Sunday, September 27, 2009

Humor me.

So I decided to try my hand at humor again—nothing extravagant, just a short piece. I love to read humor and I sometimes inject a bit into my more serious stories, but I'm beginning to understand that sitting down and making a commitment to write humor—all out, full throttle—is not as easy as I would have thought. This puzzles me as well-written humor seems to flow more naturally from the author's own personality than say horror or science fiction, which tend to have more technical aspects.

I guess humor is more personal for each one of us. I tend to have a dark, dry humor that my wife often doesn't get, much to her exasperation. Some people prefer the more direct slap-stick approach. And then there's everything in between. I suppose, to a certain extent, romance is romance, horror is horror, but humor is often in the eye of the beholder. So I'm taking a survey, of sorts. How do you look at the funny stuff? Does it come easy for you? Or is it a challenge? Possibly you wouldn't even attempt it—or maybe it's all you write? Do you like to season your more dramatic pieces with a pinch of it, or do you feel that it detracts from serious writing?

What are your thoughts? Humor me.

13 comments:

Deb Salisbury said...

I find humor terribly difficult to write, though I try to slide a bit into my writing. My sense of humor is very dry and a bit wry, and most people don't even notice it. When I try to go over the top, the reader response is: "mildly amusing." {sigh}

jbchicoine said...

I'll gladly confess that humor is a large part of my life. Not that my life is funny, but there are two factors involved here. First, I am married to a very funny, almost cartoonish man whose humor plays very well off my own. Second, we see humor in almost every situation, even the most dark and inappropriate things. I frequently amuse myself with the ironies of life.
I don’t write humor for the sake of humor, and if it comes across in any of my writing, it is likely on the dry side; that’s probably why I so enjoy your prose. It’s clever, wry and never fails to produce a chuckle.
I think the trick of it is (as my husband says): Know your audience; Timing is everything.

Ink said...

Hmmm... good question, Bookworm.

I tend not to write humor fiction - only two pieces were intentionally humour pieces - the satire about Wal-Mart somewhere below, and a fantasy short that was part satire and part self-mockery (oh, the purple bow...)

I think I put humor in a lot of my other stuff, but in small doses. I write a lot of dark stories, so there's often moments of dark humour. Occasionally I do some silly things (usually in character work rather than the narrative), but more often it tends toward irony and dark humour. I occasionally attempt wit. Whether it works or not is debatable...

But I do agree it's a little different to write directly for humour rather than to simply add a little naturally in other pieces. It might just tend towards how your brain works. I don't tend to think of many funny ideas. Occasional bits of satire, fuelled by the sort of angst that's unusual for me to feel (barring, of course, any interaction with the feared City of Windsor). So it might, in some senses, depend on the emotional background of the story, of the creative energy that's fuelling a particular piece.

And maybe a bit of the idea that it's easier to let a little humour arise naturally than to do funny on demand. I find funny is easier in context, as it were, rather than forcing it out of a blank page.

That's my take, anyhow. We should go poke Wanu. He'll totally have an opinion on humour writing...

jbchicoine said...

Ha! I just made myself laugh because I though Ink posted this! I’m not even sure I’ve read what Bookworm has written—I’ve gone bright red (which I’ve been told looks particularly good on me; I wear it often!)

I still think it’s a good question, but I have no idea if Bookworm is in fact wry or cleaver in his writing. Until I investigate further, I’ll give him the benefit of a chuckle based on the info in his profile.

Bookworm1605 said...

What a compliment! To be mistaken for literary intelligenstia. Thanks J.B.

Very interesting how many of us lay claim to a dry and wry wit while we rarely hear of anyone admitting to a moist, straightforward sense of humor. Flatulence, I think, could be considered moist and straighforward humor. Any takers there?

All this hesitance with comic writing befuddles me personally because I'm considered a cut-up by most people I know. A prankster, even. The type of person who, for example, enjoys melting a chocolate candy bar and drizzling it over the toilet seat at work and watching the hijinks ensue amongst the coworkers. Yet most of my fiction is dark and moody. It makes me wonder if, in our writing, we (or maybe just me) somehow delve deeper into the side of ourselves that we normally suppress. I'm fairly upbeat and lighthearted in person but in some crit circles, often voted most likely to have his MC die a lonely, horrific death.

I recently had someone ask me if they could read a story of mine--something that I always thought would be awesome. Then I thumbed through my collection and thought, "Oh boy, this could be interesting..."

Ink said...

Wny, Book, why? Personally, I always think of sunshine and chipmunks when I read your stories. And, you know, giant tentacled monsters of doom. The cheery stuff.

Mira said...

Oh, I thought this was Ink as well! Nice to meet you, Bookworm.

I hope to write humor someday. But it's really hard to control. The humor comes when it sees fit, and not a moment before or after that.

It's also really hard to evaluate. People find such different things funny! I gave it up. I just write to make myself laugh. If I find it funny, I'll go with it. That sort of freedom - I think it's neccessary, if you're going to write humor. Otherwise you're going to second guess yourself, which will kill humor.

That's not to say you don't get feedback. Humor is all in the timing - and it's good to see how the timing affects people, so you can improve that. So, reading it out loud, reading it to people, asking people if it worked - that's all good, too.

Interesting topic - thanks Bookworm. Hope to see more of you!

And that's not a joke... :)

jbchicoine said...

Bookworm, you do realize that ‘moist’ gives flatulence an entirely different connotation. It’s straightforward, for sure, and one of the great constancies of life, highly underrated by most. Although, I think, what one has for dinner the night before may diminish its comedic effect.

Bookworm1605 said...

No doubt, flatulence as comedy is all about timing. And the circumstances.

Take for example a crowded bus, no a/c, very stuffy. And perhaps the 'comedian' is a large, unsavory character given to poor nutrition choices. In this scenario, flatulence as comedy quite frankly stinks.

On the other hand, I recall an instance in college where a professor, in mid-speech, let loose quite inadvertantly a high-pitched flatulence that, had he managed to boost it an octave or two higher, might have passed beyond the normal hearing range of his students. As it was the university almost had to call security to remove the first row of the audience as we were quite literally rolling in the aisle, convulsing in the throes uncontrollable laughter. That, my friends, was classic.

jbchicoine said...

That's exactly what I'm talking about. I don't care if you're the most uptight person in the room--how can that not be funny!

Ink said...

And the funniest thing is the way all of you keep misspelling "humour". Hilarious stuff. You Yanks, always with the hijinx...

Bookworm1605 said...

I don't use British spelling in my writing but I do talk like Sean Connery from time to time.

"The name's worm...Book-worm."

Ink said...

Oh, that's okay, then. Makes up for everything.