Today we have a great guest post by S.K. Nicholls. It’s all about adding various types of humor into your writing and she’s definitely got a lot to offer on this topic. Don’t forget to check out her newest novel, Naked Alliances: A Richard Noggin Novel.
My favorite books are the wacko Florida regional crime adventures for which my lovely State is famous. The characters in Tim Dorsey’s series, Serge and Coleman, serial killers who only murder scammers, are knee-slapping hilarious. Carl Hiaasen’s Skink, an old man who lives in the swamps, fights crime, and used to be Governor makes me chuckle every few pages. Tim Baker’s Ike, a former Navy Seal, who works as a strong arm for a bookie that owns a restaurant on A1A but tracks down outrageous criminals encroaching on his turf, has me laughing out loud every couple of chapters. And there are many others that keep me highly entertained.
Murder is easy, humor is hard.
I have heard humorist say you’ve either got it or you don’t, but there are techniques to employ in writing humor or gearing up to write humor. It doesn’t matter if you are writing chick-lit, crime romps, romance, or fantasy, keeping people entertained is a large part of what writers do. Most fiction has room for comic relief. But, you say, “I’m not a comedian.” That’s okay. There are many ways to interject funny into your work; writing words out of context, using puns, and more. Today I’m going to tell you about four of these ways to include humor in any work:
- Clever Jokes
At the end of this post, I’ll introduce you to my warm up method for getting into the right mind to write humor.
Banter is likely the easiest way to work humor into your work—if you have the right characters. It works well to slow pace between action scenes. For banter to work best, the characters have to spend enough time with each other and know each other well enough to understand how to push each other’s buttons. Opposing personalities make this an easier trick to pull off.
In Naked Alliances, Richard and Brandi, co-protagonists, are like oil and vinegar. He’s a private investigator, reserved, chivalrous, and prefers to work alone. She’s an outrageous exotic dancer, brassy, and loud. Their opposing personalities make it easy to toss one-liners back and forth in dialog that also aids in demonstrating or “showing” their personalities.
“No, nuh-uh,” he said, imitating Brandi when she wasn’t happy with how things were going. “We’re trying to look inconspicuous here.”
She stretched the back of her luminous dress down to cover her buttocks. “It’s party time and this is who I am. I’m an exhibitionist, you know.”
“No, you can’t go to the Ranch, in the middle of a swamp, lookin’ like some freshly minted Krugerrand!”
Brandi turned away and adjusted her blonde wig. “I resent that remark. There’s an African American insult in it somewhere…My white father can trace his lineage all the way back to the American Revolution.”
“Sorry. I’m sure he can. It’s just that we can’t go over there drawing attention to ourselves. After what happened to your friend, you should know you can’t go there lookin’ like an advertisement on Times Square.”
Sparring like this can be quick, blunt, and to the point and can can be used in other genre, like romance or fantasy. While having opposing personalities can make it easier, it’s not necessary.
Banter usually starts with a casual comment made to be a joke or mild tease. It can be a simple conversation leading to a joke too. Here’s another example from Charles E. Yallowitz’s fantasy series, Legends of Windemere, a book titled: Family of the Tri-rune. In this instance, there are no opposing personalities, but a window of opportunity for comic relief. Two characters, Tzefira and Nyx, engage in friendly banter. They are about to face the enemy.
“You’re hoping that my magic scares them off.”
“It has crossed my mind, so feel free to put on as big a show as possible.”
“What if they laugh at the display?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’ve never heard a krypter laugh.”
Short, sweet, and good for a chuckle to break the tension of the moment.
Slapstick, you either love it or hate it. Slapstick involves setting up a funny scene. Think of The Three Stooges. It’s much easier to portray in film than in written words, but your work might have a place for it.
In Naked Alliances, a whole chapter is dedicated to rescuing one of Brandi’s friends, Gloria, a female impersonator. She’s been wrangled like a bull, drugged, trussed like a turkey, and stuffed into a dark room…freeing her becomes an act of calamity.
Tim Dorsey’s Serge and Coleman are well known antiheroes, bad guys who take on the bad guys. Serge is a genius and Coleman is a stoner. They banter, but they also have very unique ways of murdering scam artists in Tiger Shrimp Tango…, I mean death by lobster, who woulda thunk it? Only Serge.
With slapstick you are setting up a scene, giving readers a visual into an awkward series of events with a hilarious outcome.
