Finding pictures for this post was tricky, because how can you show laughter? How can you depict a joke?
What’s funny to one person may disgust or fail to delight another, and some jokes require a certain frame of mind, a certain expectation of how the world works, or even fluency in a certain language to make sense (puns and plays on words often don’t translate well).
And this is part of the challenge of writing. How can you show your characters’ senses of humor?
Verbal Humor. This is the easiest type of humor to capture in writing, and it often involves witty dialogue, puns, and plays on words, but it can also include statements that amusingly go against general expectations.
“My husband likes to run.”
“Oh? Will he be in the marathon, then?”
“No. He runs through our money, our savings, and my patience.”
This can be combined with other emotions, like anger, depending on your character.
“Just like your father, you can’t see past the end of your nose.”
“Good thing I’m related to Pinocchio, then. Our noses never stop growing…”
“And neither do your lies.”
Physical Humor. To put this in a novel, you will have to set it up right through description. In real life, this often takes the form of practical jokes–sticks of gum with a bug inside and cushions that noisily deflate–but it can also involve someone who draws mustaches on people when they’re sleeping or hides the toaster every morning. This can be especially fun with fantasy, as characters use their special powers in amusing ways.
I woke up to find a plastic water pitcher suspended above my head. I fervently hoped it was empty. I rolled over to find my roommate perched on the corner of my bed.
“Your boss called. Said it was urgent. Said I should wake you.” She smiled at the pitcher, which she was still telekinetically controlling. “I figured I’d give you a chance to wake up naturally first.”
Visual Humor. Again, this will rely even more on creating a mental picture in the mind of your readers. They will have to be able to see the scene so clearly as to find the humor it in themselves. It can be character based–a fastidious person having to wear rags, for example–or it can be amusing based on the awkwardness of the situation.
My friend turned into a plant every night while falling asleep. And he could fall asleep on his feet, in a chair, in the shower…and sleep for days. So, whenever I woke, it’d be my task to find him and bring him back to his human form and consciousness at the same time.
Once, he turned into a sheet of moss, as soft as his blanket. It took me an hour to realize he was actually in his bed. And then there was the time when we were in a jungle themed room: plants everywhere. I don’t want to even consider what would happen if we ever took him camping.
What about you? What form of humor do you like to put in your writing?
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren
Photo by Breezeanemom, Alviman, Creative Commons