If you read my interview, you probably remember that I write southern romantic comedy, and I love my genre! So for my first blog post, I'm going to talk about something I'm still learning myself... how to make people laugh. These are tips I've gathered from ACFW workshops taught by people like the fabulous Jenny B Jones and Janice Thompson, as well as a few things I've figured out myself along the way. Hopefully you'll find they work for you as well!
You may be thinking, "Well, this is good and all, but I don't write comedy. How does this blog affect me?" I'm glad you asked. Even what we consider literary classics make use of comedy--take a look at Shakespeare. You don't have to be a romantic comedy writer to throw a joke or two into your prose. Giving the reader a comedic moment will allow him or her a little breathing room to process the deeper message of your book. And if you do write comedy, all the better!
1) Be specific. This is something I picked up from Jenny B Jones. It's amazing how the more specific you are, the funnier something becomes. Maybe your character burns a batch of brownies. (I know, you're thinking--that's not comedy, that's a tragedy--but stick with me.) Not very funny, right? But what if smoke begins to fill up the kitchen, and she's on the phone with her neighbor who sees the smoke coming out her open window, and then the neighbor calls the fire department, and the first firefighter on the scene is the very attractive man your character met last week, and then she realizes she's wearing fuzzy socks and her Hello Kitty pajamas?
2) Be ironic. Establish an expectation for the reader, and then surprise them. I'm not talking about the kind of surprises that will make your readers hate you, like killing off a beloved character without warning. I'm talking about inverting an expectation for the sake of humor. One way to do this is to put a twist on an old cliche: "Before you gossip, walk a mile in her Spanx--you'd be grouchy too." Another way to do it is to take a stereotype and then twist it for the sake of humor. The possibilities are endless.
3) Be yourself. I think grammar jokes are funny. I run and flail when I see a wasp. I inwardly cringe before touching public doorhandles. In real life, these things make me a nerd. On paper, these things suddenly become funny. Start paying attention to the details in your own life, and you'll realize your quirks make excellent fodder for your characters. Do you sing loudly to yourself in the car? Do you have a unique way of cleaning ceiling fans? What do you do when you see someone in the mall who you don't want to speak with? Write that in your book. Don't worry. We won't tell anyone these embarrassing moments actually happened to you.
4) When in doubt, use a kid, a grandmother, or an animal. For some reason, these things are always funny.
Have you tried your hand at writing comedy? What tips do you have to share that helped you find a humorous note in your writing? Can you think of any examples from your day to day life that might work well as a comedic scene in your book? I'd love to hear your funny stories. :)
*Dog photo taken from http://piccsy.com/2011/12/no-idea-6exq1cdmr/
Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. Born and raised in the South, her favorite vegetable is macaroni and cheese, and she loves sweet tea. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. She's thrilled to be represented by the fabulous Karen Solem. You can read more of Ashley's thoughts on writing, crafts, and life on her personal blog: http://ashleyclarkwrites.blogspot.com/. She's also on Facebook and Twitter (writerashley).