Let’s face it, we all love a giggle but can you make people laugh? Some people seem to be better at it than others, which poses the question CAN YOU LEARN TO WRITE HUMOUR?
Adding humour to features, fillers or your latest novel or non-fiction book can keep your readers riveted and has the ability to turn the most boring of subjects into something of a talking point.
If you find the thought of writing humour daunting; you’re probably not funny. Harsh but true.
Have you noticed that in life, anything we struggle with, is usually because we don’t have a natural affinity for it? I’m terrible at working with figures so I would never want to work for the Inland Revenue for example – I actually did work for the Revenue for 14 years, which sucked for them. I was only meant to be there for three weeks but most of the time I was organising or taking part in sporting events.
So this brings me back to question CAN YOU LEARN TO WRITE HUMOUR? And the answer. NO.
OK, that was a little funny, but seriously, what does it take to inject humour into your writing? For the next few blogs, I will guide you through the different types of humour and how to use it in your writing. This week we are talking about humour in general, stupid jokes, timing and punchlines.
Not everyone finds the same jokes or situations funny, so have a think about what makes you laugh. How many times have you been the only one who is still laughing after someone told you a terrible joke twenty minutes ago? Think about what is was that made you laugh. Has a similar situation happened to you? Was it a witty one-liner that whacked your funny bone?
I once read a joke book whilst in the waiting room of the Osteopath; the jokes were short and incredibly silly but I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading. The receptionist kept looking up from her paperwork to check I was still breathing. Here are a couple of examples:
What’s brown and sticky? — A stick
What do you call a greenfly with no legs? — A Bogie
What’s red and invisible? — No tomatoes!
What do you call a man with a spade in his head? — Doug
I know some of you are shaking your head and tutting right now but I just had to step away from my laptop I was laughing so hard!
Knowing what makes you laugh can help when you want to write something funny. The reason the above are funny is timing; they are short and punchy. This is an example of something I wrote to Grow Your Own magazine after my first year of growing vegetables:
I started growing my own fruit and vegetables last year and although I realise I will be learning for many years to come, here’s what I have learned so far:
You don’t need to plant every seed in the packet — there’s only so much you can do with courgettes!
Lovingly tending a blade of grass in a pot does not make it the celeriac you know you planted.
Spring onions are just leeks you were too impatient to wait for.
Bindweed, when staked and cosseted under a cloche tunnel, will thrive but will never produce green beans.
Green beans look a lot like bindweed.
I kept each point short to allow for maximum impact — unless, of course, you are currently screwing up your nose wondering what I’m on about. This means it had no impact on you, which is fine, it means this type of humour is not for you — or you’re comically stunted. Maybe, you laugh more at the kind of humour which involves the telling of a story with a comical punchline. This can be effective in novels as you can adapt the story to the character. It doesn’t have to be in strict ‘joke’ form.
Here is an example from a story I wrote about Jen who is meeting her ‘friend’ in the work canteen. Jen is the narrator.
Carla has a great job in IT and my job sucks. Her boyfriend’s name is Zak; he’s a lawyer — my boyfriend’s name is Toby — he’s my dog! Carla calls him that as we do everything together.
So consider how to incorporate your own sense of humour in your writing.
TRY THIS EXERCISE:
Think about a joke you thought was funny and ask yourself what it was that tickled you. Could you have heard the same joke from someone else and still thought it funny? Was there a story and a punchline or was it like my examples earlier… just stupid?
Feel free to leave your favourite joke below and I’ll let you know if snot came out of my nose or if I simply did an Elvis-style lip curl.
Next time I will be discussing black comedy and how to choose the right word for effect.
Short Stories and Drinks
Posted on August 28, 2018 Leave a Comment
A story I had published in CafeLit recently was voted into the yearly anthology, The Best of CafeLit7, and is now available. Each story is assigned a drink; my story, Bone Collectors, should be read with an espresso and a shot of (Black) Sambuca.
CafeLit like to publish stories that are thought-provoking and maybe a little different from the ones you read in women’s magazines.
If you would like a FREE copy of the book, contact me and I will send one out to the first five people who ask. I would only request that you put a review on Amazon once you’ve read it.
Each story in this little volume is the right length and quality for enjoying as you sip the assigned drink in your favourite Creative Café. You need never feel alone again in a café. So what’s the mood today? Espresso? Earl Grey tea? Hot chocolate with marshmallows?
Posted on February 22, 2018 2 Comments
Lunchtime in the canteen has never been my favourite time of day, mainly because I’m overweight and hate anyone watching me eat. What makes it worse is Carla Bridport: we were at the same school growing up but she grew UP and I grew OUT. We work for the same company and meet for lunch almost every day. I don’t know why as she’s always mean to me but there is nowhere else to go and I can’t seem to say no to her.
