Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by glorybee » Sat Oct 11, 2014 8:22 am

Humor can be found in any genre, this really won’t be a lesson in “How to Write Humor.” Instead, I’m just going to toss out some thoughts on humor writing, and hope that you’ll find something here that can help you with including humor in your writing.

I’ve listed below a few different types of humor writing. After each one, I’ve included a link to one of my challenge entries that fits the description. As I’ve said before, I don’t include these because they’re wonderful (in fact, several of these are distinctly UNwonderful) but because I can find them easily. I’d love for you to link to yours in the comments thread.

1. You might consider writing about a funny situation. It doesn’t have to be side-splittingly funny; our lives have any number of situations during the day that can cause a smile. A woman drives to the post office in her nightie and slippers, intending to be back home in mere minutes, when a flat tire causes her to have to flag down help while seriously underdressed…humor. Or a series of minor catastrophes escalates such that when a wife comes home from work, her husband is covered in strawberry jam…humor.

Example: A Snapping Turtle, a Catfish, and a Chicken Bone

2. You can write about funny characters. Even if you don’t have a sense of humor, your characters can. Your characters can be funny because of the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they react to the world. A big part of humor is surprise; make a character dress, speak, or react in unexpected ways to make her funny. If the character is ninety years old, have him wearing sagging pants like his great-grandson... humor. Just be careful, if you’re writing funny characters, that you’re clearly not making fun of them, which is never funny.

Example: One Week in Dr. Lipinsky’s Laboratory

3. Turn the inclination to make fun of around and use self-deprecating humor. Write about a time when you embarrassed yourself, or did something exactly the wrong way, or had a disastrous result (in a funny way, not a tragic one) to something you attempted.

Example: Confessions of the Anti-Martha

4. Other forms of humor that you might attempt are satire or parody. Satire uses humor to dig a bit at contemporary culture. Parody takes something that has already been written and re-imagines it, perhaps by changing characters or settings, giving it a different style, or some other variation of the original. In parody, the reader should be able to recognize the original. Both satire and parody typically have a message for the reader.

Example of satire: Flames

Example of parody: After the Kiss

5. People are often amused by absurdity or visual humor. Here’s an opportunity for you to practice using imagery (from a few lessons ago). Put something ridiculous in the story: a giraffe wearing an Easter bonnet or a two-year-old in her mother’s high heels and lipstick smeared everywhere. Or write about something totally absurd: a person with an irrational fear of puppies, or a blind date who appears at the door in clown shoes.

Example (but not a wonderful example—I guess I didn’t do this kind of humor much): Doctor Dabbs Takes a Leave of Absence

6. Word play and puns are funny to many people; our Noel Mitaxa is a master at twisting a phrase and building a humorous story around it (you might want to look him up on the main site and read some of his entries). If you do something like this, the story may not be obviously funny until the very end, when the pun is in the punchline that you’ve been building up to all along.

Example: Say What?

A few things to be careful of when writing humor:

1. As I mentioned above, don’t use your humor at anyone’s expense. Even if the person being ridiculed is fictional, that just feels mean.
2. Similarly, don’t result to sarcasm, unless it’s the very gentlest kind of sarcasm.
3. Remember that you don’t have to try to write something that will produce guffaws or utter hilarity. If the reader smiles, makes a little snort, giggles once or twice—you’ve written humor.
4. Don’t force it by labeling actions or bits of dialog as funny. If they’re funny, it will be evident, and you don’t have to tell us.
5. Devotionals can certainly be funny. Use a humorous personal anecdote to prove your point, or write about times when our gracious God allows us to find humor.
6. Resist the temptation to take a familiar joke or anecdote and expand it to a full story, even if it’s got a great punchline, and even if you flesh it out so that it’s fully your own. Readers will recognize the situation, and will lose interest if they feel that they know how it’s going to end.

HOMEWORK:
1. Link to something humorous that you’ve written. Please don't JUST leave a link--tell us a little bit about your writing process. If it fits into one of the categories I wrote about—which one? If not, what kind of humor would you say you used?
2. Ask a question or make a comment about something in this lesson.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by rcthebanditqueen » Sat Oct 11, 2014 11:43 am

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!!! Humor! I love it!

"Dr. Lipinsky" and "Say What" are my favorites of the ones you posted. :lol:

Let's see. Where's my list? Here we go.

No, I Don't Have A *twitch* Facial Tic. . .Why Do You *TWITCH* Ask?
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49262 (I can't get the title to appear linked where the url is like you did)
This one is my favorite of what I've written. It was exaggerated, and I took a bit of creative license, but that is part of writing humor sometimes. It really did happen though. I think this one would fit in category 1, don't you? Funny situations?

