Charles Dickens said, ‘Make them laugh, make them cry and make them wait.’
Another writer, whose name escapes me, said, ‘Make them laugh, make them cry and scare the pants off them, and you’ve got them hooked.’
One of the important emotions mentioned here, humour, is one that many writers don’t believe they need to know how to write. After all, they argue, I’m not writing a comedy, my book is romance, SF, fantasy, crime etc. (choose one). But humour is an integral part of all of our lives. Our ability to laugh and desire to do so serves essential life functions; it lessens tension and anxiety.
When speaking about preparation for an expedition, Edmond Hillary is quoted as saying, ‘I've also regarded a sense of humor as one of the most important things on a big expedition. When you're in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you're depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension.’
This is what we need to do to some degree in our writing. Many famous writers include humour in their stories.
Stephen King is one. If you are a fan, and have his novel 11.22.63 lying around, read the first few pages. The start of the story (the inciting incident) is a sad story of his protagonist’s marriage break up, but he throws in a humorous line every now and then to break the tension. Like on page 12 where he is talking about a diner where he regularly eats, and says, ‘I had been in just yesterday, to grab an early supper. A Fatburger, fries, and a strawberry milkshake. I believe it’s important for a guy living on his own to hit all the major food groups.’
This one line, in the middle of a paragraph full of tension, makes you smile.
Using humour at the right place, to lighten some of the darker situations in your story or provide a moment of relief for your reader, can cement the bond your reader has with you as a writer and with your character. Studies have shown that humour enhances our connection to what we are reading and makes us remember it more.
It also gives you, the writer, a boost. By challenging you to add another element to your story and finding the funnier side of what you are writing, you can lighten your mood and enhance your creativity.
Many people think of humor as exaggeration or fabrication, but it can be added in many ways, some of them as simple as a comparison jokes with a metaphor or a simile chosen specifically for comedic effect: like the old saying, ‘Getting Joe to buy a beer is like pulling hens’ teeth’.
Knowing how to write humour effectively is a specialist subject. But it is something you can be taught. Someone who makes a living out of writing humour is Michael Gerard Bauer.
Michael is a multi-prize-winning, Brisbane based writer of YA and children's books. His first novel The Running Man, published in 2004, received immediate acclaim, winning the 2005 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers.
The first book in the YA series Don't Call Me Ishmael! was published in April 2006. It is a comedy set in a boys' school where Ishmael and his intrepid band of grade nine misfits take on bullies, bugs, babes, the Beatles, debating and the great white whale, in the toughest, the weirdest, the most embarrassingly awful … and the best year of their lives.
Michael's most recent publications have been the very popular Eric Vale series and its spin-off series, ’Secret Agent Derek Danger Dale. These hilarious books for younger readers are fully illustrated by Michael's son Joe Bauer. His books are used widely in schools and are currently translated into 12 languages and sold in over 40 countries.
His stories are often about serious issues that children face every day. They are deep and meaningful and help to guide the reader to handle difficult situations in their lives. But these messages are delivered in a light hearted, humorous way that makes the reader want to read on, and then read more of his books.
If you want to learn how to inject some humour into your writing, Michael is conducting a workshop at Gondor Writers’ centre on June 13th. Who better to learn from than the man who makes a living out of writing humour.
Michael's Workshop: How to Write Funny.
In this workshop we look at the basic question, 'What makes something funny?'. Once we've identified the key ingredient of humour, we will apply what we have learned to important aspects of storytelling, such as plot, character and language use, in order to produce laugh out loud results.
I thought I would end this post with a little humour from some famous people:
If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.
- Doug Larson
It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up, because by that time I was too famous.
- Robert Benchley
When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am a grownup they call me a writer.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
If you’re interested in improving your writing by attending Michael’s workshop, please phone 07 54 981 332 to book or go to http://www.gondorwriterscentre.com/workshop-bookings.html
ATTEND VIA SKYPE:
Can't make it on the day... no problem, just Skype in. Please indicate when you book that you want to be linked by Skype and send us your Skype profile. Limited numbers, so book early.
Get your writing friends together and save money. Group discounts apply to groups of 3 or more for all of Gondor’s workshops.
The other two emotions mentioned in quotes at the top of the page are covered in future workshops:
Charles Dickens' quote 'make them wait' is covered in the Keeping Them Hooked workshop on June 20th and 'scare the pants off them' is covered in Writing Scary Stories on August 8th and 9th. Learn more at