Thursday, May 13, 2010

Humor is a Frog




I don't "feel the funny". That's what I call my insecurity regarding humor. Many of us don't feel skilled when it comes to writing humorously. I would love to have the humor of Rick Riordan or Janet Evanovich or Judith Byron Schnachner (Skippyjohn Jones author). But I don't.

According to Bruce Ballenger, "You don't have to step on dog droppings to find a situation with comic potential."

Phew! That's a relief, because I don't have a dog. I do have a husband, children, and a truckload of high school students, though. I do have two eyeballs and good listening skills. I do write. Writers are observers and recorders of life, and life is often funny.


In Discovering the Writer Within, we are encouraged to explore writing humorously until we learn to feel more comfortable.
But the self-doubts many of us feel about bringing our humor to the page are just another of our self-critic's ploys to stop us from taking risks. Don't be disappointed if your [writing] seems unlikely to crack a smile, or might even be downright stupid. Don't try to analyze why your attempts sometimes seem to fall flat. 'Humor can be dissected, as a frog can,' wrote essayist E.B. White, 'but the thing dies in the process.' Just laugh at yourself and try again.
Ballenger suggests we begin by starting a humor file. "Clip newspaper articles that make you smile and shake your head and say to yourself, 'Gosh, what a crazy world we live in.' "

How well do you "feel the funny"?

41 comments:

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Great points! Oddly, daring to be funny is just one extra layer of risk on top of the bravery required to write at all. As long as we're out there on the ledge, may as well laugh about it though.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Humor doesn't come naturally to me. I really appreciate this post because it makes me feel as though I can accomplish it if I keep trying. Thanks!

Jen Chandler said...

I enjoy writing funny but it's usually more sarcastic, dry wit that comes out. That's the type of humor I like. I have few (very few) moments in my WIP that make me laugh out loud. I'm so proud of those :)
Happy Thursday,
Jen

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I love dry off-beat wit. Can't get enough of it. Was never one for slapstick and the like, though. I get a real kick out of puns too!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I can do sarcasm, I can do dry with, but on your face funny, no :-(

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I panicked when my editor left a note on a scene in my ms "make this funnier". Augh! How do I do that? It did eventually come to me, I had to sleep on it a few nights.
I just listened to the funny author Donna Gephart at a conference on how to be funny. Take risks is a big one. I also liked how the little things that aren't LOL, but can create a funny mood can be used. Ex. K sounds are funny - chicken is funny. roast beef is not. Pickle is funny. Asparagus is not.

B. Miller said...

Funny is hard to force... I often find the funny bits in my prose are completely unplanned observations. If I try to compose something that's funny and force it into the story it just doesn't work. Guess it's good I'm a horror writer, eh? ;)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Great post. Humour is so hard to do when you try to be funny. Hopefully the words flow and someone will find my writing funny when they read it. :)

Kristi Faith said...

I find humor hard to write. And wit in dialogue...don't get me started! I cringe at some of the stuff I've written as a conversation. LOL This is a good post, thanks!

Tahereh said...

hmmm this a really, really good post, shannon. and to be honest, i'd never really thought about it before.

my sense of humor comes from my life experiences. the Funny in my writing is like a direct copy of how/what i would say or have heard in real life.

i imagine it'd be very difficult to force it...

Stephanie said...

I like to think my writing has humor in it....I hope other people feel that way!!

Elana Johnson said...

I don't. That's weird, because I think my blog posts are funny sometimes. I think I'm very funny in real life. I like to make people laugh.

But when it comes to my writing, there is no funny. I've tried it. Doesn't work.

Nope. I'm darker, twisted, emotional. That's what I'm trying to get out when I'm writing -- and those things aren't funny.

So I just accepted the fact that my books won't be humorous and moved on with my life.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

I think I *can* be funny. But only when I'm not trying. And it funny (ha!) but I'm told my draft makes people laugh a lot--but that's the characters, not me. I just ask myself what my characters would say in the situation I throw them in, and, well, I have a few really funny characters. I'm always reading their dialogue thinking man, why can't I be funny like that? Which I know sounds totally psycho--but it's just the way it is. :)

Jamie D. said...

I stumble onto witty dialogue or funny happenings occasionally, but it has to just sort of "happen". I can't force it - the minute I start *trying* to be funny, I will always fail miserably.

But I do have moments in my stories that crack me (and others up). :-)

Jaydee Morgan said...

This is a great post. I like humor in novels even if the overtone of said novel isn't a comedy. However, if you try to hard to be funny, it usually fails. I try to let it come out in my characters naturally. I don't always succeed.

Humor is one of those hard ones - since everyone's idea of what's funny varies so much.

Theresa Milstein said...

It's natural for me too. I don't force it. After reading The Lightning Thief, I was impressed with Riordan's little zingers here and there.

Candyland said...

I have to side with Elana. I write how I write, funny or not, but in real life I'd like to *think* I'm funnier :/

Kelly H-Y said...