I think the "non-prosy" clipped style was the key to making that one work. That's just me though, and it is my work, so I can't say much... :P

I think that this one, Shinbuster (http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=48922), fits in a way in the funny characters section. The story itself isn't necessarily meant as humorous, but the trick MC pulls to get the poor young bandit to surrender was what I hoped would come across as humorous. Be interested to hear opinions on that.

In "E-I-E-I-NO!" (http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49137), the title was a bit of a wordplay that I hoped would be obvious. I would say it fits more in a facetious, exaggerated funny situation category.

"The Satirist's Guide to Marriage" (http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49089), would that be satire? I'm not exactly sure which category that one fits in.

Here is a link to my blog where I wrote a humorous post about one of my roosters: http://ranchitobandito.wordpress.com/20 ... gad-mcbad/
This one would be funny situation too, I guess. It's a little different because I was able to play with including funny pictures in the text. I do enjoy writing the dry facetious style of humor.

My writing process is a bit odd. For humor, it is difficult to produce it on command. If a funny thing happens, I get a flash of inspiration and it just flows out onto the page as fast as I can write or type (I LOVE it when that happens). I wrote a short story once (unpublished for lack of an outlet) about a little boy in a turn of the century (1900s) Western town who misunderstands the identity of a stranger arriving on the train, and thinks he is a big bad gunfighter coming to have a shootout with a local tough guy. That was fun to write. A combination of funny situation and funny characters. This week's challenge will be good for me to practice doing it on command, I think.

It's funny too, that I love writing humor so much (when the mood strikes me), and sometimes it comes out in such a sassy way, when in real life conversations I am not sassy at all. :P

I grew up reading Patrick McManus books, so that's where I imbibed some of the dry, witty tone. Plus I'm a closet punster (NOWHERE near Noel's skills...but I'm learning!), married to another closet punster.

Ahhh, I love this. Get me into humor and I'm happy. :superhappy

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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by rcthebanditqueen » Sat Oct 11, 2014 11:44 am

I guess I should have asked if it was okay before posting a link to my blog, since it wasn't a Challenge entry... Is that a no-no? :sorry :sorry :bow

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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by KatKane » Sat Oct 11, 2014 11:54 am

Hi, I'm posting the link to my first entry which was in the pros and cons week. It was written as a diary, based on what I guess I would be like if I didn't really keep a firm check on myself. I didn't really know much about the challenge and what was expected. What I found hardest was getting the main point out in a way that wasn't preachy and didn't jar with the rest of the article. Here it is:

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49118

I think it would be situational humour and also a bit of a parody of me. I'm not sure it fits cleanly into any one of the categories above as I see elements of most of them.

I guess my big question is how to best handle transitions between humour and serious, keeping it all seamless. :thankssign
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by itsjoanne » Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:03 pm

You can also just be completely and totally off-the-wall. Here is my entry for the humor genre challenge LAST time around: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=15070

I remember just trying to be totally random and off-the-wall (was inspired, if I recall, by Joanne Malley - who I MISS!). It had probably been a stressful week.

Jan - I still remember your "chicken bone" one - and the Anti-Martha. Will have to peruse yours later.

My first ever EC also had humor - surprise and word play and such: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=11150

Another favorite- mostly situational humor and exaggeration (and understatement): http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=18502

Have a few others that aren't really funny until the end - and were they EVER fun to write!
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=17986
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=42136

One of the difficulties/fears folks have about humor is that they are afraid others don't think what THEY think is funny, is. But you can't know if you don't try.

I MAY just have to enter (in my copious free time) this time!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by glorybee » Sat Oct 11, 2014 3:43 pm

rcthebanditqueen wrote:(I can't get the title to appear linked where the url is like you did)
Thanks for all your links--you're very good at humor writing, and I enjoyed reading them. I think my favorite is the satirical poem--very clever.

As for making linked titles, you have to do some HTML. I'll give you the steps below.

1. Go to your story and highlight and copy the URL
2. Go to the post where you're going to place the link, and type this:

[url=

3. After the = sign, paste the URL and a close bracket.
4. Type the title
5. Type [/url]
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by glorybee » Sat Oct 11, 2014 3:43 pm

rcthebanditqueen wrote:I guess I should have asked if it was okay before posting a link to my blog, since it wasn't a Challenge entry... Is that a no-no? :sorry :sorry :bow
No problem!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by glorybee » Sat Oct 11, 2014 3:53 pm

KatKane wrote:Hi, I'm posting the link to my first entry which was in the pros and cons week. It was written as a diary, based on what I guess I would be like if I didn't really keep a firm check on myself. I didn't really know much about the challenge and what was expected. What I found hardest was getting the main point out in a way that wasn't preachy and didn't jar with the rest of the article. Here it is:

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49118

I think it would be situational humour and also a bit of a parody of me. I'm not sure it fits cleanly into any one of the categories above as I see elements of most of them.

I guess my big question is how to best handle transitions between humour and serious, keeping it all seamless. :thankssign
Kat, that's superb for a first entry!

