17 December, 2010

Humor In Writing

**First, don't forget to vote HERE for the best Midwinter Blogfest post! I'm one of the finalists, along with Rachel Morgan and Brenda Drake! Congrats to both of them!**

Few books make me laugh, but when they do, another kind of word-magic comes into play. Humor in books adds a different kind of release into the world and the characters--by seeing what the characters laugh at, it's also another way of getting a perspective on their personality.

There are three main ways a writer can put humor into a story:

1. By using characters that are funny in some way, either by appearance, speech, or action.

2. By not having funny characters, but creating it so the plot/events/etc. are amusing in relation to the story.

3. By using the language, outside of the plot and the characters.

Some examples of this:

1. Characters: Jace from The Mortal Instruments, and Billy from Sammy Keyes. Most of your probably haven't heard of the latter, but both characters are an example of character-based humor. Jace is sarcastic, fakes being ridiculously self-centered, and quick to make snarky remarks--he says some funny things as a consequence. Billy is the school clown, always goofing off and doing dares and acting crazy; a person you just can't help but laugh at.

2. Plot/events/etc.: The Hitchhiker's Trilogy. Douglas Adams does a fabulous job of putting the characters through some crazy, wild, and almost impossible situations; what's even more absurd is the fact that theoretically it could happen. It might not be hard SF, but it's possible enough to be SF and not Fantasy.

42, The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Lif...Image via Wikipedia

3. Language: Eoin Colfer. Colfer is one of my favorite writers. His writing style is sarcastic and there are often sentences outside of dialogue (which would mean characters) that relate to something that someone said or did that are like punchlines--they suddenly pop up, and have a certain dry and sarcastic element to them.

Eoin ColferCover of Eoin Colfer

Of course, not all people like the same kind of humor. What some people find funny others do not, which is why some books people call "funny" aren't as attractive to others. My kind of humor is Eoin Colfer-style; the Artemis Fowl Series cracked me up at least once in all of them. The jokes aren't funny funny, as in completely innocent jokes, since they deal with things like weapons and breaking into banks, taking hostages and talking with the Russian Mafiya. But I find that kind of humor laugh-worthy.

Some kinds of humor can be over-the-top, when the person's working too hard to seem funny. Then it's just overdrive, and can be too much without enough serious prose/dialogue to balance the humor.

Did you ever feel that a book's humor fell flat for you, or that the author went overboard? Do you think that humor is a plus, or that it's necessary for a book? Do you use it in your own writing, if you write, and if so, do you prefer it if it's the characters, events, or the language, when you're writing or reading? Do you read many books that have humor in them?

-----The Golden Eagle
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Colene Murphy said...

Great examples on some funny characters. Well, I only know Jace but you haven't been wrong yet! I worry about not being funny when I try to be in my writing. It's tricky!

Misha1989 said...

Love this post! You gave some good examples. My favorite though is The Hitchhikers' Guide to Galaxy. I could not stop laughing in this one.
Congrats on being a finalist!

The Golden Eagle said...

Colene: You should read the other books! They are pretty funny. :)

It is tricky--I agree! And the more you scrutinize, the more it can be non-funny, sometimes . . .

Misha: I'm glad you like it, Misha!

I cracked up so many times in The Hitchhiker's Trilogy. :D

Thank you!

Summer Ross said...

I'm mostly a pretty serious person. I have a hard time writing humor, and alot of the time when I read something that "Should" be funny, I tend to take it to literal and well it's not funny that way. I do find somethings funny, but its hard to get me to laugh out right. I tend to find things amusing sometimes like pictures and such. One kind of humor I can't stand in anything is "Stupid Humor" like the spoofs and like some of the american pie shows.

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

I loved Douglas Adams’ humour.

Congratulations on being a finalist.

Mary Mary said...

First, congrats on being a finalist! I wish you and your competition the best of luck.

