Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Humor, Every Novel Needs Some

I love to laugh. Who doesn't? So when I pick up a book, it doesn't matter what the genre, I expect to get a laugh somewhere along the way. Even the saddest book or the most dramatic needs comic relief. (Yes, this is my opinion. Feel free to disagree because reading is subjective.)


So, when I write, I make sure I have comic relief. I just finished revising a sequel, and I took a considerable amount of time between drafting and revising. The result was a good laugh. Seriously, it was in a good way. I have a character who drops one-liners, and she had me laughing up a storm while revising. I forgot how funny she can be.


And even the narration had some funny moments. I wish I could remember what I was doing when I wrote those chapters because I don't think I'm very funny, and yet I created characters who are.


What's your opinion on humor in books? Should all books have some?

73 comments:

  1. I wrote a UF once, and I made sure there were sidekicks and comic relief characters. However, it's much harder to convincingly insert humor into Horror novels. I can put in a little at the beginning as the hero and heroine get to know each other, but after that there are too many screams to fit in laughter! lol
    Great post! :-)

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    1. Unless... you have the sinister villain who finds humor in it all and makes funny comments that make the good guys even more scared! ;P

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  2. Oh yes I totally agree -- I'll be ready to put down a book forever when a one-liner will catch me and totally put the whole thing into a different perspective...one that's more forgiving and willing to push forward to find the next humor pocket. I think humor is key to tying a fiction to reality as well, because I think most of us try to deal with hard situations by finding a funny side to it. Hmm.

    A great reminder for my own writing too. Thanks.

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    1. You're welcome. And I agree. So many times I think, "I can laugh or cry." I usually choose to laugh.

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  3. You're right - humor is very important. My characters tend to have a sarcastic sense of humor much like my own. They can drop hilarious one-liners, even in the heat of battle. The WIP I'm currently working on has a heroine who reminds me a lot of the character Faith in the Buffy The Vampire Slayers. You could count on Faith, and Buffy too, to drop hilarious one liners even when they were fighting off a horde of vampires. That's what kept me going back to the series, and that's what I look for in novels as well. If I can laugh out loud while the characters are battling for their lives, that made my day.

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    1. I completely agree. I loved Buffy and Faith. They were great together, and yes, even in battle they could make you laugh. :)

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  4. There's a part in Dahl's 'Matilda' where Matilda finishes reading 'The Chronicles of Narnia', and her biggest complaint was that there were no funny bits. I try to make sure there's always a couple of funny bits in my writing, even if the story is serious. For me, if I've lost my sense of humor I've lost everything.

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    1. Same here. I think readers need moments of comic relief. I also think that humor can cause the reader to make a deeper connection to a character.

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  5. I agree that every novel in any genre could use at least a little humor; a funny character, some witty one-liners, or just a humorous event. And I try to use it, too, in my writing. Sometimes I will come up with something that I will find hilarious, but I will always seem to doubt myself and think, "Will people get the humor in this? Will they find it funny, too?" All I can do is hope for the best.

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    1. I worry about that too. What's funny to one isn't funny to all. When I taught 8th grade, my students thought I was really funny. I don't think I'm all that funny, but to them I was. I loved that. But again it proves that you just never know what others will find amusing. You can only hope for the best.

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    2. Kelly, you bring up a fair point. Humor on its own can be highly subjective.

      Also, not all books are riddled with comedy, that doesn't mean they're boring reads. I didn't have a ton of LOL moments reading a YA novel (I forget the title, but it's contemporary) last year, but I don't regret reading it. It's just not the kind of book I'd read over and over.

      While we all like to laugh, I do believe it's harder to bring in humor for some stories more than others.

      I personally love the humor where all my characters (in a given scene) get to laugh, without being at the expense of someone's dignity(I think for me that's an side-effect for having been bullied as a kid).

      I like to have at least one scene like that, and when I read it in another writer's books, I feel like I've been given a rare gift, since snarky one-liners are the norm,and I do believe variety is key for the same reason we get lectured about changing up sentence structure, or other aspects to craft and plotting.

      It still has to be appropriate for the story, or it will feel out of place, and you don't want to be inappropriate for your story by just cramming humor where it doesn't logically belong.

