Adding Humor to Your Scenes

Writing is serious business and if you want your work to succeed you must develop good skills. This takes work.

It involves attending writing conferences and workshops as well as critique groups. Hours of pursuit to hone your talents. How do you release these stresses for perfection?

Write humorous scenes. They bring smiles to the lips of your readers, but they also relieve the weary writer.

However, before you can do that you need to make sure the humorous addition is conducive to the scene or the character’s traits. For example, you could not include humor in a life-or-death scene.

You can, though, use it to show readers a character’s wit. I did this in two different ways in my recently-released, inspiring-historical romance, Lockets and Lanterns. One way was through the character’s actions in a flashback scene where Red first met his soon-to-be wife.

“The barn dance flashed before him.

“He knew that bowing before her after their introduction at the dance was a gamble. He smiled, satisfied his movement at least caught her attention. He pulled out a strand of his red hair as a calling card, an impulse of pure genius. He snickered.”

What do we learn from this? That Red is a fun-loving and confident individual portrayed through his pulling out a hair strand as a calling card and his thinking this was an action of “pure genius.”

If the character is jovial, humor also works in dialogue. Another excerpt from Lockets and Lanterns:

“The crisp air drifted in behind him as Red opened the door. He came over to her. His red hair swept down around his brow. He laid the dead animal on the kitchen table. ‘Here’s a goose for you to cook.’

“Edith glared at the furry, long-eared animal. She raised her face to her husband. ‘That’s a rabbit.’ She shook her head at him.

“He wrapped his arm around her waist. His cold lips pressed against hers. He took a step backward and gave a sly grin. ‘No, it’s a goose because his goose is cooked.’”

This dialogue excerpt flowed naturally. It started with the vague description of the word, animal, to the wife looking at the dead rabbit to the ending dialogue of “No, it’s a goose because his goose is cooked.”

How do you achieve this natural style? Watch and listen to those around you. Family gatherings are good avenues. I have one son who knows how to insert some zingers. What about the family recalling your past missteps? My oldest sons remind me of the first time I had a microwave oven and heated up some leftover chicken. It became crispy chicken. Are you laughing?

Modify these incidents and create scenes which fit your characters. Children are good fodder. I remember when my oldest granddaughter was four. It was a clear day until all at once a big wind came. “What a wind?” I told her. She replied, “Well, God can do whatever He wants because He is a big guy.”

Mentally note these events and rework them to place in your manuscript. Have a friend or critique partner read them to make sure they work. Have you ever heard a joke and laughed because it was expected of you but you did not get it? Of course, you have. This is why it is important for others to exam what you write.

Additionally, read the public pulse, emails and Facebook postings, there always are comical comments. Print or jot them down either physically or mentally for later use. No matter what period, except perhaps Regency, you can redo those for the era. People cry, laugh and smile since the beginning of time. But jokes do go out of style so watch that.

Years ago my family visited the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot. The reason John Wilkes Booth got off the shots without the audience at first knowing was because of the laughter to a line in the play. When tour guides repeated that joke, not one of us laughed. The line no longer worked.

Well, I will go for now. Take care and remember to lighten your load with chuckles and as always God bless.

2 thoughts on “Adding Humor to Your Scenes

  1. williamkendall1 June 21, 2012 / 6:57 pm

    I think that particular line in the play was of its time; it would have been funny to that audience, but the story just doesn’t transfer well to the current day. Add to that the fact that it’s so linked to Lincoln’s assassination and that pretty much killed the play.

    I do like the old line That’s like asking “so aside from all that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    And I put a lot of humor into my work. Even in life and death moments, oddly. I wrote my main characters during a gunfight with the antagonists, and they’re trading barbs while it’s all going on.

    • janetsyasnitsick June 22, 2012 / 4:26 pm

      I understand how humor would play into life-and-death action scenes. I think of Star Wars and the interplay between characters even as they were trying to survive. When I wrote this, I was thinking of the heartfelt death scenes. Yes, some humor works for its era but not for today while others are timeless.

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