Great post! I get really self-conscious when I'm brining humor into picture books ... who knows why?!

Susan R. Mills said...

I've been told I'm funny by my friends and family, but when it comes to writing, I just can't seem to pull it off.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

When humor shows up, it sends me into shock - good shock - but still shock. It's like an accident. You don't expect it, don't really know how it happened, but it's there.

I'd love to write more intentional humor. Can you tell me how?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Kittie Howard said...

A gal in Tel Aviv did her dissertation on humor in the concentration camps. She found, that even under these horrific conditions, many survivors credited a sense of humor with helping them to survive. In most of what I read, I look for at least a moment of comic relief. I can't write pure humor but I do like to insert puns, perhaps a zinger, a twist on words, something.

Jen said...

I'm so mad at my blog updater! I keep missing your fun and witty posts! Don't worry I have since recovered and now here I am reading your blog hearing that you are calling yourself not funny.

I think we all have funny moments, or silly moments. I don't know how I channel my inner funny but my friends say that I'm wonderful entertainment so I guess I was just born with it, LOL... just teasing!

DL Hammons said...

When a Beta reader highlights a section of your manuscript and comments about how funny it was...when in fact you wrote it in 100% seriousness...that's NOT feeling the funny! :)

I'm like Shannon...my best funny is when I'm not even trying.

Laura Marcella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathon Arntson said...

I get self-conscious about writing humor too. Thanks for this great thought.

I am excited that you are reading SHIVER!

Lydia Kang said...

I'm not a great humor writer. I appreciate well written humor and it astounds me how people can craft this stuff.
So I can "feel" it but i won't come out in my writing at all!

Palindrome said...

I'm not funny. I don't write funny and when I try to be funny, I'm the only one who laughs. It's when I'm being serious and being myself does anyone laugh. I just can't do that in my fiction...yet.

E. Elle said...

I'm big on the "if I don't laugh, I'll cry" thing when it comes to life, mine in particular. Soo... I feel it pretty well. Though I've noticed I feel a few degrees off of how other people feel it. Meh, what else is new? ;o)

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

I 'feel the funny' in most areas of life, especially my writing.

Some would say, I'm just a big kid.

Laughter is the best medicine, after all :)

Jojomama said...

I laugh at myself constantly!

http://jostorm.blogspot.com/

Erin Frost said...

Funny seems to happen when I'm not trying to find it, and never seems to show up when I'm trying to force it to. I don't think lots of reading or a clipping file can ever hurt, though!

Tina Lynn said...

I actually think I'm pretty funny. And every night at the dinner table is like a comedy show. Yes, I make my kids laugh while eating which is probably not the *smartest* thing to do. But they love eating together, so...where's the bad?

Myrna Foster said...

I've found that humor comes easily with some characters, but others just aren't funny.

Karen Lange said...

I am not sure! My friends say that I am funny, but not sure that it translates into my writing. I'm relieved too, we don't have a dog either...
Blessings for your weekend,
Karen

Laura Marcella said...

Funny doesn't come naturally to me either. I don't know how I missed it in the gene pool because my mom and her brothers and sisters (all 12 of them) are so witty and super quick with their funny comments. I'm just a goofball. People laugh when I'm being totally serious, which is kind of annoying. But I guess it's good people are laughing!

I read a quote once that having a good sense of humor isn't about making people laugh but knowing when to laugh. That's not the exact quote, but I laugh all the time so at least I have a great sense of humor!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great post. I wrote about something similar a while back--can you learn to be funny. I think the jury is still out for me. When I crit for others, I often see prime opportunities to inject humor--which I'll point out--but then I wonder if that's helpful or not. Each person has to be true to their own style.

Humor is the bread and butter of my voice (or so I'm told), so it's just something that's part of who I am. I've always been shy and humor/sarcasm has been my defense mechanism so that's probably why.

I have the opposite problem. When I try to write really dark stuff, I struggle.

NaTahsha Ford said...

! I often think that I am hilarious until I realize that I'm the only one laughing! Oh well, laughter is good for the soul, even if I'm laughing solo.
writefordelight.blogspot.com

Susan Fields said...

I like the idea of keeping a file. I'm sure that would help me figure out what makes something funny or not. I don't dare try to be funny for fear of just sounding stupid, but sometimes I'll make a reader laugh without even trying, and that always makes me feel good!

storyqueen said...

Got to say, rick riordan has the best chapter titles ever!!!

Lots of wit, there.

Shelley

Tyrean Martinson said...

Great post!
I have tried a few times to "record" humorous moments, but have not been as successful as I would like to be with humor writing.
I love it when I read a book and it makes me laugh aloud, even in a public place, and someone asks me, "what? what did you read that's so funny?"
I've been able to "sell" a few non-readers into reading this way, and I love being able to do that.

I just wish I could write it.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm English...My sense of humor is a little off from the norm.

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