Best of the Blog: Humor in Fictional Writing

I was originally going to pick a comic strip that had a more funny drawing, then I realized that it would defeat the purpose of this article: Bill Watterson has the luxury of drawing to aid him, but he can still make strips like this one. I like this one because, even though there’s a visual aid, most of the humor comes from the writing.

Writer’s seldom get a visual aid for humor. Picture books are not literature. Your humor is going to be TRUE humor, because it relies only on the English language. Slapstick humor is universal, and that’s why fail videos are so funny. It’s easy to understand, because literally no thought is required.

Writing humor in books requires wisdom and maturity. It’s a little more than the occasional cheesy dad joke and the generic laugh that occurs afterwards. Some jokes come from characters within books in their dialogue, some come as a circumstance in the story, and some come as the writer uses non-dialogue language that is intended to be funny.

All forms (as were mentioned above) of comedy in novels are acceptable. In other words, if there is a way to put it in, then put it in. While the content of the joke may be in question, the actual part of it that makes it EXIST is not a problem. If you want humor and you find a convenient opening for it, put it in.

There is one instance in which you should not use humor, and that is when it is not appropriate. Don’t make yourself look stupid by inserting humor into a solemn or serious situation, unless the book is supposed to be a comedy all over (in which case, there’s never enough comedy). Be on the lookout for serious situations in which it is not appropriate to launch a joke. Normally, however, it’s fine.

Before we go over how to put humor in, it’s only fair to introduce the kinds that you have to choose from: irony, dark humor, inside joke, cringe humor, and the Unexpected. Irony occurs when something is meant to be the exact opposite of what is said. Dark humor is like irony, only darker.

Inside jokes are the best. They call on a history, a past chuckle. The joke may not be funny anymore, but it still serves as a form of humor. Cringe humor is humor that is told in a fashion that is supposed to invoke embarrassment, and then that embarrassment is laughed at.

However, all humor is a form of the Unexpected. Of course, there are humorous similes and metaphors, but true humor comes from something that you literally don’t expect. So try to think Unexpected things that are humorous. Test them out on your friends and family. If brevity is the soul of wit, then keep your humor short and unexpected.

Now, how to create and insert humor? You need only one thing for this: a sense of humor. If you are the kind of person who can’t take a joke, can’t make them, or don’t understand them, then you do not have a sense of humor. You have to be able to do a few of these things to make your own humor.

If you can, just think. Read and watch all the good humor you can. Use it to influence yours. Just find things that you think are witty and put them in. Remember, almost any time is a good time to fit a spot of humor in. Just don’t overdo it (comedy novel, remember?)

Absolute bottom line: if you don’t have a sense of humor, listen to a comedian and LEARN.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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