As far as transitions between humor and serious goes--that's an interesting question. I think I'd say first of all that it's not always necessary to go from humor to seriousness; there's no reason why a story or even a devotional can't be just humorous. Christian writing need not be all ponderous, and an all-funny piece is perfectly fine.

On the other hand, I think we've all experienced a situation like this: You're listening to an expert speaker (maybe a preacher, a professor...well, any kind of speaker) and she's got the crowd laughing like crazy. The laughs just keep coming--and then all of a sudden she says something that stops the laughter dead in its tracks. Something serious or shocking or sad that makes you gulp back the laughter. That's VERY effective, and a good writer could try for that same effect.

And there's nothing wrong with a good old transitional sentence. Something like "That's all very amusing, but perhaps you haven't considered the darker side of [whatever]..."
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by rcthebanditqueen » Sat Oct 11, 2014 5:40 pm

glorybee wrote:
rcthebanditqueen wrote:I guess I should have asked if it was okay before posting a link to my blog, since it wasn't a Challenge entry... Is that a no-no? :sorry :sorry :bow
No problem!
Whew! I'm glad.

And thank you for the html directions!!

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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by rcthebanditqueen » Sat Oct 11, 2014 5:44 pm

KatKane wrote:Hi, I'm posting the link to my first entry which was in the pros and cons week. It was written as a diary, based on what I guess I would be like if I didn't really keep a firm check on myself. I didn't really know much about the challenge and what was expected. What I found hardest was getting the main point out in a way that wasn't preachy and didn't jar with the rest of the article. Here it is:

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49118

I think it would be situational humour and also a bit of a parody of me. I'm not sure it fits cleanly into any one of the categories above as I see elements of most of them.

I guess my big question is how to best handle transitions between humour and serious, keeping it all seamless. :thankssign
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaait... Kat, that was your story??? Oh gosh how funny...now we are in the same buddy group.

That one is still my favorite of the Pros and Cons topic. I liked the droll humor so much.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by Laurie » Sat Oct 11, 2014 9:06 pm

While neither are knee slapping funny, here are a couple of humorous poems I wrote.

This one is about an embarrassing situation, though it didn't really happen. I thought I should mention that. ;) I guess it would fall under the funny situation category of humor.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=17076

In this one, I have kitchen utensils quarreling among themselves. Maybe this would fall under the funny characters category even though the characters aren't people.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=13031

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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by Shann » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:06 pm

I am drawing a complete blank on this one. I've done several humor articles before. I'm big on the surprise ending ones too. I think this one is my favorite though. It's just the random thoughts that pop into my head.Although after reading it just now, I wonder if you would consider my sarcasm as making fun of the nurse and doctor. The events really happened, just spread out over more time.

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=44668
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by glorybee » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:15 pm

Shann,

I didn't read any of that cute entry as making fun of the doctor and nurse. It's got a good, authentic voice, and there's nothing mean-spirited in it whatsoever.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by Shann » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:18 pm

Thanks that makes me feel better. :D
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Re: Be a Better Writer--HUMOR WRITING

Post by TracePezzali » Sun Oct 12, 2014 3:46 am

Hi everyone

Thanks for the humor lesson, Jan. It has given me some good options to work with in exploring the different types.

I love drama, so am keen to create some strong characters who are funny in themselves, and then give them some situational comedy and word play to work with. My main comedy focus is therefore on creating monologues and skits. I find different accents work well as a starting point, and different ideas follow working on that accent. My poor children have no hope of NOT being dramatic - I'm walking around the house for hours at a time practicing some new voice. They don't even raise an eyebrow they are so used to it. Maybe it could help them in the future somehow - class comedians with a good repoitre of voices themselves...

I've submitted my humor article already (so can't attach it as yet here) as it was a monologue I'd already been working on for an irish character called Binchy. Inspiration for her situation came with the dialogue I had with my little girl who is three and comes up with the funniest things when we 'role play' during the day. Actually, being a mother of little kids in itself gives you a twisted sense of self-deprecating humor too, and you talk about the weirdest things, including silly ditties about toilet training and the like, praising your child for the basest of abilities!

On weird occupational humor, my mother was a nurse and came home one day to say "Oh it was so funny, Mr Bond died today...." and then launched into a story which was so not funny but would (possibly) have been to others in the profession.

I took great comfort, Jan, when you mentioned that it doesn't have to be hilarious humor. I acted my monologue before my husband and he was convinced it wasn't funny enough, which really flattened me! Thankfully other actors approved of the piece so I didn't change a thing.

Everyone's humorous stories have been great. I especially liked Joanne's story with the funny witch character being the cause for her getting a driving ticket. The descriptions of the squeeking little woman were really good. I thought it was a great example of the absurd that worked and was compelling.

Regards
Trace
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