Sarcasm doesn’t need to be explained. It’s not so much how the sarcasm is written as it is how it is perceived by the reader. Sometimes sarcasm makes a character appear to be mean or tough…but sometimes that’s just what you need. It’s important to know your audience. But again, these little tips on humor can be used in any genre.
Wings of Meyhem, a psychological thriller about a hideous serial killer authored by crime writer Sue Coletta, keeps you on the edge of your seat with suspense and tension. However, Shawnee, a tough girl who is a cat burglar by night and a Police Department employee by day, has a tendency to respond with sarcasm that works to break the tension and add a touch of humor, while keeping her tough girl image.
“Good morning, Shawnee,” said Detective Charles North, a royal kiss ass, and a pain in mine. If Lieutenant Holt stopped short, he’d need to wear a neck brace for a month. “How’s it going in here?”
Staring at the monitor, I droned, “Chuck.”
“Charles. You know I go by Charles.”
“Right. My bad.”
“Did you find anything yet?”
“Did I call you?”
“Listen, Chuck. This isn’t the movies. Information doesn’t magically appear in seconds. It takes time.” He dragged a chair next to my desk and hovered over my shoulder. Regurgitated peppers and eggs repeated on him and, by proximity, on me. Waving away the stench, I said, “Do you mind?”
He scooted his chair back literally six inches. “Better?”
As you can see, even tough-girls can be amusing in a psychothriller. And then you have romance and chick-lit with plenty of room for sarcasm. Characters simply make snide remarks to other characters. Don’t try to plan to be funny yourself, allow your characters to take the reins.
Clever Jokes can be dropped into narrative or injected into dialog. Here you might have to be more of a comedian…or at least think like one.
You have a character, a female, complaining to another female about men. What can she compare men to?
“You know men. They’re like panty hose. They run, they cling, or they don’t fit right in the crotch.”
Or a male character complaining to another male about women. What can he compare women to?
“You know women. They’re like shed roofs. If you don’t nail them hard enough, they end up next door.”
Comparisons and hypothetical questions are good exercises to warm up for writing humor.
I promised to share my method for loosening up to write humor. The hypothetical questions exercise.
I get anxious about writing humor because different people find different things funny, and appealing to a large audience is a challenge. I can be funny all day, but sit down to write something amusing and draw a total blank.
Yes, murder is easy. Funny is hard. The characters and the plot are all there when I sit down to write. My anxieties stem from the fact that I am a serious person who worked to save lives. Shaking off that seriousness and letting go, releasing my inhibitions, and learning that it really doesn’t matter if I offend somebody cause somebody else is gonna laugh, have been key to loosening up to write humor.
I was scolded as a child for constantly asking the question, “What if…?” What if dogs could fly? What if horses had feathers? What if all the people in the world had blue hair? What if Leprechauns had club feet? What if dentists paid you to let them pull your teeth? What if you got scared half to death twice? What if you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?
It was cause for punishment as a kid, but I still use hypothetical questions as a warm up exercise to write humor.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe learned a few tricks of the trade.
A riveting romp through Central Florida, Naked Alliances air-drops you into the seedier side of Orlando that the amusement park industry tries to keep under wraps.
When a young immigrant woman and an exotic dancer are fleeing men with guns and have no place to hide, Richard Noggin, P.I., can’t turn his back on them, even if helping them makes him a target.
Richard plans to impress an aspiring politician by taking on a big white-collar case with the potential of getting him off the streets and into air-conditioned offices. Instead, he’s handed a cold case and quickly finds himself sucked into a shadowy world of sex, secrets and…murder.
Marked for a bullet and stretched thin by his investigations, he reluctantly teams up with the unlikely, brassy custodian of the young woman on the run. With bodies piling up, they go undercover in a nudist resort, determined to catch the killer and bring down the mastermind of the Alliance before someone else dies.
From the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon, to the sunny exposure of Leisure Lagoon, the Naked Eye juggles to keep his balls in the air.
S.K. Nicholls’ family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation located in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. Her experience gives her a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing. A former sexual assault nurse examiner, she has a special interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking. A native of Georgia, she lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Greg. When she’s not writing, she can be found tracking down Snorlaxes, wandering city parks with the homeless, or sipping margaritas on the bow of a boat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Florida Writer’s Association and Writers of Central Florida…or Thereabouts.
Twitter Handle: @sknicholls1