Tips for Writing Comedy
By: Cassie Robbins
Using comedy in your writing
We all love telling jokes. We want to make people laugh. We want them to think of us as witty and clever and fiction is no different– you want your reader to laugh. Here are a few tips, tricks, and ideas:
Adding another dimension to your character
What kind of sense of humor does your character have? Are they sarcastic? Dry? Morbid? Do they make dick jokes, or do they prefer puns? What your character finds funny says a lot about them. Let’s say your character is a retired literary critic, lives alone besides her cats Murphy and Bartholomew, has 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, is in bed by 8:30 most nights but stays up late on Saturdays to watch South Park. Suddenly, this isn’t your average grandma.
For the plot
Dropping a joke before a point of intense action can create a shocking effect in a reader if it is done well. For instance, imagine your characters are roasting marshmallows and Sally is telling a story where Marcus tried to high-five her at a basketball game because their team was winning but missed and smacked her in the face, breaking her glasses and causing her to miss the entire game. Then suddenly a bear jumps out from the woods and they all drop their s’mores screaming.
Similarly, humor placed into your piece can break tension if used between two intense, plot-heavy scenes and provide the emotional lift a reader wants. Especially after you just axed their favorite character– it unknowingly lets them sign up for round two.
But beware: you can only use these tricks once or twice in a piece or your readers will likely see what you’re doing and the shock factor is gone.
Keep it PC
Writing, like other forms of media, have a responsibility to be politically correct. Making sexist, ablest, racist, etc., jokes in your fiction is going to say something about your piece and about you as a writer. Avoid these. Most readers will find these more offensive and barbaric than humorous.
However, these jokes do exist; people do say them. You want your characters to seem real. Just make sure your reader knows who said it and why.
Avoid clichés—unless that’s the point.
Keep it original: Do not use “formula” comedy. Men do not walk into bars; chickens do not cross roads, and nobody slips on banana peels. Also: if it’s a meme, stay away from it. Sorry (not sorry)!