Sunday, April 14, 2013

Humor in Writing

Yesterday at my writing group meeting (ARWA), we took the afternoon to share our writing with one another.  We were to bring in two pages from the beginning of any scene.  Although the idea was originally conceived as an opportunity to give and receive feedback, I think the most enjoyable outcome was getting a small glimpse into everyone's current works-in-progress. 

I submitted two pages from a project that I've had outlined and partially written for years.  It has no name, but I know this story, better than any other story I've written or thought about writing.  The last time I worked on it, I ended up setting it aside because
Image: © Jana Guothova |
I felt my writing skills weren't at an adequate level to execute my expectations for the story.  Yes, this one is my baby.

So, I was happy to hear people enjoyed my pages. 

After our meeting, I went out with a couple of fellow ARWAnians and one mentioned she'd seen a strong element of humor in my pages. 

That got me thinking. 

You see, when I'm in conversation, my mind and my mouth often don't keep the same pace.  I will think things are funny, at times, for rather obscure reasons.  I don't think I always express clearly why I find things funny in those situations.  And, often trying to explain why I'm laughing at something kills the reason for finding something funny.  There have been times when I suspect people have thought I'm weird and my funny bone is misaligned.  So, it is interesting to me, then, that other people see humor in my pages, which have to exist on their own without explanations.

Maybe it is because when I write I do so at a different pace than when I speak, allowing my characters the opportunity to express their opinions with clarity.  Or, maybe it is the benefit of editing. 

I wonder too if humor has to do with the characters who come to me.  When I am in their point of view in my writing, they see things in very specific ways and my goal as a writer is to try to capture that.  I don't purposely say: "Hey, this page needs some humor" then set out to write humor there.  I don't even know how one would go about doing that. 

Or, perhaps it is also a product of what I read.  Some people say they want a book that makes them cry.  Not me.  To me, that sounds horrible.  Not that the books I read are all laugh-out-loud, cheeks-aching funny, but they are not heart-wrenching, needing-a-box-of-tissues-handy reads either.  I am an escapist reader.  I don't want the desolute realities of the real world crowding my reading pleasure.  So, maybe this is a case of writing what I enjoy reading. 

Oddly enough, though, I often write about topics that don't inherently include humor.  I've written about betrayal, grief, broken hearts, cancer, etc. And yet, my characters will usually have quirky or, at times, wry ways of seeing the world.  Maybe that is just the balance I need in my own life that comes through in my writing.  The real world exists and it isn't always roses, but one way or another my stories will always have happy endings.

Maybe my characters, on some level, know that going in.  ;)

Is there humor in your writing?  If so, do you include it consciously?


Donna Barker said...

I'm always surprised at where people mark 'amusing' or 'LOL' or once 'I snarfed my tea' when critiquing my ms. I recently had the first 50 pages of my WiP critiqued and had no idea it was a humorous novel until I saw it through the reader's eyes. I thought it was dark and serious... weird. Glad to meet you!

patonlorraine said...

Hi Donna!

Love the snarfed comment! I haven't had that comment yet!

And, I know what you mean about not knowing if you are writing a humorous novel! Isn't it interesting how we see (or don't see) our own writing?

Thanks for stopping by!