Well I had to get your attention somehow.
In my last posting I admitted to the fact that I could not write a serious piece for very long, which is a pretty useful statement to make when you are thinking about what to write for your next post. This is my social conscience side speaking, because it is not fitting for me to keep on filling up posts with bits of my book. Folk might lose interest. When one is a bad writer such thoughts must be taking seriously, in a heroic fashion of course, seize the opportunity and take up the challenge.
So let us consider Humour and the writing thereof.
There are those who will preach at ill-advised length and quite inappropriate gravitas about what they insist humour should do. They’ll come out with a lot yada-yada-yada about shocking sensibilities, provoking thoughts or being a mirror to society….Ahhhh-dreng!! (Farscape). Humour is there to make you smile, grin, snigger, snorf or laugh, anything is incidental.
So then writing Humour. (Dear friends across the Atlantic, whereas I salute your economy in the number of letters you use in the spelling, I must insist, our spelling has the appeal of the intangible and will therefore continue thus)
Everyone will know (ruefully) from their own joke telling experiences, that making people laugh is a minefield. One person’s ‘LoL’ is another person’s ‘Hmphh!’. Those who are brave enough to face an audience can employ gestures, nuances of voice and expression. A writer only has words and their own off-kilter imagination…..
Well yeh,! You can’t really do Humour unless you are prepared to step outside of the routine and see the funny-side of things, when others might not want to or are missing the humour.
So your SECOND task will be to draw folk in on the joke. Your FIRST will be to choose the ground you are prepared to make your stand on, because you have to … convey the Humour and you can only do this from a place of confidence and some originality. Watching or reading someone going full tilt in a desperate hope that their soulless and flaccid impression of someone of talent is at best boring, usually cringeable at worse there is the urge to violently stop them.
So there you are ready to make people laugh, and you have a notion on how to accomplish it. Fine but remember the THIRD; the ‘Hmphh!’ factor. You will probably be offending someone’s sensibilities so be prepared for more ‘kritiks’ (sic/sick) than other writers might encounter. You will also, for certain, be facing up to one of the quirks of human nature- if a person is told something is funny they might well be going there to make sure they find it is not and thus assert their own independence of thought. (You gotta love ‘em)
Have I put you off the idea yet?…..No…..Good.
As Humour comes in as many forms as there are people, the permutations are many and sundered. My attempt to list then was abandoned when it occurred to me I was falling into the Yada-yada-yada trap. So let’s assume you have chosen your style, and do some brevity.
Macabre; Satire; Sardonic & Gallows- You know you are going to offend folk but the chances are you might well reap a following too, for being shocked or having one’s own beliefs affirmed will always be popular. The minefield here is going too far. Remember only the ‘Great & Beloved’ can get away with any old stuff. You have to tread far more carefully. You have a plot about a high-profile politician who is a serial killer and the establishment’s attempts to cover it up while reining him in….ok but it will need nuancing. To make it work the characters around him will have to have a degree of credibility. All the politicians can’t be corrupt, all the cops can’t be stupid and so forth. And be very, very careful in your use of children or animals. You have been warned- this in Humour we are discussing.
Feel-Good; Rom-com; Observational & Caper- Be prepared for the ‘huffnpuff ‘brigade who believe comedy should have a message; they will be complaining about the book being ‘light’ and ‘inconsequential’. Ignore them, because there is an audience which simply likes to be entertained while enjoying a good tale. The latter is important. The story is best told by being a solid one based on a measure of reality; a narrative which the reader can believe could happen or has happened. Happy, poignant or cliff-hanger endings work best, after all you’ve taken the reader along a broadly steady journey; jarring the ending ‘with a ‘shock’ or complete’ surprise might leave the reader dissatisfied, that will get out on the network and your hard work is in danger of withering. Ok….. say you have a Rom-Com plot two people are drawn to one another; you write it from the point of view of one party and you have lined up a whole host of mishaps, rivals and antagonisms; so far so good. Annnddd you have this twist, being the object of the central character’s affections is not of the gender the central one thought they were. Do not leave that to the last few pages and everyone says ‘Oh dear’ and it all ends sadly- what a let-down. Put it in say three-quarters of the way through; Love will triumph but how in the name of Jennifer Aniston are they going to get there? (Oh by the way if you do pick up on that one be prepared for getting involved in a skirmish in the Culture Wars, whichever way you write it you’ll annoy some group- some make your characters intelligent and sympathetic; it helps)
Wacky. Off-The-Wall. Chaotic. Surrealistic: Tailored-made for those of us who cannot stay put in any sort of reality when writing. The universe is yours to fool around with. One thing to bear in mind though a plot is vital. Having a bunch of folk rattling about the place doing comic things, making wry observations, fooling villains or heroes or failing magnificently in some weird plan is fine, but they need to have a cause which will hold the readers’ attentions. Anyone who writes 300 pages of this sort of thing where the plot vanishes only for it to be dragged out from time to time with some rather obvious commentary is going to fail (This I know to be true dear reader. Do not argue with me on this score. It is a proven fact)……………….
Parody: Works best if it is done with an affection for a genre, so the readers can join in on the jokes. They will have had the misfortune to have read the very bad; they will have been obliged to read the over-blown by some ‘Name’, so rest assured they will get ‘it’. Thus, you enjoy a type of story but you know the failings which crop up- then off you go. There are those who will target styles or a popular book with the sole aim of taking it down; they will have an audience of like-minded folk. If you go for that, try and be wry in your attack on your perception of the failings; sledge-hammer humour just comes across as ‘sour’. There is a sub-set of hacks who will just do it ‘cause they know it will sell (and be dumped in a charity bin-but they should care they got your money!). Try not to do that. You are a writer not an opportunist.
FOURTH- have fun writing. If you aren’t laughing, sniggering, smirking, or smiling then it an’t working. Sitting there hammering out vitriol with a grim satisfaction is basically not humour; it’s being nasty or sour, so stop it there, spend some mind mulling over the Life and return in more positive mind.
FIFTH- Off you go. Have fun.
Oh yeh…I nearly forgot…so they ask the barman ‘What does he drink?’. The barman replies ‘Anything he wants to’