Jul 4, 2013

Writing the Funny - Top 6 Tips via Twitter

I worry that I spend too much time on social media. Then I switch off and worry I don't spend enough time on social media. It can be a distraction, but is also quite helpful at times. While procrastinating from writing, um, I mean, while keeping up with my social media requirement, I stumbled across a great twitter conversation. You can find out more about the twitter conversation #writersroad at Heather McCorkle's blog, or just join in:
We chat every Monday at 6pm PT (using either Tweetchat~easier when it works, but it is glitchy~or TweetDeck) and all are invited to participate. We're always open to topic suggestions so long as they involve writing or the publishing industry. Feel free to apply to join our Facebook page as well. We are often trending on Twitter!
A couple of weeks ago we had a great talk on writing humour. There were tips, opinions, and funny responses. Here's the top tips I got from that conversation:

1. Humour is about perspective. 

What's funny to us authors as an inside joke doesn't always translate. That's what professional editors are for. (@cushmanovich)
Making your friends laugh, being funny on screen, and writing comedy are completely different and often unrelated. (@EitanTheWriter)
Know ur audience and what they would find funny. YA audience humor differs from MG or Adult humor. (@DougSolter)

2. Show don't tell.
Don't tell us your protagonist's uncle is funny, show him telling jokes instead. PROVE he's funny. (@charmaineclancy)
Not funny: saying a character is "clumsy" but they never do anything clumsy except fall down every 100 pages. (@Tina_Moss)

3. Funny sounds funny.
Everyday names can be funny. I have a Kev in one book, but Bob is always a funny name, but Peter? Nah. (@charmaineclancy)
Part of humor is in the language we choose. (@HeatherMcCorkle)
With humor, you never say "pull" when you can say "yank." Some words are simply funnier than others. (@teetate)

4. Humour is not mean.
It's a risky line between being funny about a character and being mean. Laugh 'with' not 'at' -- or at least make the victim deserving. (@charmaineclancy)
There is a fine line between bullying and humor. Make sure your characters know it. (@HeatherMcCorkle)

5. Steal your ideas.
... take notes when people laugh in real life, and takes notes on what makes you laugh. (@HeatherMcCorkle)
Steal examples from real life. Wanna see some funny stuff? get on YouTube & look up "pranks" (@teetate)
Think of your favorite funny characters in books and movies, then explore why they were funny to you. (@HeatherMcCorkle)

6. Funny is unpredictable.
I've heard (and observed) that the best humor is in the unexpected. I like this rule of 3s. (@kristiecookauth)
I also think it's funny when you get insight into the character's mind, but what comes out of their mouth doesn't agree. (@jbeemills)

This post is part of the IWSG - a group or writers who blog once a month about insecurities and offer helpful advice.
IWSG Time! To join up, just click on the image!

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  1. I'm one of those people who seldom gets the joke, and my reactions sometime are funnier than the joke itself. My husband is a comedian, he makes everyone laugh, even me, sometimes, but usually he's laughing at me. Great discussion!

  2. Great humour well written is a delight. But humour that tries to be funny doesn't crack it. You're right - YA and MG humour is a universe away from what adults will chortle at - like 'get real man'.

    Sounds like a great discussion. The time zones are usually a problem. I do enjoy a twitter chat as a television political discussion is underway...

  3. Humor comes in a wide array of variations and is much more difficult to successfully write than most people realize. You've offered some extremely good advise on the subject.

  4. Love writing humour, but in my children's books it is slapstick, much easier to write.

  5. What a great post. It is interesting to see what makes us lol while reading...
    ~Just Jill

  6. Great post, Charmaine! I must check out that group. Loved all the examples, and you had quite a few truths in the bunch.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

  7. As a comedy writer, I can't help but love this post! I was totally amused when reading "Bob is always a funny name," since I actually named one of my characters that for that very reason. XD

  8. Good post. Tweeted since I'm in Facebook Jail.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  9. Great tips! Writing humour is hard!! I love the last point about the unpredictability - so very, very true!

  10. I agree that humor is not mean. It should not hurt or stereotype people. And it should be unexpected. I use bits of humor in my books. I think its necessary to help balance out the action and character development.

  11. Steal your ideas - I can do that!
    Humor is so difficult. The best way for me to express it is through dialogue.