Writing Humor

What a fun show about writing humor! Cheri Caddick joins me again to discuss writing for laughs in both fiction and non-fiction genres. She is a perfect choice to discuss this topic with me as her books Falling Down Girl and Falling Down Girlfriend artfully ride the line between sublime comedy and ridiculousness. Cheri is also a pro at injecting humor in more her more serious work such as Leaving Walloon. In this conversation we talk about writing humor in general, and then Cheri generously shares some of her tips for writing humor!

There is nothing more healing than laughter.

We started the show talking about how humor can be used in non-fiction (self-help, memoir). In fact, it’s especially necessary in this kind of writing to bring your readers relief and hope. Humor is most curative when it’s delivered in the intense times. One of the best ways to do this, without coming off as disrespectful or insensitive, is to be very aware of your timing. If you’re not sure your timing is right, as someone to read the excerpt for you. Trust me, they’ll let you know if it works or not!

Two writers who are brilliant at this are David Sedaris and Ann Lamott. In fact, in the book Bird by Bird, Instructions on Writing and Life, Ann states that one of her missions is to bring humor to situations that are very NOT funny for most of us.

“Take your reader for the full ride.”

As we moved into the fiction genre, Cheri shared how important it is to have well rounded characters – including their quirks and “loveable flaws” that you can exploit and play off of throughout the story. It’s important to know your characters so well that you know what they think and what they’d do in certain situations. It’s not often that someone has NO sense of humor, and when you do write those characters, THAT can be the beginning of it!

One of the big challenges of injecting humor in a story is finding ways to show humor when, in conversation, it would be an eye roll, emote, or tone that delivers the punchline. Fear not! While this is much easier to convey in fiction, where you can describe that look or tone, it’s not impossible in non-fiction. You can still describe that look or tone in non-fiction but sometimes you may be required to announce the humor. “And this is the funny part…” or “Sarcasm time!” for example. This is also a good time to trust your reader. If you’ve done a good job of getting them familiar with your tone or personality, they’ll catch it.

Cheri’s Tips for Writing Humor

  1. Have fun! If you’re not having fun writing it, your reader won’t have fun reading it.
  2. Let your inner playmate loose when writing. Run with them, tumble, jump & play with your writing.
  3. When writing physical humor, act the movements out as much as possible. This will make it easier to describe and won’t leave your reader trying to work it out in their head and missing the fun.
  4. Be fearless! You can’t know if the scene will work until you get it written. Banish your inner editor until it’s time for editing. In fact, overwrite if you need to – just to get it out.
  5. Use your fun friends to work through scenes.
  6. Watch improv skits. The craft of improvisation will show you how characters can play off of each other without forethought. Then, to practice converting that to writing, go write the scene you just saw.

Listen to the full show … and stay tuned for that contest!

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