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Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Humor

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What would life be without humor? Boring, drab, depressing. The same goes for books without humor. The key to great writing is creating an emotional journey for our readers. Part of that journey should be to make them laugh, so here are a few tips on adding humor to your novel.

DO learn from the world around you. Some of the best material comes from life. What makes people laugh? When do people laugh? Be observant! People laugh when they are happy. People laugh when they are amused. People even laugh when they are sad. Jesse Andrews book, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, deals with a heart wrenching topic, and yet it is filled with humorous moments. Andrews uses the drudge of everyday high school and an awkward main character to relieve tension in what is a depressing situation.

DON’T force bad jokes on your readers. Let’s face it we all know that one person who thinks dumb one-liners are hilarious, but unless you’re writing a crazy uncle character who loves knock knock jokes… don’t do it. Most of the things people find funny come naturally. Have you ever been in a room with someone who had a great laugh which causes the whole room to laugh? Real laughter is always better than canned laughter.

DO use characters and setting to get the laughs. The plucky comic relief characters are some of my favorites. Take Ron Weasley, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. He’s not the most intelligent of the three, but he plays an important role in the story. He makes us laugh. (At least he made me laugh.) He was the comic relief, which brings me to my next tip…

DON’T shortchange your comical character! Ron was an integral part of the story. He wasn’t filler. None of your characters should ever be cardboard. Ron had tender moments, sad moments, and even the occasional romantic moments. (Although, I admit, I’ll always remember the hilarity of him burping up slugs.)

I could go on forever. But since this is a blog post and not a book, I’ll stop here. The main take away is that laughter is an organic reaction and should always be part of the emotional journey a reader goes through. Even if you’re not a naturally funny person, there is always humor to be found in the world.

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