To be fair, I don’t really consider myself a humor writer. I’m more like a half-assed blogger whose personal dysfunction makes people laugh out loud in airports, coffee shops, and cubicles. (Wow. It’s actually kind of sad when you think of it like that.) Whatever. Here I am, contributing to a series on humor writing – so, for today, let’s pretend that I’m a humorous writer, sharing the secret formula to being hilarious.
Get ready for it. Pretty sure I’m about to blow your mind…
The tricky thing about being funny in written form is that the writer is completely dependent on the reader to catch the humor in their work. Essentially, you are counting on your reader to catch on to really important things, like tone, timing, and delivery. If your reader doesn’t “get it”, they won’t think you’re funny. But, in the end, (as much as you would like to blame the reader for being a dim, humorless moron who can’t take a joke) if they aren’t able to follow the funny in your writing, it’s your fault.
As a humor writer, it’s not your job to write funny things, it’s your job to write things that read funny. Your task is to develop material that sounds funny in someone else’s head, and that’s not always easy to do.
Here are a few things I’ve done to develop a comedic voice in writing:
1. Read your stuff back to yourself… in a ridiculous accent.
Not kidding. If you write something that only sounds funny when you say it a certain way, you’re expecting way too much from your readers. Say it like Snooki. Say it like Harry Potter. Say it like Paula Dean. If it’s still funny, you’re doing it right.
2. Use funny words.
I know, I know. You’re like, “What?! USE FUNNY WORDS to write funny stuff??? This chick is a genius!” (I warned you that I was gonna blow your mind.) But, honestly, examine your work. Are you using your vocabulary to its fullest? Creative word choice is the #1 thing that will make the wannabe-funny writers wish they had written what you just did. It’s true.
3. Control yourself.
Snark, satire, and sarcasm need to be finely tuned and carefully managed. If you’re too flippant, you’ll just come across as bitchy. Too refined, and the humor can be lost altogether. Above all, stay friendly; an ounce of charm will get you a long way when you’re pushing boundaries in good humor, and it will keep people from assuming you’re just a douche with a chip on your shoulder.
4. This is a biggie! RELAX.
You’re not always funny. Get over it. One of these days, you will write a really terribly unfunny story which will get a lukewarm response from your readers and you’ll think you’ve lost your touch and you’ll decide that you are doomed to write boring, unrelatable drivel for the rest of your natural life. Then, instead of writing, you’ll post pictures of your cat on the internet. But hang in there. You’ve still got some funny in you, I promise.
Humor writing is a funny thing; Some people come by it naturally, while others may have to work at it a little. Either way, connecting with people through humor is a rich and valuable calling, and shouldn’t be ignored, devalued, or doubted.
If you have any questions, I’ll be right here… uploading photos of my cat.
Let's practice humor writing. Write about your day (or your character's day) and try to follow these rules. Also, if you want to record yourself reading your writing in a funny accent and post it here that would be okay.
Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished, post your practice in the comments.
And if you post, make sure to comment on a few others.