Writing Comedy

Considering Tickling a Few Funny Bones?

by Kathy Lynch Carmichael

Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 Kathy Lynch Carmichael. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in print or on the Internet without the prior written approval of Kathy.

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Someone once said that if you aren’t funny, then you probably can’t write humor. I don’t know if that’s true or not since one of the pleasures in my life is making people laugh and I think most of us consider ourselves humorous people. Writing humor is one of the most enjoyable things I find in my writing.

I think there are three kinds of humor. Slap stick or situational, character driven and then the “make you smile” kind of humor. For slap stick/situational, you put the characters in unexpected situations or have them behave out of character—you surprise the reader into laughing. In character driven, it’s that character’s take on the situation, their internal processing, that makes for humor—and occasionally this is painful humor, like the laugh created by telling of morbid jokes. The third type is more a voice/style thing—it’s a gentle humor. In writing a humorous story, you can use one type or a hybrid of two or all three.

Pacing on humor is incredibly important—and often the reason why some humor simply doesn’t work. The pacing that works for me is similar to what we typically use for action scenes: short, tight sentence structure followed by a pause (created often by a longer sentence or giving some detail) and then the punchline. You have to have that comedic pause to give the reader time to catch up before delivering the punch. I’ve seen others use a slower setup, pause, then the punch. Both work—but the pause is particularly important.

Another consideration is to write the type of humor you enjoy. If you love the macabre, you probably won’t do well trying to write light and fluffy or vice versa. Think over the conversations you’ve had with family and friends to explore what type of humor you most enjoy—then go for it in your writing!