1. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    How do I keep my plot serious, yet add humor?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Darth Batman, Sep 12, 2016.

    I'm working on a story that I've had a friend help proofread for a few months. The main elements are meant to be serious. However, in my experience, books tend to be boring without a sliver of humor. How do I keep the serious tone to the plot, while also adding bits of humor here and there.

    Should I use a foil (characters acting as opposites), have something funny happen in a subplot (have a waiter slip on a freshly mopped floor, sending the snails flying into a poor customer's face for instance), or is there another way I could do this? Or should I just put on my Batman Face and forget asking "Why so serious?"
     
  2. Ann-Russell
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    Ann-Russell Member

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    Humor can be worked into anything. I'm more of a fan of humor between characters, like two buddies joking around or sarcastic comments made by a character. This type of humor feels less forced than the waiter slipping on a wet floor :)

    In a story dealing with more serious tones, humor can be vital. Many people use humor as a coping mechanism when faced with serious situations or heavy emotions (I'm an RN in the ER and trust me, humor is important). Now, this doesn't mean that it needs to be in every scene. Using it sparingly to counteract the serious undertones can add to the themes, whereas overuse can possibly detract from them.
     
  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    You can always have a comic relief character that says & does bizarre things at crucial moments.
     
  4. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    I notice you didn't add characters making puns. Is that overused?
     
  5. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    That was the one thing I was trying to avoid. Would a foil set of characters work better? That would make serious moments interesting, and also add to the plot, at least in my opinion.
     
  6. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    I would try looking for similar works. Movies, television shows, it doesn't have to be books. Take note of when and why humour is used, why it's funny given the grim or dire circumstances and how it remains suitable and appropriate given the overall tone of the narrative.

    A character might use humorous quips as a coping mechanism. This is usually the standard reason in any story of a darker nature. Paramedics might use dark or tasteless humour just to distance themselves from the traumatic scenes they encounter. Someone with a terminal illness might be determined to see the humour of the situation just to spare loved ones seeing how truly frightened they are.

    Humour is something you largely get a feel for over long term exposure. So seek out other media you identify as similar in tone to your story and look for how they have used humour.
     
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  7. Wolf Daemon
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    Wolf Daemon Active Member

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    As someone who likes to write darker stories humor should never be forced. Slipping on a wet floor would seem forced as Ann said. As someone who likes to write darker character or more grungy beaten up characters I often use humor as a kind of "fuck you to the situation" if that makes sense. A character may have just had to bury a thousand innocent people killed off by some beasts but at the end of the day it's just another horrid day, and their coping mechanism is a humorous, fuck you kind of attitude of not caring or pretending not to care.
     
  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Try adding a bit of raw dry humor. It won't take away from the seriousness of the content, but it it will add a bit of comedic relief.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you need "whistling in the graveyard" humor, not clowns, puns, or pratfalls.

    I found myself trying to think of examples. When I think of movies or television, almost every drama that I think of has humor. For example, Fallen, which is a really dark movie, has humor--mostly frightened, nervous-giggle humor.

    Going to a very different point on the video spectrum, Buffy's most serious episodes are still packed with humor.

    When I think of written fiction, I'm much less successful at finding examples with both darkness and humor. There must be lots, and in fact I know that there are because I've often been annoyed with a murder mystery and compared it to others that have humor, but no examples are coming to mind.
     
  10. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    Thanks. I will take that advice.
     
  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I did was to make the motivations and reactions as real as possible while putting the characters into surreal, slapstick or odd situations. Also, the narrator (also the MC) has an unusual outlook on life and is constantly bringing this into his decision-making process.

    As to whether it works or not, you'll have to ask @Tenderiser or @GingerCoffee who are currently reading my latest draft.
     
  12. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read a load of Iain Banks books. Then do what he does.
     
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  13. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Humor is emergent in my scenes. Inevitably, the interplay of character and situation will lead to smartass comments or amusing anectotes. There is also the occasional absurdity. These are important elements and it is important that they occur organically. If you try to inject humor into a scene, it might feel forced for the reader. For me, humor is best when spontaneous. I write a scene and something funny occurs to me, so it goes in. I don't think I've ever set out to plan a funny part in one of my scenes.

    My books deal with science fiction and serious topics, therefore my humor is usually dry, sometimes absurd, almost never slapstick. I use humor in my books the way I use it in real life. Timing is everything. If the joke doesn't fit, leave it out.
     
  14. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Probably. I can tell you a lot of short story markets don't want to see puns. I'm sure they see more than enough bad ones. You might be able to make them work, but they might also be a turn off for editors.
     
  15. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    Yeah, that's what I thought. Thanks for the advice!
     
  16. Albeit
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    Albeit Member

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    Exposing human contradiction (actions vs beliefs) is always good for a laugh when the consequences are not tragic.
     
  17. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    Like when someone says, "Don't get credit cards." and someone finds out he has a massive credit card debt?
     
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Try getting one of your characters to make another one laugh. That way the characters provide the humour, not the 'author.'

    If one of them has a dry way of expressing him/herself, or a way of making understatements when something awful happens, or can see a funny twist in a situation ...all these things can feel natural in a story.

    If your characters have no sense of humour, you might want to give them—or at least a couple of them—a sense of humour fairly early on. Nothing makes a character more attractive than a sense of humour.

    I don't know if you write fantasy or not, but if you do, you might want to take a look at Joe Abercrombie's books. They all have characters in them who have their funny moments. In fact, the blacker things look, the more likely they are to say something truly funny. He's a master at creating that sort of situation, as well as doing just about everything else as well.
     
  19. Nicola
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    Nicola Member

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    You can use dry, satirical or dark humour.

    Look at sophisticated, slick shows like Frasier or political comedies for grown up humour.
     
  20. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    I have a hard time pulling that of, but I'll take a shot at it. I think I've already added humor twice-the President is almost killed by a bombing and her head of security tells the media that she'll have a press conference later, "Assuming nobody tries to blow her up again." Another time the President asks what she would do without her HOS, and he replies, "Probably get blown up."

    I'm not sure if that is a good start, or not.
     
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  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, that's exactly what I meant. It doesn't trivialise the event (the bombing) but the dry response from the head of security lightens the moment for the reader. And makes the reader like the character as well, which might be a plus. That's it exactly. As long as the head of security takes his job seriously and works his tail off to make sure the president stays safe, what he says about it doesn't undermine the story.

    The one caveat to this ...would a head of security tell the MEDIA something like this? That might backfire very badly. You need to weigh every word with the media, as many famous people have found out, to their chagrin. If he says his remarks in private, to a colleague, though, that would work really well. I just don't think any head of security would keep his job very long if he made black jokes to the media.
     
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  22. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    yeah my thoughts too, the HOS wouldnt even speak to the media, any statement come through the presidents media people. If you want him to make that joke in that context it should be off the record to a trusted single reporter
     
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  23. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    Well, it's kind of while waiting for an escort out. All the other security members died in the initial blast. The media started pushing towards the President and he jumped in front to say that she's not answering questions at the moment.
     
  24. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    the secret service is a big organisation - even if all 'the detail' died in the blast there'd be a lot more agents to call on
     
  25. Darth Batman
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    Darth Batman Member

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    I should add that the country in this case is fictional. The explosion knocked a whole block to pieces. Any agents hanging around the area would have went sky-high.
     

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