|Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay|
Funny for the Unfunny!
When Becky first asked me if I’d like to write a guest post (my friend Dani Duck apparently volunteered me as tribute), my first reaction was “Sure! That sounds like fun. I’d love to write a post.” My second reaction was “Oh crap. I have to write a post.” I had no idea what I was qualified to write about having only gotten this far by my considerable Canadian charm and sheer dumb luck. So I polled my writerly friends and they suggested I make a post about writing the funny.
Now, people have been laughing at me my whole life, but is funny something you can teach? Not everyone is lucky enough to be born a wise-cracking smartass completely out of touch with their feelings, but still...since I have made some headway recently learning to write stories with more emotional depth, I’m confident even the most boringest among us can learn to add some fun and humor to their stories!
Humor is a great way to engage young readers, so with that in mind and using my own stories as an example (as no one else deserves that kind of treatment), here are my top ten tips, in little to no order whatsoever:
- Have your character behave a *little* badly. Not bad enough to actually hurt anyone, but just bad enough that their behavior is slightly ridiculous and comical and at odds with their main personality trait. When my superhero character Kung Pow Chicken/Gordon Blue acts less than heroic by being petulant or cowardly, I find it hilariously fun to write. Exploiting your MC’s character flaws for comedy gold also shows the reader their relatable human (or chicken, in KPC’s case) side and endears them to the audience when they overcome this trying period of acting like a butt munch.
- A little snark goes a long way. While brave, Kung Pow Chicken is often a bit oblivious to what’s really happening and gets caught up in his own heroism. So his little brother/sidekick Benny/Egg Drop is there to knock him down a peg with his snarky (but not mean) one-liners and off-side sarcastic comments. He keeps our hero from getting a little too big for his leotard.
- Give your character a quirk! Uncle Quack, the genius mad-scientist in the Kung Pow Chicken books, wears fuzzy pink slippers with his lab coat around town. A man (chicken) of his genius has no time for shoes! A funny quirk or affectation will be funny with minimal effort on your part. And we writers are nothing if not lazy, amirite?
- If they see it, they will laugh. Visual humor is a useful tool. I’m my own illustrator and I love to add funny extras in the art. If you write for young readers illustrations can provide an opportunity to add an extra layer of humor to your story, even if you aren’t an illustrator yourself. If you are lucky enough to be allowed input into the choice of your illustrator, suggest someone whose art makes you laugh.
- Don’t be afraid of the absurd! Go for broke and do anything for a laugh! In my first KPC book, I had the villain, an elderly grandmother, sell poisoned cookies to unsuspecting chickens that made them lose all their feathers in a mighty POOF! The only thing funnier than underpants to a kid is full frontal chicken nudity.
- But avoid relying on gross bathroom humor. Now I’m no prude, I enjoy a good fart joke as much as the next gal, but you’ll find many librarians, teachers, parents, reviewers, and editors do not. (At least not ones published for children.) And as our young readers have not yet joined the labor force, most of those little freeloaders haven’t got their own money with which to buy your epic ode to diarrhea.
- If you can’t be funny, be punny! It is true that there are some pun-hating philistines out there, but there are even more punophiles. (Is that a word? The red squiggle says not, but heck, this is my post.)
- Make it spoofy. Spoofing on a well-known story or character gives the reader something familiar to grab onto, while creating something fresh and funny. I’ve spoofed Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and a few others. In fact, it’s possible I’ve not ever had an original idea of my own…
- If you can’t laugh at yourself, who will? I often have fits of giggles when I write. I find me pretty funny. Yes, I’m easily amused, it’s true. But it’s also true that if you don’t find your work funny, nobody else will either. So have fun writing!
- So okay I promised ten tips, and there are only nine. Sue me. (Please don’t, I’m so poor.)
I’ll leave you with a smattering of my favorite funny reads. Some recent, some not so recent, all hilarious.
Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. (It has a magic-wielding skeleton detective!!! Need I say more?)
Bruno & Boots series, by Gordon Korman. Also Son of Interflux and Don’t Care High by same.
My Life as A Background Slytherin by Emily McGovern. (webcomic, find her on FB, Instagram, etc. You’re welcome.)
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
The Bandy Papers series by Donald Jack
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Chester the Cat books and Scaredy Squirrel books by Mélanie Watt
Cyndi MarkoLET'S GET CRACKING
Cyndi MarkoLET'S GET CRACKING
Cyndi has generously offered today's prize. This one is limited to the US and Canada. She is offering a signed copy of either My Little Piggy: An Owner's Manual, or one of the Kung Pow Chicken books (except for the first one which she doesn't have in stock right now). All you have to do, if you are already a signed-up member of the challenge and you live in either the USA or Canada, is comment on this blog post to be entered into the drawing for this prize. The winner will be selected by a random number generator on March 31st at noon.