1. EDee

    EDee New Member

    Aug 8, 2020
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    Using Humour in a Serious Scenario

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by EDee, Aug 8, 2020.

    How do you use humour to break the tension during serious scenes?

    I'm nearing the end of my current project - an action-comedy novel in a fantasy setting that deals with multiple POV characters - and my main character has just been kidnapped. He's not in any harm, they just want to use him as leverage against his love interest. However, as I said, the book is primarily a comedy so the sudden shift from playful to serious is a bit jarring.

    It is not the only serious situation in the story; for example, about 100 pages earlier, one of my characters got injured in a battle and needed immediate medical attention, but I cut the tension there by giving him a strange reaction to the painkillers which made him go comically loopy and disorientated. However, I want to be a little more subtle with this scene as it is the main climax of the story.

    So far, I have included a few witty comebacks between my MC and his captors. And I have also done a comical transition from the love interest finding out MC has been taken and fearing that he's dead to MC's POV where he is just a little uncomfortable and complaining because he's been tied to a wooden chair for eight hours, but he is otherwise unharmed. But it seems as though it is missing something still.

    Have you ever dealt with similar problems in your own writing? Or seen it in other people's books? What tips do you know of for adding humour in a way that won't seem forced or out of place?
  2. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2013
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    Tension is the life-blood of a novel and I'd try not to break that.

    You don't need to have a demarcation between the serious parts and the humourous pats. You can have characters who are so obsessed with a particular strategy to achieve a particular goal, they disregard the reality around them. Characters can do what they think are sensible actions, but because of misunderstanding, lack of knowledge or lack of expertise can act in ways which seem ridiculous to those who see the bigger picture. Conflicting needs can easily lead to comic situations. Imagine a character being employed as a servant at a social function and also being invited to the same event as a guest, he has to complete each role while avoiding detection. That could be a hilarious and tense scene.

    The best comedies are deadly serious (if you want to say something about how the rediculous can become a social norm).

    If I was to write a comedy, rather than thinking of the characters as having a good awareness of their situation and knowing what to do about it, I'd think of them as clueless fools who consider themselves experts.
  3. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

    Jan 1, 2017
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    It's not something I've ever been great at myself but I think it's done really well in Jordan Peele's horror films, Get Out and Us. He manages to get some very funny lines in without taking away from the atmosphere so I'd give those a watch if you haven't already.
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

    Dec 24, 2019
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    Way, way out there
    Keep the old adage in mind—if you want to make them laugh, make them cry and vice versa. In other words, intersperse serious drama and comedy. I think keeping it in mind that way helps you figure out how to structure it—where to put comedy and drama in relation to each other. But of course, your own intuition is the best guide.

    Trying to keep things serious for too long will burn the audience out, they need a break. And once you've got them laughing that primes the pump for the drama to get intense. And afterwards, another burst of laughter to clear the palette.
  5. PaperandPencil

    PaperandPencil Active Member

    Aug 2, 2020
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    Orange County, Califormia
    I know that sometimes authors deliberately write characters to be idiotic to get them into compromising situations that end up being funny. You can almost see what's about to happen before it even occurs so it can also be frustrating because it seems easily avoidable. I hope that helps. =)

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