So you’ve been waiting all week for this, haven’t you? And it’s no wonder. Janice Hannah Thompson offers some great tips on writing humor. And if there’s one thing this world needs besides Jesus, it’s more laughter. If you missed part one, which include the first two tips, take a moment to read it here: HUMOR WRITING (part 1)
Now that you’re all caught up, it’s time for tips 3-10.
TIP THREE: Exaggeration: If your character is tall, make him really tall. Chubby? Make her exceptionally chubby. Nervous? Make him overly anxious. Claustrophobic? Carry it a bit further than the norm. Does she like to wear lipstick? Make it Pollyanna Pink or Ruby Red. Give that character an exaggerated “sticking point” that readers will remember. And, exaggerate plotline highs and lows, as well. Is she in a valley? Make it a deep one. Is he on the mountaintop? Give him the experience of a lifetime. Think, again, ofEverybody Loves Raymond. Raymond’s brother Robert was an exaggerated character. His moodiness was definitely over-the-top. But it worked, especially in contrast to the silliness of some of the other characters.
TIP FOUR: Situational comedy: Spend time watching for humorous moments in your own life. What “situations” get you giggly? Think about placing your characters in a “situation” that will play out in a humorous way. By way of example, let’s look again at I Love Lucy. Did we really find it believable that a housewife would take a job in a chocolate factory and end up shoving candies down her blouse? Um, probably not. Did we laugh like hyenas when the episode aired? You betcha! Did we really think that a housewife would start her own company making mayonnaise and eventually bankrupt her husband’s finances? Nope. But we bought it for thirty minutes. I Love Lucy was the perfect example of a situational comedy. Week after week we waited to see what “situation” our gal would end up in. We empathized with her (this is very important) and we thought she was a little kooky. In short, we saw a little of ourselves in her.
TIP FIVE: Slapstick: Think of Larry, Mo and Curly. Sure, their antics got a little old after awhile, but you get the idea. “Physical” comedy (tripping over things, physical gags, etc.) has always had its place in humor writing. This tactic has been used a lot in comedic movies. Think about the old Barbara Streisand movie, “What’s Up Doc?” The film was loaded with slapstick elements, especially during the San Francisco chase scene. I would caution you to use slapstick sparingly, but don’t rule it out.
TIP SIX: Speaking of Larry, Mo and Curly: Work in threes. Three funny characters as a trio. Three funny situations in a row. Threes have always worked in comedy. “Three nuns walked into a bar…” “A pilot, a priest and a rabbi boarded a plane…” (etc.) See what I mean? Funny people love the number three.
TIP SEVEN: Pacing: There’s much to be said about the placement of words, phrases and inflections. Pacing it truly everything in comedy. And don’t be afraid to try different things. In many respects, it is learned by trial and error. If you aren’t sure something is working, run it by your critique partners. See if they’re tickled by your words. For a good example of comedic pacing, watch a few Golden Girls episodes. Timing was everything in that show.
TIP EIGHT: The Punch Line. If you’re writing comedy, make sure you leave the reader anticipating a “Wowza!” punch line. Don’t give away too much too soon. Adequately build the story, then. . .bam! Punch line!
TIP NINE: Do the opposite thing. Place your character in a scene and then have him or her do the very opposite thing the reader expects.
TIP TEN: Live the Life: Let humor lead the way! In my own life, I find that being funny on the page is easier when I’m truly walking through life with a joyous attitude. It’s not always easy (and life often intervenes, threatening to remove any hint of humor), but for those who live a life of faith, it is possible. The Bible is loaded with all sorts of great scriptures about joy. Check out this verse: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) When we transfer our “merry heart” to the page, then we’re sharing the joy with our readers. Is there any greater honor?
There you have it! Ten tips for tickling the funny bone. Enjoy yourself as you pen stories that will make others chuckle. Have a great day writers. Go forth. . .and giggle!
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.