By Jessica Everingham
Someone just whispered the secret of comedy to this monkey.
Unfortunately I don’t speak monkey (despite what my housemates may claim.) So my only consolation is this adorable photo, and the inspiration to go find the secret to humor myself.
Let’s face it, good comedy in writing is difficult. Good comedy in Christian writing, where everything is squeaky-clean, is even harder. So what is an author to do?
A great place to begin is with the experts. Find a book, a podcast, a blog—any professional funny-bone tickler willing to share their secrets. The American Christian Fiction Writers conference session recording called Humor in Fiction is what got me started. (You can view their conference recordings in the sidebar at this link: http://www.acfw.com/conference)
Once my eyes were opened to the analytical side of humor, I began to observe and study it. Real life and TV gave me plenty of material to jot down a list of ‘what makes stuff funny’. Hilarious books were another goldmine—Jenny B Jones is a stand-out in Christian fiction, while Sophie Kinsella is great for a giggle in the mainstream market.
Then I practiced.
I’m still unpublished, so I have a lot more practice ahead of me. But as I’ve put my mind to it, the feedback has grown increasingly encouraging.
Comedy in writing isn’t for everyone—not all novels are meant to be funny, and not all readers want light-hearted books. But if you’re keen to give it a whirl, here is a list of thigh-slapping crack-ups I’ve observed in the world of writing.
1. Hyperbole is the most amazing form of humor EVER!!!!!
2. Sarcasm. Jenny B Jones does not use this at all.
3. Using specific nouns, e.g. “Kate knew she was the picture of class, jogging down Johnson St in $3 Target thongs, Broncos footy shorts and her Elders Rural cap.” (OK, I used sarcasm there too but it was better than, "Kate knew she was the picture of class as she jogged down the street wearing her daggiest clothes.”)
4. A serious character in a ridiculous situation. (Or a ridiculous character in a normal situation, e.g. Thor taking the train in Thor 2.)
5. Physical comedy (with the exception of anything banana-peel-related.)
6. Under reaction. (The character of Phil Coulson in ‘Agents of Shield’ is a champ at this.)
7. Over reaction. (Think the dad out of ‘King of Queens’.)
8. Any case of ‘that escalated quickly’.
9. Good old-fashioned insults.
10. Unexpected honesty, particularly from a young child or older person. (Again, Ms Jones is a legend in this area.)
11. Ridiculous situations, particularly ones that don’t occur by co-incidence but by a series of decisions the character made. (Sophie Kinsella does this like a boss.)
So what about you? What’s the funniest thing you heard or saw this week, either in fiction, film or real life? And what are your tips for comedic writing?
Jessica Everingham loves God, romantic comedies and writing, and is combining the three in her work-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters. She loves to connect with fellow readers and writers via Twitter (@JessEveringham), Facebook (www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and her website jessicaeveringham.com.