Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why I Write Humor

Joss Whedon--the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, and writer and director of The Avengers--says,“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”

Joss Whedon and the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I agree.

Humor adds so much to any kind of writing.

Humor can prevent a dramatic scene from getting melodramatic and sappy.

Sometimes it can be a preemptive strike, because you know that if you don’t poke fun at your own story, there are those who will be more than happy to do it for you. It’s enough to have a character say, “You’ve gotta be kidding” before the reader does to “for the love of God, tell a joke.”

Humor can also prevent readers from getting bored.

Stephen King--the author of numerous bestselling novels, including Carrie, It and The Stand, and the undisputed king of the horror genre--says, “You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.”

It stays as long as it wants, because readers want laughter to stick around.

Humor keeps us on our toes and stops us from getting bored, because comedy is about surprise. 

Don’t believe that? Then ask yourself if you laugh harder the first time you hear a joke or the second? If it’s the first, ask yourself why. You’ll soon realize it’s because the element of surprise is gone. Humor can turn any kind of ordinary novel, movie, or TV show into one you just can't put down, walk away from, or turn off. Once it plops down in your favorite chair, you want to plop down in your favorite chair and stay there as long as it does.

Humor can change a cliche into something new.

For example, you've probably encountered many lovesick vampires in books, movies, and on TV, but how many have you encountered who are too shy to tell the girl they love how they feel? That's one of the reasons why Gilbert Garfinkle from Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one) is who he is--that amazing geek full of self-confidence who is afraid of only one thing: girls. He breaks all the vampire cliches, and that makes his story funny, surprising, and new.

And last but not least, humor makes us feel good. That’s been scientifically proven.

I don’t always write comedies. In fact, I cried buckets when I wrote my romantic, YA ghost-story, Ride of Your Life, and readers have told me that it has the same effect on them. But I do try to put some humor in everything I write. When I see a cliche, I feel a compulsive need to break it, or, at the very least, point it out. One of the scenes that is a turning point in Ride of Your Life isn't when Josh wows Tracy with some huge romantic gesture; it's when she laughs at his mistake and he's not too proud to laugh along with her. In fact, it makes him happy just to know he's put a smile on her face.

I like reading books--and watching TV show and movies--that make me laugh, even when they're making me fall in love, terrified, excited, or anything else. Who doesn’t? And knowing that makes me want to be the kind of writer whose stories I would enjoy reading, the kinds of stories that--at least here and there--make me laugh.  

I hope they make you laugh too.

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