1. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Humor in a really serious plot

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by U.G. Ridley, Aug 19, 2016.

    How do you guys tackle this element of writing? I've been writing a novel for about a month, gotten 70k words in, and I'm still unsure if I'm completely butchering the tone with how much joking is in it.

    I'm not purposely trying to write a humorous book. When I first started off, the way I saw the story in my head was very serious and it had little to no jokes in it, but then when I started writing scene-for-scene, the humor just sort of came naturally out of the characters, and I'm still not sure if that's a good thing or not. It's not the type of humor where I throw in a joke in the middle of a scene where people are dying, but there's still a lot of jokes riddled throughout various scenes.

    For context, the story is a horror novel about a woman who struggles with being trapped in abusive relationships who, along with her sisters, finds herself stuck on an island with a psychopathic billionaire who goes on a manhunt against everyone on the island. The abusive relationship part is the main focus of the story (basically the reason why she winds up on the island with the psychopath in the first place), and it's not exactly a particularly merry representation of the subject, but is supposed to be one that can be taken seriously by the reader.

    What's your opinion on this, and do you guys know of any books that tackle really heavy topics while still being funny in a way that doesn't ruin the otherwise dark tone?
     
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  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a tough one to pull off, that's for sure. Any form of comedy writing is, for that matter.

    But I think comedy has its place regardless of subject matter. Whether you call it 'black' or 'gallows humour', it can be used to great effect. I'd say the only things to be aware of are that you're consistent, that you choose your moments, and that the humour is relevant. Don't have a character say something funny unless it's believable in the context of the scene. In other words, don't try to be funny for the sake of it. Also have other characters react to the humour in the way you think your audience might.

    If you're going for full-on Black Comedy the humour is integral, otherwise picks your moments carefully.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2016
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Jack Kilborn. Try Endurance. He's one of my favourite horror authors (I read a LOT of horror) and one of the very, very few self-published authors whose work I still buy.

    IMO horror is always enhanced by dark humour. Fear and laughter are very closely linked--think rollercoasters.

    My agent asked me to make a murder scene funny to match the rest of the book. I stressed over how the hell I was going to do that when the scene was meant to be serious and heart-breaking and I wanted the reader to feel the MC's fear and shock. But I tried it, and my agent was totally right--it worked, and the scene was better for it. In the end I think I added four sentences and that was enough.
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Fault in Our Stars made me cry rivers as well as laugh out loud in several places. It was precisely because it was funny that made it so tragic, and the humour actually enhances the feeling of loss. So yeah, humour in dark works would work well, if done well ;)
     
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  5. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I love dark humor, but from the way you summed up your story, it doesn't seem to me like it would be a very funny story at all. Just something to keep in mind when you are summing up and pitching your story.
     
  6. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Humour (black or otherwise) can deepen the impact of the serious business by providing contrast. I think contrast is one of the most meaningful factors any artist can play with. I'm into music, so the most obvious example to me is the vast success Nirvana had by popularising song structures with obvious shifts between quiet and loud. Not just important in creative pursuits either: e.g. diagnostic imaging (x-rays, ultrasound, CT, MRI, etc) relies on contrast and all sorts of different things can be seen by adjusting it, and I'm sure we all have life events that stick in our memory because they stood at odds with 'normal'. Contrast makes your lows lower and your highs higher :)
     
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  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Between the first and 8th drafts of my WIP, I completely changed my approach to humour.

    Where at first I metaphorically reached out and slapped the reader across the face with a dead fish, now I (again, metaphorically) leave it in the reader's back pocket and let him/her find it by smell. And although it may not elicit guffaws now—if it ever did—I think it by-passes being seen as trying too hard. And I also think it gives the entire story a kind of feel-good aura which, I'm hoping, will make it that much more engaging.

    Without reading a sample of your work, I can't really form an opinion on how you're doing, but hopefully what I've said above will give you some food for thought and, in a roundabout way, some guidance.
     
  8. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    Sorry I missed this originally. But now I'll get alerts.

    I need a little humor in my serious spot. OH I mean plot. lmao
     

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