1. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Humor Let's talk about humor in writing!

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by JJ_Maxx, Jan 7, 2014.

    Is there a better feeling than someone reading something you wrote, and they laugh? Hopefully not because it's horrible, but because you were trying to be funny. So how do we write funny? Speaking funny is easier because we can more easily utilize timing and inflection.

    In writing we have to have greater control over the pacing we force our readers to have.

    I've heard a lot of people say that humor is derived from breaking known patterns. In other words, do something unexpected.

    For instance, Rodney Dangerfield's classic joke:

    "My wife and I were happy for twenty years, then we met."

    Why is this funny? Because when he says him and his wife were happy for twenty years, our brain makes a logical connection that he is speaking about their time together and then that is reversed when he tells us it was before they were even together.

    For some reason, a difference in our expectations invokes a feeling inside of us and we laugh.

    But it doesn't seem to be a perfect rule, there needs to be a third element which is elusive.

    For instance, I could write this:

    Is this funny because it makes no sense or is unexpected? Maybe, I don't know. Imagining this scene in my head actually made me laugh. Then again answering 'potato' to any question is funny except 'What should I use for my potato salad?'

    So let me ask you guys, how can we write in order to make people laugh? What are your thoughts?
     
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  2. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I try top set up the joke with subtle comments. Sometimes paragraphs ago. Or puns. And OH GOD are they awful.

    I have a Chihuahua in my books, named Bobwa.

    Bobwa Huahua.

    The collie's name is Melon. Melon Collie.

    The cats are Merkatroid and Tabby Normal.
     
  3. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Writing humor is actually pretty simple.

    There are people that are funny, then there is you.





    :D
     
  4. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of my leading ladies has a dry sarcasm about her, though in an upbeat kind of way (that probably only makes sense to me, haha). But the story's written in 3rd limited with the narration filtering through her, so every once in a while it comes out in the text. I also play with 90s nostalgia in that story, too. So sarcasm and references. That's my humor game.

    I've never actually tried writing satire or comedy before, though. I don't think I'd be too good at it.
     
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  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I believe you have to be somewhat funny in real life to bring humour to the page. In Britain, the humour can be more subtle, so trying to tie in humour into the story can be difficult. However, I just try and think of something that I would say in real life if I were in that situation, although of course humour changes from person to person; people laugh at different things, and it's up to you to decide who's going to laugh at your stuff. In the end, if you find something funny, as long as it's not too niche, there's a good chance someone else will, too.
     
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  6. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's especially difficult. As one of the above posters mentioned, if you're funny in day to day life then that can be transposed into your writing.
    If however, you're not especially humorous then best not attempt it on paper.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have to disagree. Too many elements l=of live humor translate very poorly to writing. Timing, facial expressions and body language, funny voices, most physical humor (slapstick) just doesn't work well in writing. Furthermore, many who think they are funny in real life are oblivious to the fact that people may be laughing at them, not with them.

    Humor also tends to be rather subjective, What leaves one person doubled over in tears, gasping for air between laughs, will leave another person cold, or even offended.

    At best, humor is a precarious balance. Often it is based on a particular level ofdiscomfort. Too much, and it's agonizing. Too little, and it misses the mark.

    The fact that so few writers truly succeed in writing humor, other than the hit or miss moments within works that are not primarily intended as humor, should give an idea of how difficult it truly is.

    There are some writers who manage to consistently deliver humor, though. If you wish to write humor, you'd be well advised to read people like Douglas Adams, Janet Evanovich, and David Gerrold. They all have different approaches to humor. Or your taste may run more to Hunter S. Thompson (mine doesn't - I find more yuck than yuk yuk in his books).

    Easy? Hell no.
     
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  8. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    So can we deduce from that, that you're about as funny as a kick in the testicles?
     
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  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, you can. Whether that deduction means anything is another matter.
     
  10. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm just here for the witty banter (among other things). ;)
     
  11. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Of course I agree with you; humour from real life hardly ever works well when transposed to paper. However, I do believe some sort of humour is necessary in real life, otherwise you'll never be funny when writing, no matter how much you research and study techniques. You have to be funny to write funny, in my opinion (excuse the poor grammar here; it's for effect).
     
  12. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's worth bearing in mind what happens when someone doesn't get the joke. Will the text still work or will it seem dysfunctional? Suppose a character says, "I'm not sure I'd like a nine-to-five job. What are the hours?" To some this may be funny but to others it will seem like a reasonable question and an answer would then be expected.
     
  13. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like, "What time is midnight mass?"

    To get a laugh out of a reader without a 'funny' you could always squeeze something into the dialogue of two of your characters talking about Monty Python's Parrot Sketch or have one of your characters run around saying, "I'm a real boy!" or "He's not the Messiah - he's a very naughty boy." Granted many people who haven't seen those movies/shows may wonder what the hell is going on but those who know will howl!
     
  14. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    Humor in dialogue can work whether it makes the reader smile, laugh, or nothing. For example, if you were with some friends and one told a joke, you would still enjoy hanging out with them even if you didn't find it funny. (Unless it was offensive.) So, jokes in dialogue can still be enjoyable even if the reader doesn't like the joke.
     
  15. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Keep in mind, you guys are telling jokes which aren't nearly as good in print. I still think a great case study for humor in writing is "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series. So much funny, it's understood why it's considered a classic.

    Really, the setup to Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged and the climax:

    "You're a jerk, Dent."

