Friday, November 12, 2010

Adding Dollops of Humor into our Stories

Humor is one of the most lovable elements of a story/book. If a book can make a reader laugh, I am sure the book will be read several times. I love books that make me  laugh. I  make it a point to read them again and again. Even the humorous passages in books that do not fall into that category  have me rereading them.

Humor I feel is one of the most important elements in our stories and also the hardest to get it right. As writers we do not have a visual medium to portray humor. But we have words at our disposal. With words we can create humorous situations. There are several ways to add humor into our stories. Here are few of them.

1.  The names of characters/places and objects can be funny. 

2. We can also give  characters  some quirks: a twitch, a distinctive style of   
     talking or a weird way of dressing. 

3.  One of the best way of adding  humor can be  through Descriptions.  
     Funny  descriptions  make the readers laugh.  Eg “she had spread like  
     melted  butter.” “A bee could get lost in the hair on his body.”

                    4.  As writers we can  use words to conjure up Situations  which can be
                        comical by creating a Comedy of  Errors.

                    5.   Dialogues can be infused with  mega doses of humor to bring on the
                         laughter. Dialogues are the best places to add humor. I am working on
                         this  aspect.

                    6.  The way a character thinks (the internal conversation ) can be humorous.
                         This can be one of the easiest way to bring the element of humor into our

                     7.  We have to find new and funny way to say the same  often repeated old

                      8. A fantastic way to add humor is via Satire and Irony. Irony is the use of
                          words to express the opposite of their literal meaning. Satire is the use of
                          irony or wit to attack something. But its also extremely difficult  because  
                          if not handled well it can  leave the reader confused. I seldom use satire
                          and irony as I am not very confident I can do them justice.

                       9. We can use  funny metaphors and similes that  can  give a comical twist
                           to a familiar image  in a reader's mind. “ He was as thin as a breadstick.”
                          “Her skin was as soft as a caramel custard,  “His chin wobbled like jelly.”

10. One of the best advice  for adding humor is to stir the senses.  Sensory
      Humor is giving funny descriptions when describing something with  
      the  five senses: especially while describing sounds, tastes and smells.
Whether  we writers are personally funny or serious is not important. What is important is whether we can make readers   think that our characters, dialogues and situations are funny. Whether we can make our readers laugh.  
How do you  all add humor in your stories? Is there any humor secret/wisdom you would like to share? Please tell us, we all can learn from it.


  1. I don't know exactly how I do it, but I like to add touches of humor into my stories as well, even if the overall tone of the story is serious. It's such a nice break for the reader, so long as it's not too out there!

  2. “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.” Mark Twain

    I don't think about injecting humor. It just happens.

    Other quotes: “Chaos in the midst of chaos isn't funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.” Steve Martin

    "Humor is something that thrives between man’s aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” Victor Borge

    Nice post, Rachna. Thank you for the happy anniversary wish.

  3. What a timely post, Rachna! I've been thinking about humor lately, and wondering what makes for humor in a story. I haven't really come up with an answer, although I know "funny" when I read it. So your post helps clarify a lot. I'm still working on humor myself, and this gives me a lot to think about.

  4. My crit partner has noted several times that my comic relief has helped her get through some of my tougher scenes. I'm a big believer in humor.

  5. Wonderful advice! I love humor in writing; it helps make things so much more interesting. Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. I keep trying at humor and usually end up with sarcasm. Maybe I need a trickster character to help lighten the load because my MC just can't seem to go there!

  7. Great post, Rachna. Humour is one of the hardest things to write because there are so many ways it can go wrong and not many ways it can go write. For me, the main thing is that it comes through easily and in an unstilted manner.

    I try to let the funny moments come out naturally through my characters because that way I know I'm not forcing it.


  8. These are all great suggestions. But I'd caution not to use too much humor--especially if you're writing for adults. The Industry says "comedies don't sell." I have no idea if that's true (I rather suspect that a lot of their "rules" are based on bad information) but if you want to sell, you have to make sure your book is a thriller/romance/mystery whatever first with comic elements secondary--so nobody can call it a comedy in a meeting.

  9. Great post! Also, I sent you a message, but in case it got lost in cyberspace, there's an award for you on my blog.

  10. Humour is a difficult thing to write well. My only advice is not to laugh at our own jokes ;)

  11. Great question! I am not someone this comes easily for, so I appreciate the list. :) I had one character mostly providing the humor in my last novel and in one life-threatening scene, he "inspires" his men to keep trying by telling them a story. The story itself isn't funny, though some of his are. This particular scene had humor because of how inappropriate the story itself is. Juxtaposition of intent and situation, I guess. Boy, if you have to explain a joke, it just ain't funny! LOL

  12. I've never been good with humor, so I rarely include that element in my writing, at least consciously. Sometimes though, I can write something accidentally, but incredibly, hilarious.

  13. I like reading serious stories with touches of humor. Your tips are great, and I'm posting it to Twitter. Thanks!

  14. Love all of your ideas, Rachna!! Great list!

  15. I agree that humor is ultimately important - especially in heavy, dark, emotional books where readers need to come up for air. I was just looking at one of my favorite books today, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, which really is a sad, sad tale. But the author, Brady Udall, has the 'voice' of the young boy down perfectly - showing us sarcasm and hilarious thoughts through the MC's young eyes. One laugh-out-loud passage was about a bus driver picking up a heavy storage trunk:

    He positioned himself in front of the trunk like an Olympic weight lifter and grasped the handles on either side. He strained to heft it off the ground and let loose a thunderous, rippling fart which made the woman next to me flinch and backpedal as if one of the bus tires had blown.

    Thanks for the great ideas. I agree that it's not always easy to pull off authentic humor. But you've given us a place to start!

  16. Good post Rachna-- I am trying to do that now with my current WIP--not easy, is it?