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Anne Louise Bannon asks Where Are You Funny?

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Old Los Angeles and Operation Quickline series. You can find out more about her here and read her latest post here.

I figure with the holidays coming up, and COVID still rearing its ugly head, it would be nice to write something funny. Or about being funny. The problem is, I’m not very good at being intentionally funny.

Book Cover. Death of the Chinese Field Hands by Anne Louise Bannon. Painted symbol with mountains in the background.

I can write funny scenes in my stories. Heck, even Death of the Chinese Field Hands, which is possibly the darkest book I’ve ever written has several scenes that are quite humorous. But sitting down and writing a joke? Nope. Not happening. If there’s something going on in one of my books that has you chuckling (and I hope there are several such moments), it’s not going to be laugh-out-loud funny. Okay. I did make my husband guffaw quite loudly once.

Even if I included one such scene here, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense, let alone tickle any funny bones, unless you’ve had a chance to get to know my characters and the context of their lives, such as Maddie Wilcox, a physician in Los Angeles in 1871.

The scene I’m thinking of has Maddie going off to a party in a lovely silk dress and her maid Juanita Alvarez insisting that Maddie change clothes if she is called to help someone because Juanita does not want to have to get bloodstains out of silk. That’s not funny because you don’t know that Maddie really isn’t very good at taking care of herself, nor is that careful about her clothes. She can suture someone closed without a problem, but can’t fix a tear in her dress.

I have another scene coming up in the novel I’m currently blogging as a fiction serial, These Hallowed Halls. There’s a character, a political science professor, trying to put the make on one of the characters, but it’s not funny by itself because you don’t have the earlier context of his hair having the flat dullness of a bad dye job and the earlier discussion that his reputation as department Don Juan is only a figment of his imagination.

Humor as Context

Image of cat glowering.
Medusa does not think I’m funny.

So for me, humor is about the situation or context. When I’m joking around with my husband or someone else, it’s about the banter and I can’t recreate that. I love puns but can never think of one off the top of my head. The second I find an opening in a conversation, be afraid. It’s coming.

The same is true in my writing. I can’t sit down and write a funny scene because there needs to be one at a certain point. If there’s an opening for a good one-liner or a moment of humor, I put it in, but it has to come out of the story or the characters or I just can’t make it work.

How about you? Can you make things funny or does it come out of the context or what you’re writing?

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Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Anne — I can’t write funny on purpose either. A moment of humor that’s naturally born out of the story, yes. But laugh out loud funny on purpose? No, that’s not going to happen.

  2. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Thanks for this post, Anne! I’m with you, intentional humor is hard for me to write. The one liners come so much more easily. Hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      I love banter. It’s so much fun. Too bad it’s really hard to write.

  3. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    I love TV sitcoms because I admire the way the writers can craft a joke or laugh in every other line. I’ve written sitcoms and been to a workshop on them and they are tough to write. In my two book series I seem to go for situational humor, and it comes easily sometimes with Grandpa Gil. I find creating characters who have a different slant on life helps create humor more automatically because humor also requires depth in a character. There has to be something to mine besides a quick joke. Nice post.

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      Re depth of character, exactly, Christine. Thanks for the thought and the nice words.

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