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HUMOR AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT

October 17, 2012

Maybe it’s just me, but even the most dire and depressing story should have some kind of humor. Personally, I don’t think I could ever write anything like that, but even so, there has to be some kind of comic relief, just to have a contrast to all the depression. All doom and gloom makes for a very bland and one dimensional story.

Of course, anyone that’s read my manuscripts knows my writing is far from that. Being a glass-is-half-full person, my stories have heroes that survive, with happy endings. I don’t write to piss you off or depress you, the reader. I’ll leave that to others. I don’t read that bummer stuff for pleasure either, so why should I write it?

As a consequence, a lot of humor creeps into my writing. I’m not a comedian by any means, but I like to keep things light. I can have some very dark scenes but I prefer to contrast them with something humorous. Even a creepy scene in one of my icky bugs will follow with something to lighten things up. Call it an emotional roller coaster.

How do you handle humor in your writing? I know it has to be very difficult when the subject is something depressing, but I’ve seen writers do some amazing things with their stories. In that respect, I want to diverge from fiction into the world of autobiography. This is where a person (now I’m generalizing from several autobiographies) has led a horrible childhood, yet still finds time for humor. Who would want to read nothing but page after page of depressing situations without some breathing space? These authors which I know personally were able to find that light moment in real life and brought it to the page.

As a writer of fiction or non-fiction, I propose that you practice this emotional roller coaster. The story can’t be all doom and gloom. There has to be moments for your reader to catch their breath… or for that matter, for you as a writer to catch your breath!

The humorous moment doesn’t have to be a stand-up one-liner, a dirty limerick, a whole chapter. You don’t have to be a master comedy craftsman. Don’t try to outsmart your reader either. Lighten the mood with a funny or humorous anecdote either made up, adapted from something you heard, or taken from your own life. If you are one of those with not a comedic bone in your body, don’t be afraid to ask for help with the moment. It can be as simple as the description of a character or a place.

Humor comes easier for some than others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because it shouldn’t be ignored, no matter how serious or intense the story.

Maybe I’m projecting too much of me into this, but there’s nothing I can’t stand worse than a story devoid of all humor. Even the most dark and dreary icky bug novel I’ve ever read had a few light touches in it. Every book I’ve read that was devoid of any humor I hated, flat out. They were not worth the paper they were printed on. There were plenty I’ve hated that did have humor, but for other reasons.

What do you think? Could you stand to read a fictional story without any humor at all?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy West permalink
    October 17, 2012 3:02 am

    Humor shows perspective. What is oftentimes funny is someone acting unconsciously. There are some tragedies that I can’t laugh about but those are the tragedies of other people and it is not my place to find humor or perspective on the loss. As a writer, though, we can move in and around a topic or loss. You’re brave to encourage a conversation on this topic.

    • October 18, 2012 2:50 am

      Peggy,

      Thanks for the comments! Those dark subjects you talk about shouldn’t be laughed at, of course, but there has to be breathing space between each scene or chapter to give the reader some relief, at least I think so. Of course, we’re probably talking about stories I’d never read in the first place but …

      Appreciate your point of view!

      Fred

  2. October 26, 2012 4:24 am

    I like stories with points of humor, even if they’re dark. I don’t think a story needs them, but it needs lighter moments at least. Dickens is a great one for writing about bleak, depressing times but interjecting some great humor into his work.

  3. November 15, 2012 3:03 am

    I have trouble adding humour except in those pieces which are already absurdist in the first place. Which may be the only way I know how to be funny…

    • November 15, 2012 4:50 am

      lly1205,

      Welcome to my site! I understand your point. Humor doesn’t have to be jokes or gags per se. Just something light to contrast with the dark. It probably isn’t so important on a really short piece like a poem or short short story, but for a novel or longer short story, there should be something to contrast the downs, if that’s the type of story it is.

      Thanks for the comments!

      Fred

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