Humor in books – why it helps

Published November 19, 2009 by Eli Stutz

My hypothesis is that any book or movie, however sad, tragic, or serious, benefits from humor. That goes without saying for adventure, mystery, or other genres. And then there are funny books, where the whole point is that the book is humorous.

The reason for my belief is that life is funny, life has funny moments, funny things happen all the time, and people are funny. And just like it’s hard to describe what “funny” is – we just know it when we see it – it’s also hard to describe why a movie or book with humor is just, well, better.

So when you’re writing a book, my advice is to try and add “funny bits”. In Matilda, Roald Dahl even criticizes Tolkien and C.S. Lewis for not having many “funny bits” in their books. Dahl obviously does. (aside: gosh I wish his personal views about certain things weren’t so questionable. I mean, the guy’s writing infuenced my own for crying out loud).

OK, so how to be funny? There are lots of types of humor in writing. You can have outrageous things happen, the dialogue can be off-the-wall, the narrative itself can be playful and humorous. Really, the sky’s the limit. Or should I say, this guy’s the limit. Ha ha, I’m glad I got I tiny bit of humor into this post, otherwise I’d have to eat my cheeseballs with a hint of lint and dusty rickshaw essence. Ha ha – another zany bit of nuts, random humor. That’s OK, I’m actually more of a serious type. Serious about AARDVARKS! OK, so my humor is a bit random and off-kilter today. I guess it’s time to get a new kilt, er.

You get the point.

I think the best books are those that mix the range of human emotions: laughter, sadness, tough decisions, action, friendship, loyalty, love – a full book that mirrors a full life. That’s whot oy saye.

Creating a funny character is a challenge. Usually a funny character has some abnormally exaggerated character trait – like Puddleglum the pessimist in the Silver Chair (basically a Marsh Wiggle with a C3P0 syndrome – a Marvin the Paranoid Android of sorts). Then there’s Aurore in Pickle Impossible – she thinks she’s the best at everything, and when it turns out she’s not, she tries to dust it under the carpet – which comes out funny. I mean I hope it’s funny. I mean, but what if it’s not funny, and everyone just laughs at me, the author? Oh, dear. Dear me. Doe, a dear. Dough!

I’m rambling. All I can say is that whenever I try to tell a joke in person, I always mess it up. I can never remember all the details or I royally mess up the punch line. Maybe that’s why people laugh at me and not with me – but for some reason, I’m OK with that. I don’t mind making an utter fool of myself. The flip side of that is courage to experiment and write or say whatever pops into my head. And sometimes what pops out happens to be funny. YouknowwhatImean?

Snurg.

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