This week’s discussion topic is ‘Humor in Writing,’ and our guests are Karen Cantwell, author of Take the Monkeys and Run, and Bridget Stegman, author of Summer Resolutions. If you love mysteries with a generous helping of humor, check it out.
Mark Twain said, “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
I’m very excited to be participating in this roundtable discussion. When David invited me to talk about how I inject humor into my writing, I said “Sure!” I can do that. But soon after, I wondered. Can I? How DO I inject humor into my writing? Hmmmm. I’ve always found turkey basters to be quite useful . . .
Okay, so let’s see if I can get temporarily serious on the subject of funny. Truth be told, I’ve never really thought about HOW I inject humor into my writing. I just do it. It seems that even when I set out to write a serious piece, some little bit of humor finds its way into the story. But how do I do it? I decided to consult some experts on the subject and see if they could dissect for me what I was doing.
The great man of humor, Groucho Marx said, “Humor is reason gone mad.” Immediately I think of Janet Evanovich’s Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum series. Grandma Mazur is not your typical grandma. Typical grandmas – grandmas we expect to read about – are REASON. Grandma Mazur, however, is an old lady that shoots bullet holes into the dining room tables and attends punk rock concerts – she is reason gone mad. And she’s one of the funniest characters out there.
Another funny man, Victor Borge said, “Humor is something that thrives between man’s aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” Well, ain’t that the truth? I find that some of my funniest lines in Take the Monkeys and Run are those that people might think truthfully in their minds, but not necessarily say out loud. In Chapter One, Barb’s husband has left her. She’s in bed trying to find something on TV, to distract her from her misery, but she finds nothing but movies about divorce: “Disgusted, I turned off the TV, turned out the lights and contemplated learning voodoo so I could hex Howard with a festering urinary tract infection.”
Finally, I, Karen Cantwell can attest to the poop-can-be-funny rule: “There are definitely, unequivocally three monkeys . . . make that four monkeys in my trees. And the fourth one just pooped on my mums.”
Everyone has a different idea of what humor is to them. My collection of short stories has a main character that has a neurotic personality, and nothing ever goes as planned. My goal is to have my readers laughing at her “situations”.
I remember reading Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money, and thinking what a great job she did at creating a story that was naturally funny with believable characters. Evanovich does an outstanding job of telling a story, maintaining a high level of interest and making the reader laugh out loud. I have never been a bail bondsman, like Evanovich’s main character, but I could put myself in the characters shoes and picture myself catching the bad guys.
Humor can also be easily misunderstood in writing. A writer’s goal might be to make people laugh, when instead the reader is offended or in a worst-case scenario, the reader is bored. A good humor writer has to know their audience and plan accordingly. I often find myself laughing when I hear a country song on the radio. I doubt this was the writer’s goal, however, humor is subjective. Apparently I’m easily amused by beer and losing best friends.
Thanks to Karen and Bridget for sharing their thoughts. If you enjoy humor in fiction, be sure to give their books a try!