Monday, August 8, 2011

5 Reasons to Use Humour in Writing

Humour is an often underestimated tool in writing. While it may not always be easy to write, I believe it’s worth the effort. Below I’ve listed why:

1. To connect with the reader. We all respond to humour. We connect with humour. Because of that humour is universal. It’s essential for the writer to make that connection with the reader.

1. To lighten the mood. I recently read a dirge of a book that I struggled to get through because it was so intense and depressing throughout. Yes, we need conflict in our stories, but when the conflict becomes overpowering, we can tire our readers and make them pull away. The book would have benefitted from a sprinkling of humour to lighten the mood.

2. To create contrast. Likewise, a high tension scene could be intensified by a humorous scene before it because of the contrast you’ve created.

3. Character likeability. If you want your readers to like your main characters, then give them a sense of humour. A fantastic example of this would be Hannibal Lector. The readers find themselves drawn to this psychopathic killer against their better judgement, because he has a wicked sense of humour.

4. Character dislikeability. Likewise, if we don’t want our readers to like a character then we strip them of a sense of humour.

5. For success. People remember good humour. They will want more of it and so they will seek more of that writer’s work. They will be more likely to tell others about your work as well. Many believe that Shakespeare’s plays were so successful because of the humour in them—even the tragic plays.

Do you feel comfortable with writing humour into your stories, or do you tend to shy away from it? What do you think is most difficult about writing humour?


DEZMOND said...

I love humour in books, especially when the characters have sense for irony.

Emily Rose said...

I like writing humor, but I'm always concerned that it isn't actually funny, and it only makes sense in my head. I also enjoy humorous characters amidst a serious plot. Like you said, it lightens up the story.

Old Kitty said...

I love reading stories infused with humour of all kinds - it's truly an art form and such a skill too! I think I just about manage very very gentle humour but I think the most difficult part for me with writing humour is to make it read naturally rather than contrived.

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like sarcastic and dry humor in my reading. I think I've gotten better at writting it, as there are numeroous scenes of witty banter between my two leads for CassaFire.

Jeff King said...

I do write humor: if one of my characters acts that way. I can’t intentionally write humor… every time it comes of weak.

Good humor sets a story, or piece of work, above the crowd. It’s like dialog: if it is good, the story will appeal to the reader on a deeper level—and that’s what we as writers strive to achieve.

I think we should utilize every emotion in our character, and a good laugh, at the right time, is priceless!

Hermana Tiffany Garner said...

It's so true that Shakespeare's plays were successful because of their humor, and most of it we don't even get today! (Sorry, theatre major here)

Personally, I love humor in my stories. I love ending an intense scene between two characters with a third character popping into the conversation saying something completely unrelated, or simply, "Well, that went well." Like you said, it lightens the mood and makes the story so much more enjoyable. (Besides, it's just my personality!)

Thanks for the post!

Beverly Diehl said...

I find I truly don't care for material where the characters take themselves Too Seriously and don't laugh enough. If one is alert, there are endless humorous opportunities all around that can be easily inserted into the work. (Now returning to my WIP, where my characters at a gender-bender costume party will be kissing; her first time kissing a guy in lipstick, his first with a woman with a mustache.)

Unknown said...

I agree and love including slapstick comedy in my children's novels.

Tonja said...

I love writing humor, mostly the dark variety.

My characters generally don't laugh, although I often laugh out loud when I write - even in coffee shops.

Pam Williams said...

These are great suggestions. I really appreciate that you not only give us the tip but the "why" behind it.
I write Christian non-fiction and editors are often seeking manuscripts with a touch of humor.

shelly said...

I Love implementing humor in my work b/c it helps me get through some difficult issues in my stories.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I first tried writing serious fiction, because I thought that made it more important :/
Now I follow my own voice and it's hard for me to leave humour out of writing. Great post, I think it's a good idea to explore humour in writing the different ways you can use it because it seems to frighten some writers. I find different cultures have very different styles of humour as well. American and British humour is so different and us Aussies seem to be somewhere between the two :)
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

I have a hard time with humor. It doesn't come naturally, so I really admire those with a writing funny bone!


Trisha said...

I just read Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan - GREAT humour! Loved the book.

Suze said...

I *love* to laugh and to make others laugh, too. One of the most satisfying things for me as a writer is when I reread and my characters take me by surprise and make me laugh. Big thumbs up for weaving in the light with a laugh.

Carrie Butler said...

Such a fantastic post! I love incorporating subtle humor in my work. For me, it's a matter of giving choice characters a quick wit or throwing them into awkward situations. :)

Jenna Blake Morris said...

I love humor -- especially of the dry and witty variety. Nice post!

Michelle Fayard said...

Even though the antagonist in my historical YA is a sadistic slave owner, I do have a few moments of humor from the other characters to keep the book from being to heavy. An excellent post!

Jeff Beesler said...

