Friday, November 16, 2007

Do You Write Funny?

I love to laugh. And I love to make others laugh, often at the risk of embarrassing myself, which I do quite often in the sake of humor. If the cause behind my flaming red cheeks brings on a hearty guffaw from a friend, then, hey, it was worth it, right?

But what about incorporating humor into our writing? Here's what Gloria Kempton, has to say about it in her book, "Dialogue:

"Since humor seems to emerge out of the way certain writers view their worlds, if you're not one of them, you'll probably never write comedic fiction, creating the kind of story that is funny all the way through. But to throw in a funny line of dialogue once in a while goes a long way in holding your reader's attention. Humor hooks readers. They know if a character says something funny once, he most likely will again, and so they're watching for that, waiting for you to surprise them and make them laugh again."

So, to recap: Humor is surprise. I also like the sentence 'humor hooks readers' but then you all know what a sucker I am for a good hook. And, oops, now I have stepped away from the thrust of this blog, so let's step back onto the beaten path of humor shall we?

Okay. That's better. Surprise. Humor is surprise. Let's practice utilizing this theory with a fun little exercise that Ms. Kempton devised and I adjusted a teeny bit to suit our purpose here:

Just For Fun

Your female character is walking late at night on a downtown street of a big city. Suddenly she is accosted by three teenage boys who grab her purse. She yells something at them as they run away. What does she yell? Write one line of dialogue for one (or more) of the types of character below. Try to be as original as you can. The goal is to surprise your reader.

*a mom from the suburbs
*a prostitute
*a businesswoman
*an undercover cop
*Queen Latifah
*a grandmother
*Alice Sharpe
*a drag queen

Okay, I'll go first in the comments section. Thanks for playing along. (And thanks for letting me turn your cheeks red in the sake of making others chuckle, Alice. See, surprise! Bet none of you were expecting to see a member's name on the list -- ha!)


Danita Cahill said...

All right, I'm a mom from the suburbs and teenage boys are dashing down the darkened street with my purse. I yell, "Hey, wait. Stop! Don't I know your mothers?"

I wonder if they'd stop? They might at least slow down, and then I could bean them in the head with a can of creamed corn like Crocodile Dundee did to the New York City mugger.

What would Miriam Kriss do?

Danita Cahill said...

By the way, the book this exercise came from is quite helpful. It is a Writer's Digest book from the Write Great Fiction series. Some of the books in the series are only so-so, but "Dialogue" will go on my keeper shelf when I'm finished with it.

Okay, I'm done hogging the comments section. At least for the moment.

Paty Jager said...

I'll play-

A Grandmother_

"Hey my diaphragm is in there!"

A Prostitute-

"Boys, there's better bootie back here!"

Danita Cahill said...

Funny, Paty. Definitely unexpected, especially the pre-menapausal grandmother. ha!

Thanks for playing.

Alice Sharpe said...

A grandmother:

"You morons, I keep my money in my pocket!"

THanks for putting me on your list, Danita. I loved your lines and Paty, yours are a hoot and a half!

And Danita, you do write funny. I always enjoy humor and I use it when I can.

Karen Duvall said...

Danita, I hae the WD series and Dialogue is one of my favorites!

Regarding Miriam Kriss, she's a tough little gal! I listened to her on the agent panel at PNWA Conference last summer and she put her fellow agents through the paces! Whoa! She scares me a little. But just a little.

Karen Duvall said...

Okay, I'll play (rubs hands together):

Mom: "Hey! Stop right there! Don't make me come after you!"

Prostitute: "Honey, you don't know where that bag's been, but come back here and I'll show you."

Business woman: "Go ahead, take it, you idiot! I own stock worth more than what's in that bag!"

Undercover cop: Laughs so hard she falls down, then whips a gun out of shoe and shoots the bastard.

Queen Latifah: "Get on with your bad self, fool! I catch you, I'll squash you like a bug!"

Grandmother: "Santa's watching, you know!"

Alice Sharp: "All right, you've gone and done it now. When I put you in my next book, you'll be bald with a swastika tattoo on your forehead and more poc marks on your face than the moon has craters!"

Drag queen: "Was it something I said?"

Danita Cahill said...

Alice, I like the image of a grandmother calling punk kids morons.

And glad you took your name on the list with the good humor it was intended.

Danita Cahill said...


I can't remember if I said this before, but I met Miriam at a party at Nationals in '05. She approaced me and a friend and we all started chatting it up. We talked about Miriam's snakeskin shoes that she said she only wore to conferences. Anyway, she was friendly (yet very young)and I felt comfortable around her.

I didn't pitch my book to her because at that point an editor at Silhouette Bombshell was reading a requested full. (little did I know that line was soon to fold) I did ask Ms. kriss for a card though, thinking I would contact her later about representation. The card is still pinned up on my office wall.

Miriam was brand new with Irene Goodman Agency then, I believe, and she didn't scare me a bit. Now the snakeskin shoes? Those were a little scary. Ha!

Danita Cahill said...

Hillarious comments, Karen.

Isn't this fun?

Karen Duvall said...

This is too much fun, Danita. 8^) Writing games are like a siren's call for me. I should be working, but it is Friday, and I deserve a break. Well, I don't deserve one, but I'm taking one anyway.

I don't write funny, but I do enjoy an occasional one-liner. I have a tough heroine in the book I'm writing now, but she's not sassy. She's just a bit of a loose canon sometimes.

Now and then I'll come up with funny phrases or words that I want to use, but I have trouble finding just the right time and place to get them in. Like I'm dying to use panty hamster. Still waiting...

My hero is a very serious guy, but he has a thing for t-shirts with funny sayings printed on them. It's a great contrast to his confident, shrewd self. When my heroine had a, uh, accident, she needed clothes so he went out and bought her a t-shirt that said "Talk Nerdy To Me." And it was pink. She wasn't impressed.

Danita Cahill said...

Panty hampster, Karen? It has a definite humorous ring to it, but what does it mean?

My latest book is pretty dark and creepy, but it has enough humor for comic relief.

An online acquaintance of mine from the old chick lit loop wrote a book and titled it Talk Gerty to me. It got picked up, can't remember by which house.

Karen Duvall said...

Danita, panty hamster is kind of dirty. But it is a funny name for it.

The Gerty book, yeah, I remember when she got 2nd place in the Dorchester American Title contest. Lois Winston is her name. Did you know she's a literary agent now? She still writes, but her agent recruited her for the agency. How weird is that?

Danita Cahill said...

That's right, Karen, her name is Lois Winston. Wow, an agent now, huh? what do you know. I remember when she put the plea out on our loop for help naming that book.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Fun topic, Danita. And no, I don't write funny, I write snarky (big stretch there, eh???). My CPs often laugh when they read my work (or so they say) but I don't set out to be funny. Oddly though, the snark just seems to filter through my characters. Have absolutely NO clue where that comes from.

In the current wip, there's no snark, but as my heroine chatters away at me, I can see it building. (The hero just did something that ticked her off and when she sees him again - oh boy - I can already feel the snark oozing...)

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Oh! I forgot to play. Okay, my choices:

Alice Sharpe: (had to choose this one...LOLOLOL) "Hey...are you sure you aren't a side effect of my medication???"

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli -- Hey!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Eek! See??? I just don't know where that stuff comes from!

(I'm still blaming the after effects of the cough syrup.)

Danita Cahill said...

So, Eli, you're the one with the side effects from the meds, or Alice? I'm confused. HA! I do have to admit, I figured you'd choose Alice, although I also figured you would have her holding the sign of an L to her forhead as she yelled at the punks who stole her handbag.

And no, I'm clueless where your characters could have picked up snarkism.