For the next two weeks on Tips and Teaching Tuesday, we have a special treat! Multi published author Janice Hanna Thompson has provided us with an article on humor writing. If you’ve read any of Janice’s books, you know she is a very funny lady! She obviously knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing humor. This week Janice will provide the intro and the first 2 of 10 tips for tickling the funny bone. Come back next Tuesday for the final 8 tips. If you’re interested in writing humor, you’ll definitely want to add this one to your files. Thanks to Janice for providing us with her expertise.
Humor Writing: Tickling the Funny Bone
By Janice Hanna Thompson
“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” – Bill Cosby
Humor writing comes naturally to some authors. Others have to work hard to be funny. (Sounds funny, doesn’t it. . .working hard to be funny?) I’m one of those who came into the world with an overactive funny bone. Oh, it occasionally gives me trouble. Life’s woes kick in and my funny bone gets arthritic. It locks up. Whenever that happens, I trip myself on purpose, just to loosen it back up again. (Hey, a girl can only go so long without laughter!)
Yep, from the time I was a little girl, I was the happy-go-lucky sort. Giggly. Goofy. My mom always called me a ham because of my overly-dramatic style. Not that I minded. Oh no. Drama was my thing. And performing comedy on the stage was the thing that made me happiest.
Then I grew up. . .and life happened. Unfortunately, some of the events of my grown-up life weren’t funny. In fact, they were pretty tragic. Still, through my faith and my innate desire to keep on keepin’ on, I managed to keep my smile intact much of the time.
So, what does this have to do with writing? Everything!
I wrote as a child—poems, stories, even a novel (in the 6th grade). And my drama sketches in high school were a hoot. (Note: There’s no greater thrill for a humor writer than to write for the stage. An audience filled with laughing patrons is the best gift in the world! Talk about instant gratification!) I went on to write musical comedies for the stage at a local school of the arts. Time after time I was rewarded with that “instant” gratification. And it felt good. In fact, it did my heart proud to know I was bringing joy to others, and there was some sense of satisfaction in knowing they “got” me. So, when I began to think about writing books for a living about fourteen years ago, I decided to take the humorous approach. What a ride it has been! During this crazy, awesome, rollicking season as a published author, I’ve written quirky romantic comedies for women of all ages. What joy! Not only do these humorous stories transport readers, they lift my spirits, as well. And frankly, I’ve needed my spirits lifted.
TIPS TO TICKLE THE FUNNY BONE:
So, what makes a story funny? Here are a few tips to creating a tale that will tickle the funny bone:
TIP ONE: Create unique characters that readers can genuinely relate to: Think of your favorite sitcom. For me, Everybody Loves Raymond is near the top of the list. Why did I love that show so much? The characters were (individually) hysterical. Each one had his/her own quirks. And those quirks got them into (and out of) jams. Funny characters also mess up. . .a lot. They get in trouble and need help getting out. We relate because we’re the same way. When you set out to write a comedy, create a cast of characters that you absolutely love. Don’t just focus on one or two. Choose at least three characters in your story who really have that extra “zing.” Characters that readers will remember for years to come. In my “Weddings by Bella” series, I created several funny characters (and boy, have I heard from readers about them). These characters include Aunt Rosa, Uncle Laz, Bella and the trio of “sisters” from Splendora Texas. These wacky people will stay with me for the rest of my life! I think some of my readers have adopted them, as well.
TIP TWO: Diversify your cast. Make sure you have distinctly different characters in your story. They need to have different opinions, different lifestyles, different personalities, different ways of dealing with their troubles. Throw these very different characters into an unusual situation and watch them each scramble. . .in their own unique ways. The contrast of styles is half the fun. Think of I Love Lucy. Were there ever four more different people than Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel? Because of their differences, we knew there would be conflict. And because of the conflict, we knew it would be chaotic and funny. I would also suggest that you diversify the ages of your characters. Put elderly people and kids together in the same scene. And why not diversify by mixing up the cultures and races of your cast? The more different your characters are, the greater the opportunity for humor.
Check back next Tuesday for Janice’s final 8 tips on writing humor…
Award-winning author Janice Thompson also writes under the pseudonym Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over fifty books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children’s books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. Janice currently serves as Vice-President of CAN (Christian Authors Network) and was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year, with three books on the top ten list for that house. Janice is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Her online course, “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” (www.freelancewritingcourses.com) has been helpful to many who want to earn a living with their writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends, and two mischievous dachshunds. She does her best to keep the Lord at the center of it all. You can find out more about Janice at www.janiceathompson.com or www.freelancewritingcourses.com.