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Using Humour In Your Writing

BY ALLISON GORNER

Every story can benefit from some type of humour. Humour engages your readers, makes characters relatable, and imitates real life. It draws in the audience and creates emotional connections to the story. Studying what makes you laugh and inserting a little of that in to your writing will create a well-rounded and more believable characters and story.

But I’m Not Funny

What makes something funny? Not everyone agrees what funny is, but everyone enjoys a good laugh. Everyone has the potential to be funny and we all have funny moments in our lives to draw on. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to insert humour in your writing. You don’t even have to write comedies. If you think something is funny, someone, somewhere will think it’s funny too.

TIP: Don’t try to make your reader laugh. Make yourself laugh.

Preparing

Study things you think are funny. Look at movies, TV shows, books, comics, YouTube videos, reels, and plays, or whatever tickles your funny bone. Make notes. Why is it funny to you? Ask yourself:

Ways to Incorporate Humour in your Writing

Genre and Audience

Keep in mind your genre and intended audience. What is the age range of your reader? Will the joke go over the audience’s head? For example, a joke with a pop culture reference to the 80’s will not work in a children’s book.

Does the joke fit within the style and tone your reader is expecting? In a murder mystery or suspense book, it may not be the right moment for a joke when the villain is committing murder. But then, if that is your intent to make light of the genre, go ahead and make a slasher joke.

Let the Reader In On the Joke

Don’t joke at the reader’s expense. Instead, direct jokes towards characters. Create funny situations or have characters poke fun at themselves. A great way to introduce humour is to have a character self-analyze and then self-deprecate. Allow the character to notice how silly their foibles and imperfections are.

Editing the Humour In Your Writing

Have fun. Don’t be afraid to embrace the silly or absurd. Make the joke or situation as outrageous as you can think of and push the boundaries. Then, when editing if it is too much, tone it back.  Often, when pushing a joke too far, you notice where the sweet spot is and what will bring out the laugh. Keep the sweet spot, remove the extraneous.

After reading your joke, or funny situation several times, and/or editing, it may not seem as funny to you anymore. Step away and come back to it later. Try to remember your initial response to the joke. Does it still make you laugh? Ask someone else to read it and notice their response.

If a joke isn’t working for you or goes against what your character would say or do, cut it.

Above all, write what is funny to you. A little humour in your story will go a long way.

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