Monday, May 5, 2014

Writing 101: Being Funny

Everybody likes laugh, and that's why writers who can be funny can also do very well. So now it's time to ask yourself: what do you know about being funny? 

So Why Don't You?

Being able to tell a joke well doesn't necessarily make you funny, but it sure as heck doesn't hurt. So if you can tell a joke and other people laugh, then you've got a shot at being funny in your books. You don't have to be a stand-up comedian to be capable of writing a book -- or at least, a book with some funny stuff in it. But you do have to know what it takes to be funny, because some of the same qualities that make comedians good can be translated onto the page.

  • Timing: Most comedians will tell you that being funny is all about the timing. What does that mean to authors? That means that stuff is funnier when it's unexpected. Surprise your audience with a funny remark or situation just when they're expecting something else. 
 Example: He leaned in closer, and I just knew he was about to kiss me. I was holding my breath as his lips came nearer and nearer to mine. My throat had gone dry, and I had a fluttery feeling that left me out of breath. His mouth was just about to touch mine when it happened. I sneezed all over him.
  • Relief: You've heard the expression comedic relief before. This is a term that usually applies to a character who has been inserted into an otherwise tense or frightening situation. This person is around to crack a joke every once in a while, lightening the terrible tension of that situation. Make this work for you. Paint your readers a frightening picture, and then make it suddenly funny instead.
 Example: There is was again, that creaking sound. I knew it well from all the nights I had to creep up the hallway, trying not to wake up my Mom. That's how I knew someone was in the hallway...coming closer to me. I had no choice: I went to the bedroom door. I had one chance to use the element of surprise to run past the intruder and get to safety. I took a deep breath as my hand tightened on the door knob. Then I pushed the door open, screaming! The intruder froze in surprise, and I darted around him. I would have made it, too...if it wasn't for that carpet with its one corner that wouldn't quite lay flat. My face was rushing toward the hardwood a second later, and somewhere behind me I heard my Dad shouting that I'd nearly given him a heart attack and what was I screaming about?
  • Jokes: The hardest way to be funny as a writer is to tell jokes, be amusing, make 'em laugh. It really is hard to be funny, to think of funny things to say. Do people laugh when you're around? Do they laugh with you or at you? Do people tell you that you're funny? If so, you've got a shot at being genuinely funny in your books. But if you're not a funny person already it's going to be hard for you to write jokes into your books. 
Never forget that most importantly, you must be true to your own voice. If your humor is sarcastic, be sarcastic. Make wisecracks. If your humor is more about funny observations, then make them. And if you're more into toilet humor, get on into the bathroom because some people are totally into it. Don't try to force funny; usually, the opportunity will end up presenting itself. 

Being funny comes naturally to some people and probably to some authors, but the rest of us have to work at it a little. The best way to be funny is to simply get into the zone of writing. Make sure you're comfortable, and fed, and undisturbed. Get into the story. If you're enjoying yourself, your natural sense of humor should have the opportunity to shine in the right moments.

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