      Still Kelly, even you have to admit that sometimes there are books where it feels like the writer is trying too hard to be funny, right?

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    3. I'm not saying books have to be riddled with humor. But I think every book can have at least one humorous moment or comment. That's all.

      And yes, it can backfire if the author tries too hard to be funny. I don't think it's something you really try for. You just are funny. Know what I mean?

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    5. Yes, I do. I was just making that point because I know it might be read too stark to some. Because I make this mistake all the time.

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  6. I like some comic relief. Of course, it's not always possible. There's seldom any in dystrophia, so I guess that's why it's not my favorite.

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    1. I think even in dystopians there's room for a one-liner, even if it's an "Oh crap" kind of moment/comment that can get a chuckle from the reader. Sarcasm can also make for good humor.

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  7. Laughing is good! I'm trying to write a romantic comedy right now. I have no idea if it will actually be funny, but we'll see :)

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  8. I think some of the funniest people I've ever met didn't realize they were funny. It's part of their personality and when I go, "Oh my gosh, you're a hoot!" they always go, "I'm so serious!"

    Haha!!

    One of the most compelling twists in a story (IMHO) is when there is a moment of hilarity interrupted by tragedy. I know, that's sick, but it's really powerful stuff which effects the human soul.

    Wow, you got me thinking again. I always am inspired when I stop by here, Kelly. :D

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    1. Aw, thank you, Diane. That means so much to me. I totally get what you are saying about moments of hilarity interrupted by tragedy. Any time emotions run high, you suck the reader in. Emotions are such powerful tools in writing.

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  9. Yes, if you can "do" humor then go for it. Not everyone can, but even scary books need some.

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    1. I agree that scary books need humor too. I think even if you aren't funny, your characters can be. They are "people" in themselves. They aren't the writer. At least mine are separate from me. ;)

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  10. I totally agree. Every book should have some funny moments even if the story itself isn't funny. I love to do the whole witty banter between characters or have them be super sarcastic.

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    1. Same here, Auden. I love witty banter and sarcasm. :)

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  11. I love it when a book can make me laugh out loud --for real, not in the LOL texting way. Life has many moments of humor, some, like you said, even in the saddest times. I think it is what gets us through.

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    1. Yes, great point. Laughter is powerful medicine.

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  12. So true. One of my characters is definitely comic relief,though I didn't start out to write him that way. Once I recognized it, I tried to make sure he had a little something in each of his scenes. I'm not funny, but that doesn't mean my characters can't be. :)

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    1. Exactly. We aren't our characters. We have to remember that even if we aren't funny, our characters can be. :)

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  13. I always include humor in my books and I prefer books that have at least some humor in them. :D

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  14. I like humor in all books. I think scary books need them to relieve tension. I add humor in my writing because I enjoy reading books that make me laugh (especially if they make me cry).
    ~Jess

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    1. I'm with you! Life is so absurd and crazy...you have to laugh, right? For me, a serious book with humor is the best kind. Gish Jen is one of my favorite writers for that reason. And Sherman Alexie.

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    2. Jess, humor for tension relief is so powerful and the reader needs it! I completely agree.

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    3. Helen, I'll have to check out those authors. Thanks!

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  15. I can see Lexa's point about comic relief in a horror novel. Somehow, I think horror movies can get away with it, because they have so much visual and auditory mood-building to yank you back into the right state of mind. In a book, you have only your words.

    I usually expect some comic relief in all books and try to build some into my work. But they have to be at the right moments. I recently made the decision to cut a comic relief moment out of a scene in my WIP because it working against the tension of the moment.

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    1. Great point, Diane. You don't want the humor to work against the mood.

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  16. I agree with you 100%, Kelly. I love a book sprinkled with humour. Makes it memorable to me. Sometimes I don't realise that something one of my character does or says is funny until I read it much later, or someone else comments about it.
    Great post!

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    1. Yes! Same here. I'll go back and revise later on and see the humor I didn't realize was there when I wrote it. I love that!

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  17. I can't disagree. Our characters may not be real but to be believable they should show all emotions, and draw at least a smile out of the reader. I like it when a character makes me laugh and cry. I don't tend to like characters who are miserable all the time - not my thing, but I know there are many out there who love that sort of character and story.