Wow, thanks for covering humor. I only had so much time to go over four other powerhouse emotions last week that some of them, like humor, got thrown out the window. So much writing, so little time.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Some great points there. Humour is necessary in writing too because that's how people are in real life, given most situations. Even in tense or conflict events, people tend to veer towards the humourous in order to give some kind of relief.

Laura Pauling said...

I love humor in books even when it's a more serious book! It's hard though.

Laila Knight said...

I love humor but don't always use it in my stories. Granted, a little something will slip in ever once in a while. Usually, it helps if I just choose one character and make them funny. It really is a necessary part of writing to lighten the load of any book though. A person can only take so much drama. :)

Sarah said...

I do enjoy well-placed humor and try to include it in my stories, and I like a sense of the ridiculous. What I struggle with is getting it in the right place. In one of my books, I had several moments of humor, but my agent, although she thought they were totally funny, also thought they killed the tension and momentum of the scenes. She was absolutely right, too.

Ellie Garratt said...

I've only written one humorous story (soon to be published) but really like how well it can portray character. Thank you for the great tips!

Ellie Garratt

Bish Denham said...

Most all of my stories, long or short, have humor in them. Things can get serious so easily, but laughter is what heals.

Carol Riggs said...

I love writing and reading humor into books! It's SO subjective though. Things I get a kick out of, someone else might not. (I'm admittedly easily amused, however.) I do agree that you need those lighter moments in very dark books, to help balance them out.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I love adding humour in stories. I get a kick out of reading humourous stories. Even in dark books a dash of humour helps. Great post as usual :)

Golden Eagle said...

I love adding humor into my stories where and when I can; finding a place where it doesn't sound forced or like the character's trying to be overly funny is hardest for me.

M Pax said...

My cp's don't always like my humor. But I like humor. It's part of my natural though process, so it often finds its way onto the page before I know it. :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Dezzy, yes, I use irony on occasion (for my characters, that is).

Emily, yes it is hard to sometimes tell if something is funny to others.

Old Kitty, absolutely. Humour can so easily come across as forced.

Alex, so looking forward to CassaFire

Jeff, yep there's a real skill in writing humour. And yes, you're right: utilising every emotion is important.

Tiffany, I studied a little Shakespeare and I loved some of the joke explanations. They brought the plays alive.

Beverly, lol, love the sound of that party.

Carole, I think children enjoy slapstick the most :)

Tonja, I think humour is more effective when the characters don't laugh.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Pam, Christian non-fiction is often anecdotal which is the perfect place for a touch of humour.

Shelly, it's a great device for that :)

Charmaine, I reckon your voice would shine in stories.

Debbie, yep, writing humour isn't always easy

Trisha, I should check that one out.

Suze, that's when you know you've got it right.

Carrie, subtle humour is my favourite kind.

Jenna, thanks

Michelle, sounds like you've incorporated it in well.

Jeffrey, I hear you! :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Jamie, and if they don't they go crazy ;)

Laura, very hard

Laila, exactly. It's doesn't have to be a lot of humour. A little is enough to lighten a heavy scene.

Sarah, yep, I have a couple of those too. It's all about balance ;)

Ellie, amusing characters are great.

Bish, well said.

Carol, it is so subjective. I think that's why subtle humour is a good thing. It's important to leave it up to the individual readers to decide whether something is funny or not.

Rachna, thanks

Golden, yep, I can't do it if I overthink it.

M Pax, humour as a natural thought process is a good thing.

anthony stemke said...

I love humour and think it is important and effective when used properly.
I think humour also heightens interest.

Unknown said...

This is great! I think humor is so important. I use it a lot to lighten the mood. Especially in my mysteries when it's getting dark and depressing, a funny scene is great to throw in.

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Excellent - and I couldn't agree more with the 'character likeability' factor. I for one, love funny and sarcastic characters :o)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love this post. Even if the story is dark and scary, we need a little comic relief. I especially think of the film The Two Towers and how they handled humor. If it hadn't been for Gimli, that would have been a truly dreadful, heavy viewing experience.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I'm not always comfortable writing it, but I love reading it. I find a lot of movies use the humorous parts in their trailers to suck you into the theater, but the movie is really a "dramedy" - a little more serious than the movie trailer shows.

Kelley said...

When I first started Glittering Ashes, I thought it was going to be dark. Really dark, but I made one of my characters really snarky, and I loved writing her one-liners and such. I can't imagine the book now without the humorous bits. Good post!

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Anonymous said...

I love writing humor. My earlier manuscripts lacked it, and now I can't help myself. When I wasn't writing it, it was unnatural since I greatly enjoy humor. You make great points.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Anthony, yes, good point. It does heighten interest.

Clarissa, yes! I think humour works well in mysteries.

D U Okonkwo, they are great, memorable characters.

Donna, fantastic example

Stacy, yes, I've noticed that too.

Kelly, those types of characters make a world of difference to a story.

Medeia, yes, I think it's because we all naturally gravitate towards humour.