Second, I'm glad you touched upon humor in literature. It's such a tough thing to write and I really believe you have to have a knack for it in order for it to come across to the reader. I'm much more of a serious writer and actually find writing violent scenes easier than having to inject humor into my storyline. When I do, I don't think it's really intentional, it just happens. I guess I'm one of those who thrives off of tragedy!

Nice post!

♥ Mary mary

The Words Crafter said...

I read a lot of YA and I love Artemis Fowl!!!!!! Have you read Half Moon Investigations?

I agree, humor in Colfer's books is pretty great. Mine would be the characters, either in thought or dialogue.

Paul C said...

I have always liked Roald Dahl, a master story teller who laced his stories with humour. My daughters loved to read him too. (I have added you to my blog roll.)

Old Kitty said...

I absolutely love Hitchhiker's Guide. Love it. It still makes me laugh out loud and it so surreal it's just brilliant!!

Terry Pratchett uses very gentle and humane and poignant humour with his books - that's why I love them so!

I can't do humour with my writing!! I get very self conscious and realise I'm trying to hard to be funny! Nope - I leave humourous writing to the experts!

Congratulations with being a finalist in the midwinter blogfest!! I loved your piece and so voted!!

Take care

Caroline said...

Haha, Eoin Colfer is great;). I don't think a book NEEDS to be funny to be good, but it's definitely a big plus, such as in Shannon Hale's books and Percy Jackson. The humor in the latter is what I love in a book, though it wouldn't fit every situation...ok, now I'm rambling. End of pointless comment...*grins* :D :D :D

Jai Joshi said...

Humours always a good thing but I never try to consciously put it in because then it might sound forced. I just let it come out naturally through the situation and the characters so it sounds natural.


mist of the blossom rain said...

I LOVED The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy! I know what you mean about Eoin Colfers writing. I only read one of his books Which was the Wish List. A very good book.
They "funny" books that I liked to read for pleasure are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. They make me laugh, and I can read them in a couple hours.

Carol Kilgore said...

I love humor in books. Not so much books that are funny, but books where humor emerges naturally in situations, events, and dialogue.

Brian said...

I think good use of humor is often overlooked. But sometimes I find some strange things pretty funny! Congrats on being a finalist...I voted!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like subtle humor but not overboard in my books.

Lydia K said...

I usually don't write purely humorous books, but I like books with a touch of humor here and there. Great post!

RaShelle said...

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read The Hitchikers Guide. I need to. These were great examples though. It can be tricky to put humor in a novel, but so worth it, if done right.

Liz said...

I love humor in writing. I wish I could do it myself.

I know what you mean about sometimes the writer trying too hard to be funny. I can't think of the writer, but every time I read his stuff, that's all I think. He tried too hard, and the result just wasn't funny. (I think I blocked out his name so that I don't have to encounter his writing any more.)

Mason Canyon said...

I like your examples of humor. I enjoy a bit of humor mixed in. I enjoy it most when the author weaves in the story and it feels natural. Good luck on your blogfest post.

Thoughts in Progress

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! Humour is very difficult to write well - you've given some terrific examples!

I haven't read the Hitchhiker's Guide in years and years. It totally cracked me up - I'll have to read it again!

Vicki Rocho said...

I love humor in books. And it can be anything - a ridiculous situation, a wise-cracking character or the play on words (hahaha...I just inadvertently recapped your list). I like natural humor though, don't like it feeling forced or like it's trying too hard.

Kari Marie said...

Humor is a welcome break when done well. I find that sometimes the humorous parts surprise me more than some of the plot twists. Like little slices of life that are so real that it makes them funnier.

Congratulations on being a finalist!

Rachel Morgan said...

Cassie Clare's and J. K. Rowling's characters can make me LAUGH OUT LOUD sometimes! Love it :-) Another character in the Mortal Instruments that I found really funny was Simon. Especially some of the Jace/Simon interactions.

Jules said...

I love the dry, hinted at sort of humor. Though not required it helps sometimes. Nice thought process :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Pk Hrezo said...

I agree... humor is so necessary in stories. Without it is like chewing gum that's lost its flavor.

