I have something fun for you again today. Kylie Betzner has a new book out, and graciously agreed to share a few tips on weaving comedy into our stories. She also agreed to give us a little promo for her new book.
Kylie calls herself a comedian. Blogger. Coffee junkie. Incurable nerd. And now, author. The titles she is most proud of are sister, auntie, and friend. Growing up in a small town surrounded by cornfields, Kylie had nothing better to do than fantasize about unicorns and elves. As an adult, she still refuses to grow up, and spends most of her time creating stories of comedic fantasy. When she is not writing, which is hardly ever, Kylie enjoys reading, drinking coffee, and spending time with her family and friends. She also runs, although she does not enjoy it so much. Kylie currently resides in Indiana with her sister, nephew, horde of cats, and one very silly dog.
It’s Craft Time—Writer’s Craft, that is: On Weaving Humor into Your Story.
I grew up in a small town. To entertain ourselves, my sister and I would illustrate our own picture books, mostly featuring evil leprechauns versus unicorns, that sort of thing. Almost thirty, I’m still not all grown up and choose to spend my free hours writing works of comedic fantasy. I recently created an author team called The League of Comedy Fantasists to promote writers of light and comedic fantasy.
My debut novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is available for Kindle and in paperback format on Amazon. Check it out!
On with the post!
For the record, I am not an expert on the subject, only someone who has achieved success in writing comedy. And before we start, I just want to make one thing very clear: THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT WRITING COMEDY. It’s a serious craft . . . not that you can’t have a little (or a lot) of fun along the way, but know that to write “good” comedy, you have to understand it as a craft. No, not arts and crafts—writer’s craft.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s run with that arts and crafts theme to compare writing comedy with basket weaving. In the same way you’d weave an intricate design into a basket you should weave humor into the characters and narrative of your story. By the time you’re completed your basket—er—story, the design—or—narrative should be cohesive and pleasing to your audience.
How do you achieve a work of fiction that successfully utilizes humor? Simple answer. Difficult execution.
First, you must identify your own sense of humor: dry, witty, deadpan, quirky, subtle, or laugh-out-loud—this will dictate how you incorporate humor. People who prefer subtle humor will weave it into the narrative through word choice and those who enjoy laugh-out-loud humor will rely more on situational humor and slapstick.
Regardless, here are some ways to include humor in your writing:
• Narrative: Witty phrases and word choice from the narrator can provide subtle humor that both young adults and adults can enjoy. Keep narrative upbeat and energetic. Use of irony, paradoxes, and juxtaposition in the narrative can serve to provide subtle humor. Not to be bias, but this is my favorite way to incorporate humor in my own works. This is where the majority of my humor exists, in the narrative through witty observations of life and playful wordplay. This is where my author’s voice thrives.
• Dialogue: Probably one of the easiest places to include humor. Have your characters tell jokes, ask dumb questions, state the obvious, and make witty comebacks. Witty banter between two or more characters is highly entertaining and quotable, which is probably why readers love my version of Sir Kay so much. He’s always making sarcastic remarks and slamming his companions for their naivety.
• Situations: While outlining your story, plan situations that your reader will find humorous. Think beyond the ordinary and force your characters outside their comfort zones. For example, in my own book, I have Sir Kay, an antisocial homebody, forced onto a quest with his young page who jibber jabbers the whole way. He’s forced to encounter adventure and endure the company of others. There is also a scene at a tavern that includes midget wrestlers. It’s easy to draw humor from that.
• Names: One gimmick I employ in all of my writing is poorly named protagonists. That’s how the reader knows who the main character is. The female lead in my Arthurian parody is named Pig, for reasons one might not expect;) And in my upcoming novel, the main character is known as simply as Mongrel. Some comedians would caution you against abusing this trick, and so will I. Giving every single character a “funny” name is a bad idea, hence why I reserve this trait for my protagonists. Like any trick, overusing it will numb readers to it. Plus, readers won’t take them very seriously. One or two joke names stands out in a good way, but a novel full of “Joe Fisterbottoms” and “Fanny Packs” will not fair well against more “sophisticated humor.
Now that you know where comedy goes, how do you write comedy? Well, this is the hard part. It’s easy to plan situational humor in the outline, but planning puns and witty quips cannot so easily be planned. My advice, plan the story first. Get down the story you want to tell. In my opinion, writing should reveal some truth about life, and comedy is no exception. Comedy is a means to convey serious messages under the guise of entertainment. Some of the greatest comedians and comedic writers draw their inspiration form painful experiences or from current issues important to them, many of these are serious issues. In his novel, Men at Arms, Terry Pratchett makes a rather serious statement about guns and power, but I was laughing the entire time. He also includes an orangutan in most of his novels, because of his love for this endangered species. As a writer of comedic fantasy, I myself take advantage of imaginary character and worlds to parody other works of fantasy while satirizing current cultural issues, making them the most relevant and irrelevant stories ever told. But I digress . . . start with the story, keeping the theme in mind. Play around with the humor. Let your sense of humor run rampant in the pages. Adding, tweaking, and deleting puns, quips, and wit can be done in editing.
Finally, my do’s and don’ts of writing parody.
• Do have fun. If you’re not having fun, the reader won’t either.
• Take it seriously. Writing comedy is a craft, not a joke.
• Don’t take yourself too seriously. This is supposed to be fun.
• Be true to yourself and your own sense of humor.
• Don’t copy other comedic writers. Find your own voice.
• Ask for feedback early on. Gauge reader response.
• Don’t expect everyone to “get” your humor. Not going to happen.
• Do look at the story and the humor as a whole, not separate things.
Do these things, and I’m sure your basket—er—story will turn out great! Wait, one more thing. My absolute best advice is to read good examples of comedy. Terry Pratchett, Gerald Morris, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, are all good examples of competent humorists. Learn from the masters before you attempt your own.
I just want to thank Craig Boyack for inviting me to write on the subject. Comedy is something of which I am extremely passionate, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on the subject.
Don’t forget to check out my novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Other, an Arthurian parody centered on the Grail Quest. If you enjoy Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, Gerald Morris, Douglas Adams, and/or the new Merlin series, you’ll get a kick out of this book.
The Quest for the Holy Something or Other:
Enter the Realm of Camelot, home of famous legends: King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and Merlin—but this isn’t their story. Meet Pig, a humble gong farmer who dreams of the glories of Camelot. Her dreams become reality–or so she thinks–when she becomes Sir Kay’s page. What starts off as a joke soon becomes the adventure of Pig’s life when Merlin sends the knights on a quest for the Holy Gift Box–er–Bread Basket–whatever it is! On their quest, they face many knight-worthy, and some not-so-knight-worthy, foes: an insane pond dweller, several greedy salespeople, and an overzealous cache seeker, all the while fighting against time, mostly each other, and the most infamous villain of all—change. The Quest for the Holy Something or Other is a fresh and funny take on a well-known legend, with engaging characters, some rather good jokes, and something that starts with S, but it isn’t important.
This book sounds like a ton of fun to me. I’m preparing this post on the Saturday before it goes live. I just bought my copy and am certain to enjoy it.
You can contact Kylie at the following places: