I love action and romance, but when I’m in the mood for a comfort movie or book, I almost always pick comedy. Sometimes it’s a romantic comedy and sometimes it’s an action comedy, but there has to be comedy involved. There are some great comedic slash romantic books out there and two of my favorite authors when I want to laugh are Penny Reid and Rachel Van Dyken.
I don’t think comedy is in any way easy to write. One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when the author tells us that the character laughs in a hyperbolic way – falling on the floor, unable to breathe—at something not terribly funny. In general, I think when the author tells us the characters are laughing it is kind of like a laugh track on a sit-com, telling us what we just read is supposed to be funny.
Myself, I am well-versed in sarcasm, but I’m the funniest, I usually wasn’t trying to be funny. This is to say I’m not expert in humor, but I’ve compiled a list of rules for writing something that’s going to make the reader laugh.
- Make it Big. Everything in fiction should be larger than life, people should punch harder, flirt better, and be funnier. Just be careful, you don’t take the funny too far and make it ridiculous, unless that’s what you’re going for. My all-time favorite movie is Zoolander and some might say the humor in that film is too silly, I say not. I say whatever path you choose to take don’t pull any punches. Make it believable, but make it big, make it memorable, and make your readers laugh. For example, don’t just have a character trip, have them trip and fall face first into the wedding cake just as the bride and groom are sauntering over to make the romantic first cut/slash force feeding show.
- Make it Fast. Comedy should be fast-paced. Whether it’s a comedic scene in an otherwise dramatic book or a full-length book full of laughs, make sure the comedy doesn’t slow down. There is no time for long-drawn out descriptions or meandering ponderings on the meaning of life in comedy, unless you are satirizing or parodying such moments from other books. People should have fast, witty banter, and fast action. Save the slo-mo moments for the hot and heavy romance scenes.
- Make sure it’s actually funny. No one can be funny all the time, and even the funniest folks have jokes that go flat on occasion, so get a beta reader or two and stare at them creepily as they read your book to make sure they are laughing when they should be.
- Make it deadpan. In real life the funniest people I have ever known have been able to tell a joke with a straight face and the same rule applies in fiction. Your reader will get the joke, you don’t need to describe how hard your characters laughed.
- Make them fall down. Physical humor can easily get overlooked in fiction, because we’re all about the words, but I think you’re doing your book a disservice if you leave it out all together. It’s funny when someone falls on their face, it just never gets old (as long as no one gets hurt, of course).
- Make it situational. Not all comedy comes in the form of a quick comeback or a well-timed dig, sometimes, it’s the scene itself that’s funny. Like a woman giving her boyfriend an ultimatum when he has already bought the ring, or a secret office affair that everyone knows about and is placing bets on.
- Make it blind. I’m often most funny when I’m not trying at all, and your characters can be, too. I think Elmore Leonard is the king of this, with his bumbling, idiot characters who think they are gods and are going to scam everyone else, when they’re the ones getting scammed. We all like to laugh at the misfortunes of others when those folks deserve what they get.
- Make it an inside joke. What’s really fun about books is that the reader is with you for the whole journey. They’ll get a joke that’s repeated throughout the book and gets funnier as you go along. Remember The Princess Bride and “Inconceivable.” We all laughed when Inigo Montoya said “I do not think you know what that word means,” because we’d all been thinking essentially the same thing. A joke can start on the first page of a book and the punch line can be revealed on the last, and your reader will be laughing with you.
Whether you are writing horror, romance, or a book that would make me cry, there’s room for humor. Look hard at your book and find how you can make it funnier, and I promise you it will only make your book better.