Carla has a great job in IT and my job sucks. Her boyfriend’s name is Zak – he’s a lawyer – my boyfriend’s name is Toby; he’s my dog. Carla calls him that because we do everything together. Oh great, she’s here.
“Hey Jen, how’s the latest diet going?”
“Great, I lost two pounds this week.”
“Which you will, no doubt, put back on next week,”
“No, I’m keeping it off this time.”
“You said that last time so what’s different now?”
“The school reunion is in eight weeks and I still need to find an outfit. That’s why I passed on the pudding today.”
“Oh, this? It’s only ninety-nine calories, Maureen behind the counter told me. How are things at the bottom?”
“Boring, how are things at the top?” I ask sarcastically.
“Great, I’ve been given a promotion.”
“Oh, how lovely for you.” I try my best to sound excited. “Does that mean more pay?”
“Yep, I’m going to get myself those Gucci trousers I wanted; you know the skinny snakeskin jeans? Becky Sparks will have a fit when she sees me in them at the reunion.”
“That’s nice. I’ll pop into Clarke’s Camping and get myself a tent to wear.”
“Don’t be so silly – I have one you can borrow it’s pink and pop-up!”
“Listen Jen, the way I see it, you just need to eat a bit less and move a bit more – it’s not rocket science.”
“Yes but people making snide comments and putting you down all the time makes you feel like you’re not worth the effort so why bother?”
Carla looks at me “Yeah some people can be hurtful. You don’t mind me telling you the truth though, do you? That’s what friends are for,” she says plunging her spoon into her chocolate pudding.
I manage a head tut and a smile whilst thinking of where else I would like to plunge that spoon.
One week before the reunion.
This time I have done it; I feel confident walking into the canteen wearing my size twelve dress and place my tray of chicken salad and water on the table next to Carla. “Hi, how are things at the top?” I ask casually.
She screws up her face and tucks into another chocolate pudding.
“Carla, are you alright?”
“No I’m not; I’ve put on half a stone in the last seven weeks and Zak told me my arse is huge. That wretched Becky was all over him last week and I can’t wear my Gucci jeans without looking like a packet of sausages that have been stuffed into a condom!”
I try not to laugh. “Don’t be silly you always look great.”
“Thanks but I’m sure the calorie count is off in this canteen. I had a row with Maureen earlier because she thinks I’m too fussy. I bet she’s been giving me regular cola instead of diet and I’m sure this latte has been made with full fat milk.”
I recognise the look of misery on Carla’s face; it’s the one I’ve lived with for years. My shoulders drop and a wave of empathy washes over me.
Carla looks at me and sighs, “I can’t believe you’re going to look better than me soon.”
My new-found empathy grabs a cab and leaves the building. I am about to tell her how offensive she is but she continues.
“I hear you have applied for a job at Ractlers.”
“Yep, I think I have a good chance of getting it too.”
“Yeah well, I’m glad things are working out for you. You can’t imagine what it’s like for me at the moment. The worse thing is when I feel like this all I want to do is eat.”
Flabbergasted at her insensitivity I stand and pick up my tray. “Carla, can I share some advice someone gave me once on how to lose those extra pounds?”
She looks up at me with anticipation.
“Eat less and move more – it’s not rocket science.” I smile shortly before looking across at Maureen in the canteen who is waving a bottle of full fat milk in one hand and a deluxe chocolate pudding in the other. She winks and flicks her eyebrows before returning to the kitchen.
Write Funny – Black Comedy
Posted on August 3, 2017 1 Comment
Dark Humour – A Joining of Comedy and Tragedy
Black humour is finding the funny in the macabre or tragic. What’s funny about death and tragedy I hear you ask – a lot actually. When I look at the short stories I’ve written it’s a little disturbing to discover how many of them involve dark, and quite frankly morbid, subjects.
Below is an extract from a story I wrote called, The Untimely Death of Jim the Pig. It’s about a farmer’s wife, Joan, who has just killed her gambler husband in the pig pen. Her friend, Peggy, has popped in for a visit.
...Jim’s mammoth body was lying in the thick sludge with his throat cut and a puddle of blood oozing from his wound. A curious pig was snuffling around his head. Peggy turned to Joan, who had a look of calm acquiescence.
“I thought you said he hit his head?”
“But his throat’s been slashed.”
“Yes, well, the head wound didn’t kill him, he started to come round so I cut his throat.”
Part of what I love about this type of humour is the socially unacceptable giggling it produces. It adds that extra thrill when it feels wrong to laugh.