Congrats on the finals! I voted for you. :)

Misha said...

I love humor in writing.

I LOOOVE Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxay.

I tend to write things I find funny into the story, but I think people tend to miss it, since my humor tends to be very dark and bitter and at least slightly twisted.

Can be fun though. I get to laugh myself silly at many things...


My favorite humorous book would be The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I love humor in writing. It is so hard to achieve I relish a book that pulls it off.

I see we will all have to meet up for coffee at the restaurant at the end of the universe.;)

The Golden Eagle said...

Summer: Sometimes I take things too seriously as well; but when the humor has to do with serious things is usually when I start laughing . . .

The Blogger: Me, too! :)

Thank you!

Mary: Thanks, Mary!

I write more serious scenes better than humor most of the time as well. I can describe a riot better than a funny exchange, sometimes. :P

Thank you--I'm glad you liked it!

The Words Crafter: Yes . . . but I thought that was one of his weaker books, actually. The humor was there, but for some reason the mystery just didn't appeal to me.

I agree, although I tend to prefer diaolgue over thoughts.

Paul: Roald Dahl has an interesting sense of humor; some of his books are strange (to me, anyway) but I do enjoy them.

Thank you! I'm glad you think my blog is worth it.

Old Kitty: Right with you!

I love Terry Pratchett! Have you ever read his YA novel Nation?

Sometimes I inject a little, just to see how it works out.

Thank you for voting! :)

Caroline: For some reason, I never found Hale's writing funny . . . I guess it isn't my kind of humor. :P

I don't mind long, rambly comments! Ramble away!

Jai: Good point--sometimes thinking about it can lead to humor being too artificial.

Mist of the blossom rain: I enjoyed reading The Wish List as well--and the ending was great.

I've never read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, although I see it everywhere. They made a movie, too, didn't they?

Carol: Me, too.

The Golden Eagle said...

Brian: Humor does add to writing overall.

LOL, I find some strange things funny as well.

Thank you!

Alex: Too much is just . . . well, too much.

Lydia: I don't write books focused on humor, either; I don't read many, either, since a lot of humor just doesn't jive with me. Or it doesn't make me laugh a lot, anyway.


RaShelle: Don't be embarrassed--there are a lot of people who haven't read the book . . .


Liz: I do, too, although I try to add little things here and there that might amuse the reader in some way--I'll just have to see how that develops. :)

LOL. Good for you, then! I have trouble forgetting things.

Mason: I'm glad you like them, Mason!

Natural humor works the best in writing, true.

Thank you!

Jemi: Thanks, Jemi! :)

You should--it's absolutely ridiculous!

Vicki: I think so, too.

Kari: I can't think of a book where the humor surprised me more than a plot twist, but it's nice when surprises like that are sprung, isn't it? Or when a character suddenly reveals a side no one else knew about before.

Thank you!

Rachel: Me, too. In Rowlings' work it was probably the Weasley twins. :D

Oh, the Jace/Simon dialogue cracked me up too . . .

The Golden Eagle said...

Jules: I love dry humor. :)

Pk: Well, I don't chew gum, but I get the idea--LOL.

Thanks for voting!

Misha: I agree, on both counts!

It all depends on the person; sometimes I like dark, twisted humor too, though! It can be a way of getting out of a mood.

I've never heard of that, but based on the title it does sound funny. :)

Holly: Books that have humor are even more special!

Thanks for all the fish. ;D

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like the natural feel - moments of goofiness with the characters through plot or dialogue. Hitchhiker's guide was too over the top for me.

The Golden Eagle said...

L. Diane: True, the Guide was a little crazy at times; I liked the over-the-top feel as a kind of release from the norm. :P

Amanda the Aspiring said...

I loved the humor in Artemis Fowl as well. Eoin Colfer is a genius! I try to include that sort of thing in my writing, as well as character-themed humor and irony in general. I've been meaning to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy--I've only seen the movie, and I liked that a lot. =)