    Then the closure that explains his anger.

    Or the universal controller, the guy who's memory span was the same as a goldfish.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014
  16. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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  17. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    My humor is more "random" humor than witty stuff. I get a lot of ideas from parody videos, this great website, and real life.
     
  18. marshipan
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    "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." E.B. White
    [​IMG]

    Dionysus, the god of wine and festivities, was also a god of madness. His good friend was Pan, the trickster satyr god. One of their most notable characteristics is revelry, and revelry comes from the idea of rebelling against order--generally for the sake of being marry. (Also, the Great Dionysia was a festival where allegedly tragedy, satire, and comedy originated [also the theatre masks]).

    The word amuse is derived from the idea of something that diverts your attention. Considering it's a diversion, a story that operates to completely amuse would therefore lack seriousness. In which I mean, a reader doesn't treat it seriously (or the story is light on your mind/soul, instead of heavy).

    When I'm writing humor, I'm striving single-mindedly to be amusing. Everything is at the mercy of that celebration of pure amusement. I'm a reveler rebelling against order for the sake of humor. Sacrifice of order (or, standard dispositions, arrangements, patterns, sequences, and etc) is what really makes writing comedic firstly, instead of something else (like a romance). Therefore characters become ridiculous, situations go awry, language is crafted for playfulness, the plot might never be able to move forward, rules of the universe are not respected, etc.

    Also, the biggest difference from other forms of humor, is that you aren't “telling jokes”. Jokes help you craft humor, instead of being the humor.

    Another modern classic humor novel is Confederacy of Dunces.
     
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  19. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    My experience with humor is that it is much funnier when you are talking about your own foibles and mistakes. It is never funny to mock or make fun of someone else. If you make yourself look clumsy, awkward and embarrassed, THEN it is a riot. Patrick McManus is a master at this style.
     
  20. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Hodor.

    My humor is pretty horrible...I often make jokes about myself and my mother (lol) and sometimes my jokes may get a bit sexual...but we shan't dwelve into that. In writing I personally love George R R Martin's, he got quite clever ones, as well as some stupid (hodor)

    In my writing I have made a few clever ones...but I'm a bit more careful when writing.
     
  21. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I find being humored to be one of our more peculiar emotions, and while figuring out how and why things are funny is no doubt a tedious chore, we can at least figure out how it differs from our other emotions. Maybe it would help us understand it better? As far as I can tell, humor is different from anger and happiness because we are not the object of the emotion. Oh yes.. and incoming wall of blabber...

    We tend to get angry when things don't go our way in life and obviously the opposite for happiness. With humor, we are more like observers to a situation, and in being able to distance ourselves from a scene where the players themselves might be angry or conflicted, we are able to pass judgement easily without having to involve ourselves.

    For example, when a group of popular kids picks on a nerd, the insults thrown by one of the kids is funny to the rest of the group because not only are they not on the receiving end, they perceive themselves to be on another level altogether than the "nerd". A student observing down the hall may or may not find it funny depending on whether she empathizes with the nerd, or perceives herself to be on the same level as him. Yes so this is just morals now, but what I'm trying to say is, if one can't personally remove themselves from a scene, it in no way can be funny to them.

    I'm mostly just rambling now.. so if you're still reading.. then cool. Then there's the case where people are part of the joke and still find it funny. If one has their insecurities in check (most likely a very sociable person) they can laugh along when someone insults them because they put themselves above the insult, on another level if you will.

    So I suppose we can see why there are so many types of humor and why it is very subjective. It depends entirely on the person's personality, morals and all that other good stuff knitted deep in us ever since we were born. So if you want to find out why something is funny to someone, it would be like figuring out the root of someone's depression or anger.

    But you know what? Humor is one of our big cravings and it's everywhere all the time. We know enough about it on the surface to be able to "feel" our way with it in our writing without having to "figure it out".
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I wish I knew. I tried to write humor only a couple of times - either the "joke" was completely missed and felt to the reader like an ordinary sentence, or else it was just nasty. In person I am able to make people laugh, but usually because people are laughing at me hahaha. I still remember, there was this time I was telling a joke to a table of something like, 10 friends. I spent 5min telling the joke before I finally delivered the punchline. There was utter silence as 10 pairs of eyes stared at me, my punchline hanging in the air. One question I get a lot when I tell a joke is: "That was the punchline?" I promptly buried my face in my husband's shoulder in despair, upon which laughter erupted.

    For the sake of humor, can anyone tell this story in a funny manner? :D 'cause er, I really can't.

    In any case, yeah, can't tell a joke in real life - don't stand a chance in writing I think. I wish I could though. Humor is the very thing that's missing in all my writing.
     
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  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i started a humorous version of my memoirs back in my old writing-for-money days... humor comes easy to me in writing, as in conversation... my witty one-liners didn't get me many second dates, though... i was the master [don't like 'mistress'] of the punny put-down and couldn't resist countering idiot teenaged boys' best would-be-make-out lines with cutting come-backs that earned me the perjorative nickname of 'smart mouth'...

    in my current philosophical writings, i often use humor to 'make the medicine go down' in both essays and the poems i call 'philosetry'...
     
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  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you can laugh at yourself, and there's nothing more appealing than that. :)
     
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  25. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I got the other end of the spectrum. As a child, Mom told me "Nobody likes a smartass".

    "Well, if your only other option is 'dumbass'..."
     
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