1. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Can a book be too funny?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mark_Archibald, May 15, 2012.

    I wouldn't consider myself a funny person, but I can make people laugh through writing.

    The manuscript I'm writing has a comical mood, but I wonder if it starts to wear on a person. I can write a serious chapters as well, with sinister jokes mixed in, but I wonder if a reader wants comedy from beginning to end, or if they like a change of pace?
     
  2. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    I personally don't read books to laugh. I can find stand-up comedians or movies/TV writers that would do a much better job at making me laugh than any novelist. But that's just, like, my opinion, man.
     
  3. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    It'll only wear on someone if its bad or repetitive.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on what you are writing, and whether the comedy is any good. Douglas Adam's books are funny throughout, and at the same time the wit has a razor edge.

    Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels are also funny from beginning to end, and yet there is serious jeopardy for the main character.

    Many other novelists use humor as a counterpoint, so the novel becomes a wild emotional ride. Still others include very little comedy at all, to maintain a particular mood.

    The real question is, do you have the skill to keep the story funny from beginning to end. Comedy is one of the most difficult tones to maintain over an extended story, and there are very few masters.
     
  5. YugiohPro01
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    YugiohPro01 Member

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    The truth is many Writers either cannot or do not turn to comedy in their Writings. This is not only because it is a considerably difficult tone to maintain in a story, but also because the very nature of a Writer isn't to display comic emotion. Of course I am taking this as my case. I usually am able to mix a few jokes or puns to lighten the mood of a story, but I usually write to display a bit of negative emotion, deep feelings or even cope with a tragedy. Of course a Writer can put jokes wherever he wants, it is purely his choice if he intends to do so. But, one must make sure he is capable of sustaining that mood, not using half way and then turning to a different pace. Once again a story has a couple of options, you can try to go complete way with the comic mood, complete way with a more serious mood, or (and this is usually best implemented) you can mix a little bit of one while the rest is the second mood. However, using an equal mix of both moods does not give the same appealing effect as these three main options.
     
  6. Skodt
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    Skodt Member

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    Read hitchhikers guide to the galaxy then say that again. That series is a good example of comedy writting that never grows old.
     
  7. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I don't think you can be too funny really, you just have to make sure that the tone of humour suits the mood/genre of the story, that you aren't reaching so hard for jokes that the story itself falls by the wayside, and that the jokes are actually funny :p

    Im biased though as I am very much drawn by books that make me laugh, whether it's Wodehouse loveliness or a detective novel with a wry gallows humour.
     
  8. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    My opinion is you should try infiltrating some more serious moments in your story, just so that when it becomes really funny it feels like a great comic relief. the contrast between the two scenes will give your ''jokes'' a greater impact.
     
  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think a book can be too funny but, it could be too daft to laugh at. It is the quality of the humour that matters imo.
     
  10. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    It's number 1 on my to-read list. But I seriously doubt it will give me the reaction I get from Norm MacDonald or Louis CK.
     
  11. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    I find that it depends on what the genre and the mood is for the novel. If you have a fanatasy novel with a dark tone like A song of Ice and Fire, and throughout the book add jokes... kind of takes away from the desired result.
    In the same breath, I always have a character who specializes in comic relief. I try to make a few dry jokes, but I am planning on having on really humorous guy. Kind of like Tyrion in ASOIAF.
     
  12. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    Interesting. I'm having a go at my first full-blown novel and have spent the last two days wrestling with this very question.

    I set out with a serious(ish) story written with comedy built in (it's the way I write) but found as I progressed that the plotline (which I had a vague idea of) was getting heavier, with comic situations getting scarcer. I wasn't happy with the way it was heading so I changed it. Now I have a framework with situations and some new characters which should achieve what I set out to do and which also strengthens the plotline. I hope.

    I agree that you need contrast: it adds to both the comic and serious elements.

    Yes, a book can be funny all the way through and work well, if your characters and plot are strong enough. Or, like Dickens, you can lob the odd funny bit in to huge effect. The only thing I wouldn't recommend is changing horses midstream and go from comic to serious or vv.
     
  13. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Good point John.
    One other thing I'd like to add is that the way you write will make the amount of comedy or seriousness you add to the book vary. For me, I am a serious writer who can write funny, but when I just type without really thinking, things begin to get a bit gloomy. For me, I know that adding comedy is okay because I have space to add it, but its quite the opposite for adding serious elements into the pot.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm glad prettyprettyprettygood mentioned P. G. Wodehouse. There are very few writers who have humor seeping out of every pore, but he was one. Once you understand his tone - he's very English - you can laugh at nearly every line. He was one of my father's favorite writers, because Dad always loved to laugh.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds rather gross, especially when you consider that bodily fluids were also once called humors.
     
  16. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Too true, but originally Douglas Adams didn't write Hitchhiker's Guide as a novel, but for a serial radio broadcast on BBC radio. That being said, there are quite a few good comic novels, and I consider Adams' books among them. The books of Terry Pratchett, Robert Aspirin, and Kurt Vonnegut are some of my favorites.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The best humor writing - and by that I mean that which I enjoyed the most - has usually been in the form of short stories. James Thurber was my favorite of these, and I truly enjoyed much of O. Henry's work, as well as Robert Benchley.

    Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" was hilarious the first time I read it. Read it a second time, though, and it becomes extremely bitter. Read it a third time and it seems almost philosophical.

    When I got to be about 40, I went back and re-read books that were assigned reading when I was in high school (or, in the case of those works for which I had only read the Cliff Notes, read for the first time), as well as some others that others had read and liked and I'd never gotten around to reading. One of the first was Dickens' "Great Expectations", which had been assigned to me in my freshman year of high school, and which I had hated. But when I went back and read it as an adult, I found understated humor there that was really enjoyable. As a quivering 14 year old, I'd completely missed it.
     
  18. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    I would say it also depends upon your narrative perspective. A first-person narrative would lend itself to humour more so than a third-person subjective. Then a third-person objective would never use humour. Then there's always the dialogue, which I think is the best place to include lighter elements, since if your jokes aren't funny, it'll serve to make the character more realistic, they'll think, "Oh, that's Herb, he's the character who thinks he's funny, but isn't."
     
  19. Bluesman
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    Like anything, if it's done well, you can almost get away with anything.

    It has got to feel genuine, though. I read Adam Corolla's "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks". The first 60-70% is great. It's genuinely funny. I could picture the guy telling me the story while sitting in a bar, laughing my ass off. But, after that, the rest seemed to follow a certain set formula. I could almost predict where the next 'funny' moment would be and I scanned through the last few chapters instead of actually reading them. It was like he didn't care writing the last few chapters anymore and just wanted to get it over with.

    George Carlin's "When will Jesus bring the pork chops?" is what I would consider a perfect example of a book that's hilarious and balanced. You know what to expect to a degree, but you'll be surprised every time. George Carlin's humor is not for everyone, mind you. But, the entire book sounds like him. He's not afraid to say it like he feels. It's angry, crude, twisted, dark and on top of that, some of the funniest shit I've ever read.
     
  20. banjo
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    banjo New Member

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    I don't think A book needs to be funny all the way through. if A book makes you laugh out loud A few times while reading it, I would consider it A funny book.
    Years ago, I remember reading A book called 'wilt' and it made me laugh out loud in several places.
    The writer just had a gift at explaining sureal situations, and it made you feel like you were there. The book was very funny, but this only happend four or five times in the whole book.
     
  21. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I don't think it's a matter of writing a funny scene and then writing a serious scene to "balance" it out. If your novel has a lighthearted tone, you can't get serious to the point that other stories do (and vice versa if your novel has a serious tone). And it's not necessarily about writing something funny every paragraph... you can write a normal story and but interlace the plot and dialogue with things that make people laugh. And it probably won't be traditional jokes that you see stand up comedians tell, but rather more like a situation that is funny. It's kind of hard to explain without just telling you to go find a book that in itself isn't a "joke book" but it has a few moments in it that make me laugh as hard as I do when watching a normal sitcom.
     
  22. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    While I agree with most of that, I would say that you certainly can have serious passages/themes in an otherwise lighthearted story. For example, there were two comedy series in the UK called 'Porrige' and 'Only Fools & Horses', both of which were superbly well-written and outrageously funny and both of which contained, from time to time, moments of high drama bordering on tragedy. Because such moments were so out of place they stood out all the more.

    Using contrast in this way can, if written well, add emphasise either the serious note in a comedy or the comedic content in a drama.

    There are no hard and fast rules: write your story in your own style and edit as necessary to get the tone you want to achieve.
     
  23. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    You might be right... although I think there is a semantics issue when we talking about "serious passages and a "lighthearted story". I'll explain what I meant by both terms.

    I know there are some people that approach reading and writing very seriously. They've read all of the classics, know the different writing styles of famous authors. I'm nothing like that. I primarily read novels in the mystery section (and write in that genre as well). I'll dip into fantasy or sci-fi or suspense occasionally if it is a best seller but for the most part I'm visiting the mystery section at my book store. And I've gone to that section enough times to know that there are two types of mystery books. You have the gritty crime stories that tend to be very dark and scary and suspenseful, and then you have your lighthearted mysteries. In both books they'll deal with murder and robbery, but in one case they just aren't as grim about it.

    So when the original poster was talking about writing a serious scene and then a funny scene to balance it out, those two types of stories came to mind. But I think it would be a bad idea to write a chapter in one tone and then write another chapter in the opposite tone. Although perhaps that wasn't what they were referring to when they said that, because I can imagine a book that is serious with a few chapters in it that are "less serious". Certainly you can write jokes or funny scenarios no matter what type of tone your story takes on. And you can have very dramatic scenes in a story that was overall very lighthearted.
     
  24. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    Couldn't agree more. Switching horses like that would probably confuse the reader (and very likely the author). Ideally, you'd maintain the same general tone all the way through or you could end up with a bit of a mess.
     
  25. Walid
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    The big lebowski is my favorite movie!

    On topic: Read "John Dies at the End" and tell me it's not one of the funniest (albiet immature at times) books you've read. The book doesn't take itself seriously at any moment throughout its entire extra dimensional weird journeys
     

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