The other part of this comedy style that makes it successful when writing is when the character who has the funny lines doesn’t even know they’re being funny. Think Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.
The extracts below are from a monologue I wrote called Sorry Brian. The main character is obviously a sociopath with no idea how her lack of empathy affects others. She’s in a mental institution writing a cathartic letter to her boyfriend, who she murdered.
… I am looking out my window to the garden below; it’s what you would call a smashing day. The sun’s beams are bouncing off the barbed wire above the wall. Glistening steel is really quite beautiful.
… I’m sorry I failed to notice the signs. Although I do recall asking you if you were happy; we were standing at the summit of the ‘Death Valley’ black run in Switzerland at the time and you said yes – I’m sure you did.
... Mother Theresa says: ‘I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.’ Well, that isn’t quite true, is it? As I’m sure I loved you until it hurt but let’s face it, it must have been somewhat painful when I stabbed you in the head with that kitchen knife – It looked painful.
Writing dark humour is difficult if you don’t find it funny yourself. It’s one of those Marmite things; you either love it or hate it.
The two extracts above show dark comedy in different ways; in The Untimely Death of Jim the Pig, the comedy derives mainly from the situation: Jim has been murdered and put in with the pigs. The two women then go on to discuss, quite calmly, whether or not the pigs would eat him.
The second example from Sorry Brian, it is the main character that provides the humour.
One of my favourite Dark comedies is Hot Fuzz; watch the trailer if you haven’t seen it.
The storyline is about multiple murders in a sleepy English village and newly appointed Police officer, Nicholas Angel’s, clueless colleagues. This is one of the funniest macabre comedies I have ever seen.
Try taking one of the situations below and write a 500-word story adding humour. You can use the situation itself as the catalyst or add humour through your characters.
1 – Two teenage boys find a body in the snow.
2 – A girl breaking up with her boyfriend because his he’s intellectually dull or has terrible dress sense.
Feel free to send your stories and I’ll post them on my blog. Have Fun!
Here’s a great one from Art Burns:
Comment: As promised, here is a little snippet of an attempt at the macabre. I will certainly spend more time with this and see where it leads me. Thanks so much for suggesting this exercise. It was a hoot!
I trudged uphill until I saw something sticking out of the snow. Red and black, and sticking out of the snow about five inches. I could clearly see it was a piece of ski jacket material. Was it a bag? Maybe a set of skis or something?
I was over the material when my toe hit something hard. Whatever this thing was, it was pretty big.
I reached down and grasped the nylon. I could feel something behind it. Felt like a baseball bat. As I pulled it was clear that whatever it was would not budge.
‘Hey! Come here!’ I yelled. ‘I need help diging this thing out.’
‘What is it?’
‘I don’t know!’
While Jim struggled through the snow, I dropped to my knees and dug around the spot my toe kicked something. With both hands, I scooped the powdery snow like I was a human snow shovel.
My hand hit another piece of nylon. I pulled it. It was a glove.
I brushed a little more snow away and saw a human hand.
Jim walked up just as I saw it.
‘What the fuck is that?’ Jim screamed.
‘Is that a body?’ Jim screeched.
‘I think so.’
I shook the glove upside down and a thumb dropped out and fell silently in the snow.
‘Most of one, at least.’
‘What the fuck?’ Jim moaned.
‘I think I broke it when I kicked it.’
‘It was an accident.’ I said as I started digging again. ‘Help me dig it out.’
‘Ooooh.’ Jim whined.
We had the whole body dug out in about 20 minutes. It was a man. Not much bigger than us. He was dressed in jeans and a ski jacket. He was frozen solid.
‘What do you think happened to him?’ Jim asked.
‘Hard to say.’ I said, looking around. ‘I guess he somehow got hurt and froze.’
‘Think he was murdered?’
I looked around again. No tracks or footprints anywhere.
‘Maybe he fell out of a plane.’ I said.
Jim looked up at the sky.
‘Like yesterday.’ I said.
I looked at the body. It was bent backward at about a 45 degree angle at his waist and his arms were bent at the elbows and back behind him like chicken wings. I looked at Jim.
‘Dude.’ I said. ‘If we turn him over, he would make a perfect sled. Look.’
Jim looked at the body and then back at me.
‘We have to.’ I said.
Jim’s mouth hung open and he shook his head slowly.
‘Come on, Dude!’ I said. ‘When will we get another chance like this? Help me dig it out!’
Posted on June 4, 2017 Leave a Comment
Helpful techniques from another writer – who also likes hats!
