Friday, November 13, 2009


Winter Sonne 1913--Leo Putz It seems that, through the course of the years, my sense of humor has gotten dryer. Or something.

I was at the coffee shop for my caffeine fix and saw that the drip of the day was Mexican.

“Will it give me heartburn?” I asked the barista with what I thought was a hint of a smile.

He looked pityingly at me. “No ma’am.” (Yes, he was much younger than me.) “It’s just a type of coffee bean. There’s nothing spicy in there.”

How deflating.

As I writer, I don’t want a reader not to ‘get it.’ I don’t want them wondering, like the barista, if I’m trying to be funny or not.

But I love using humor in my writing:

My books have a lot of situational humor. It’s fun to put a character in an uncomfortable situation and see what happens. My character, Myrtle, gave a disastrous dinner party and she was so serious about trying to make everything perfect. When it all backfired on her, it made the scene funny.

Running jokes—I use small gags that pop up at various points during the story. Humorous subplots are fun to write.

Dialogue—Funny exchanges between characters are a great way to make the characters’ conversations zip by and add comic relief to the story.

What hasn’t worked for me:

I’ve used puns before. One editor wasn’t a fan and took them out.

Winks to other English lit lovers. I thought it would be funny to name the minister in my Myrtle Clover series ‘Nathaniel Dimsdale.’ You know—Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter with the minster, Dimsdale? My editor didn’t think it was funny or interesting. I changed the name.

Humor is such a personal thing. I don’t put straightforward jokes in there. I gravitate to funny or unusual or uncomfortable situations and a small amount of physical humor.

How do you incorporate humor in your books? Do you ever worry your readers won’t get it?