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.
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
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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