I’ve decided to take a break from poetry and prose, to talk about writing itself. This time last year I was enjoying Christmas as best I could whilst most-way through writing up my thesis. I follow a lot of academics on Twitter who ask or vent about writing. For this specific problem, I read Rowena Murray’s ‘How to Write a Thesis’ which suggests you first write then critique. During my PhD project I did just that, and had managed to publish two papers in a decent journal. So I was practiced in academic writing and had plenty of material to use for my thesis. However what I found when writing it all up was I felt an immense pressure of the deadline I set myself to submit on time, for two reasons.
If I submitted late I would incur fees which I couldn’t afford; and
I was fortunate enough to…
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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Kate Evans
Posted on February 26, 2016 Leave a Comment
This one is for all you crime and mind lovers out there!
Our last (but certainly not least!) author on the 2016 2K Indie Book Tour is my co-host, Kate Evans. Check out Kate’s interview below, but be sure to come back tomorrow for a handy archive post with links to all our author interviews.
Kate Evans is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her book, Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment, was published by Sense Publishers in 2013. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on degree level courses. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor, and is interested in the connection between creative writing and good mental health. Living in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, she loves walking by the sea and afternoon tea, and has an inexplicable drive to bring a new generation to the poetry of Edith Sitwell.
Here, Kate tells us about her crime/LGBT novel, The Art of Survival (Hannal Poole…
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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Wendy Ogilvie
Posted on February 23, 2016 Leave a Comment
Hi guys, check out my interview on The Indie Book Tour. Thanks to Kate Colby and all the other authors on the tour. 🙂
Up next on my and Kate Evans’s 206 2K Indie Book Tour is women’s fiction author Wendy Ogilvie.
Wendy Ogilvie lives in Essex with her boyfriend Carl and their two dogs; Chinook and Storm. She has been a Personal Trainer for twenty years and has been writing training books and short stories in her spare time. The office in her new house is her favourite place to write as she can see the fish swimming in the pond and her two huskies digging up the garden! She is currently working on the next novel in the Wanda series called Wandering Among the Stars.
Here’s the synopsis of her novel, Wandering on the Treadmill:
WANDA MIKOS lives in Briford, England but has a dream to live in Los Angeles and become a Personal Trainer to the stars. She finds a way to make her ambition a reality by entering The Main Event…
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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Z.N. Willett
Posted on February 21, 2016 Leave a Comment
On with the book tour and some Hollywood romance. Who doesn’t need that girls?
Up next on the 2016 2K Indie Book Tour (co-hosted by author Kate Evans and me) is contemporary romance author, Z.N. Willett.
Z.N. Willett is the girl who has seen more than she has ever wanted; yet decided to add to that world by writing Hollywood romances. A northern girl, but a southerner at heart, loving anything and everything about love and romance. So much that once upon a time she had a career as a wedding and events coordinator. When Z.N. decided to do something she was passionate about, she added her love for travel to the mix. An avid shoeaholic, deep down she’s a sappy romantic who happens to believe that love can truly conquer all.
Here, she introduces her novel, The Trouble with being a Movie Star’s Wife:
How do you share the love of your life with the world?
Alexandria Moore’s fantasy became her reality when…
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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Samantha Bryant
Posted on February 19, 2016 Leave a Comment
Having turned 50 last year, this one is for me. Although not in menopause, I can’t wait to find out what superpower I will be gain!
Hello, everyone! Thanks for following the 2016 2K Indie Book Tour so far. For the second half, I’ll be your host. If you missed the first set of interviews, make sure to check them out on Kate Evans’s website, www.writingourselveswell.co.uk.
First up on my half of the blog tour is Samantha Bryant. Samantha is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her secret superpower is finding the things her family members have misplaced—and the ability to operate on very little sleep. When she’s not writing or working, Samantha watches old movies, reads, listens to audiobooks, bakes, walks in the woods, and wishes she was writing.
Here, she introduces her superhero/women’s fiction novel Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel:
In this lighthearted, nontraditional superhero novel, four menopausal women in the same town start to…
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Indie Author: Kate M Colby
Posted on February 16, 2016 Leave a Comment
Kate Colby – Author and awesome blogger.
Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome Kate M Colby who is co-hosting this indie blog tour with me. Since I first ‘met’ Kate on Facebook (was it? Or Twitter) last year, I have enjoyed her company, her good sense, her encouragement, and good advice on my own indie publishing journey. She is an author of science-fiction/fantasy novels and informative nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk dystopian novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.
The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) In a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, one king rules with absolute power and unquenchable lust, until the cogsmith’s daughter risks everything for vengeance.
Two-hundred years ago, the steam-powered world experienced an apocalyptic flood. When the waters dried up, the survivors settled around their steamship in a wasteland they named Desertera. Believing the flood…
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