not all leprechauns are lucky, and Finn proves this point many times over. Without giving too much away, Finn gets himself into something of a pickle far from home, and has to make his way back. Many creatures of Irish myth help or hinder him along his way, but not a one of them will be anything like you have read before…
So, my slant on humour tends to be to turn the expected on its head. I shall try to provide an example that I haven’t already used in one of my books. Let’s see, maybe you will write about an ogre. So, he is big, fat, ugly, and fierce and people are terrified of him. Right? Well actually, no. This ogre is called Cecil. He talks with a lisp in a very soppy voice and is terrified of insects. The fact that he lives in a draughty cave full of spiders doesn’t help him one bit. Cecil doesn’t sleep much in fear of being scuttled across when he closes his eyes. He also gets sick of heroes trying to make a name for themselves by riding along to try to part his head from his body. Poor Cecil tries to keep himself to himself, but isn’t very happy. When the chance comes to help a village in peril, will he take it, or is he too afraid? Do they deserve his help, even? Only by turning the pages will the outcome be revealed…
How does that sound? Have I given you any ideas about how to write your own brand of humour? I hope so, but whether this has made you want to dive for your pen or not, thanks for reading it, and the best of luck with all your writing!
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