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    1. Brenda, I don't like books to depress me. I want books to be an escape from the depressing things in the world. Maybe that's why I like humor so much. :)

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  18. Some of the most memorable funny moments in my life came during family crisis, or some other drama. I think humor is sometimes what keeps us sane. Excellent blog, Kelly.

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  19. i need contrast to whatever it is that i'm reading, whether it be a funny book, i need some opposing moments, and vice versa.

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    1. Yes, contrast is great. It works so well for the story.

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  20. humor is very important. I always have at least one character who has a rather bent perception on the world to offer a funny slant to even the most serious books.

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  21. We absolutely need comic relief in books even in the middle of a battle scene. It breaks the monotony of a description. In my GL series, which has lots of fighting and intense lets-kick-some-demon-butt scenes, i def need humor. Nice post, Kelly.

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    1. You use humor well in your books, Ednah. I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed Betrayed. :)

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  22. I like to laugh and make others laugh, but I didn't know I could write humour into a story until I started working on a novel. One of my characters did the funniest thing, at least in the opinion of another character .. which made the whole scene quite funny to me. So far it's one of my two favourite scenes in my novel (WIP).

    It's true laughter is as a good medicine. It releases in the brain what we need to lift our spirits and to heal. Love and laughter ... essential to a contented life. (imo)

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    1. I agree, Lynn. And I hope my readers find love and laughter in my books.

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  23. It doesn't have to make me laugh out loud, but I love humor in books. It gives us a break from serious scenes and shows character depth.

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    1. Yes, it can show character depth. Great point!

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  24. All books has its own humor. Some light, some dark. I know it helps me be more emotionally involved. If you can make them laugh and cry, you bet people will read on. :)

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  25. Yes, I like to see humor, even in serious novels. Sometimes the reader needs a moment to take a breath.

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  26. There was humor even in Hamlet -- and with a skull, at that! While I think that a book can be good even without humor, something funny will make it better.

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  27. I like a little humor in books because it does break the tension. I'm honestly not fond of humorous books though.

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    1. Books that focus on humor are very tough to write. I would never attempt it. I have read a few, and they aren't my favorite. I prefer my humor mixed in with other genres.

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  28. Ha! I know exactly how that goes. I'm not very funny, either as a writer or in-person, but somehow my characters end up making jokes and one-liners I never would have thought of making myself.

    I agree with you. Even a serious, heavy novel needs comic relief. It endears the characters to the reader, allows bonds to form with them, and lets us readers take a breather before diving back into the dark underbelly.

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    1. All great points, Kiersi. Comic relief serves so many purposes. It adds dimension to the characters and the story. It provides a lighter mood to break up tension. It evokes emotion in the reader. All are valuable tools.

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  29. Oh yes, I think books should contain tinges of humour - either from a character's quips or from the misinterpretations between characters. Even in sad or dramatic stories, there ought to be lighter moments. Or moments that can make readers smile. Great reminder! I think I need to put in a few lighter moments in my MG novel manuscript. Everything was getting a little too intense, even for me.

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    1. Yes, lighten it up here and there. Your readers will thank you. :)

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  30. Another great post, Kelly. For me, humor is a second-draft revision. It comes easier when the pressure of laying out the novel is over. I think humor adds texture to any novel.

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    1. Oh, it definitely does add texture to a novel. I completely agree.

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  31. There's a reason why I call Storm Chaser a romantic comedy ....

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  32. If you've read The Book Thief, you'll know that there CAN be great humor in the saddest of situations or books. Gees, it was placed in WWII and yet I laughed up a storm at parts. Yet, I did bawl my brains out at the end.
    I try to add comic relief in what I write. It is needed for sure. In my first book, I've got a character who is the funny man. I laugh everytime I read scenes he's in.

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    1. I love when a character in my book can make me laugh. Sounds like you do too. :)

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  33. Even though I'm writing in a tense thriller genre, I really do like incorporating humor into it. It's best expressed in the banter between my two main characters.

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    1. Yes, humor in banter is great. I'm glad to hear you have humor in your thriller.

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