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  1. Flint
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    Flint New Member

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    QUIPS & FUNNIES (dialogue)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Flint, Nov 13, 2008.

    QUIPS & FUNNIES (dialogue in a novel)

    Hello

    What is the general advice re a character making a joke? Not telling a joke, but making a subtle quip to elicit a smile.

    In real life we may smile, laugh out loud, raise an eyebrow, give a certain look etc etc.

    Seems a bit tame to write ... he joked, she laughed, said laughing etc and does not look right to add ... ha! (or similar) at the end of the dialogue.

    Do we leave it 100% to the reader and if they dont get the quip, well so be it?

    Thanks in anticipation
    Flint
     
  2. eclecticism7
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    eclecticism7 New Member

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    I would leave it to the reader. Sometimes, the less you draw someone's attention to it, the funnier it is. Or even (especially if it's generally a more serious character) mentioning that s/he is being particularly dull or dry--that will make someone do a doubletake on it, and it will end up being even more humorous. My point is, don't tell the reader that something is funny, or it won't be. Of course, ultimately, it's all up to you. Doesn't that make you feel so special?:D
     
  3. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Like what eclectisim7 pointed out, don't do anything to indicate it was a joke. Just let the reader figure it out by themselves and it'll be much funnier.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I was going to say what garmar said - but underplay it, Liks the listener shaking his head and turning away, or sighing and saying mothing. On the other hand, if the other character is like me, he'd probably come back with a smartass response witha deadpan expression.
     
  5. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    Hehehehe I do that too Cogito... only I gotta work on the deadpan expression part :D

    Unless it's like a knock knock joke, for instance, I'd say forget about the other character reacting, unless it's important that they react. I always pick up the subtle jokes in books and find them funny. My brother doesn't, and when he's told what it is he doesn't think it's funny. And both of us just have normal laughter levels. So.... don't do anything. If they miss it, they miss it.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I'd say it varies depending on how obvious or not you want the joke to be. Some people really are too obvious when trying to joke--they're the ones who elbow you and guffaw and say, "Right?--right?--get it?" Some people smirk when they say something meant to be humorous. And some people totally deadpan everything. Likewise with the listener's reaction--they might laugh raucously, smile (as you mention), furrow their brow or stare blankly (if they don't get it), or roll their eyes (if they do get it but find it lame).

    There's no hard and fast rule regarding how to describe a joke, and there's nothing wrong with saying "he joked" or "he quipped" if it fits the text. Just as there's nothing wrong with NOT saying such things if they're not needed. Just go with what seems right for the story.
     
  7. Alcatraz
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    Alcatraz New Member

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    Below is a part of what I'm writing, as it relates to this thread.

    “So, Tobias. Do I take it that you require my assistance in solving this problem?” Byron asked.

    I rubbed my fingers against my forehead. I could feel a migraine coming on.

    “Sure,” I answered, although I could feel myself regretting having agreed to this almost instantly, “Why not?”

    “Splendid. After all you know what they said in Sodom and Gomorrah, ‘Two heads are better than one.’”


    With the highlighted part the intended subtle joke.
     
  8. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I think the most effective form of "funny" dialogue and quips is sarcasm. Its subtle enough to not seem forced but, if written correctly, can be very funny. My MC is, by nature, a bit cynical so sarcasm fits his personality well. But make sure the dialogue fits the character. So if your character is really happy all of the time, than cynical sarcasm probably isn't the best. And if you've got a depressed character, than knock-knock jokes will seem way to forced and will, obviously, not fit the characters "profile".

    When another character responds to these jokes, the responses should be fairly subtle too. I'd leave out "he laughed" or "she laughed". Try to get the response to match the jokes. Like if the joke is a bit offensive, the other character could respond with a slight chuckle and shake of the head in partial disgust.
     
  9. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    If it's a good joke there really shouldn't be a problem.
     
  10. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Something that hasn't come up yet, but needs to, is how important it is to have the joke be "in character."

    True, many jokes are funny by themselves. "Knock, knock," "Who's there?" jokes don't need to have anything to do with the characters or how they act. But the funniest jokes in dialogue are ones that make sense given the speaker.

    If you've seen Firefly, you'll understand that the line, "I call her Vera," is definitely a joke. But the character who says it is dead serious; the fact that he's calling his gun a girl's name is hilarious only because this particular character is the only person on the ship who would name a gun. If you've read Red Seas Under Red Skies, you know that when Locke describes the necklace he stole from the governor's mistress - while the governor was sleeping beside her - and admits, just as the police alarm goes off, that "he may have gone a bit overboard," it's funny because Locke is precisely the sort of man to go overboard when stealing.

    I guess you'd call that situational comedy - jokes that are only funny because a particular person says them.

    Also, make sure the joke - even a lighthearted "knock, knock" joke - fits the person saying it. If the speaker is a tough hombre who has seen battle before and is usually quiet or somber, he shouldn't be punning all the time. If your Main Char is a nun, sex jokes may be very in-character or very not, but be sure that you know which one is correct before she jokes about the length of the guard's sword.
     

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