People, both readers and writers, often ask me how I write humor. In fact, this issue arises in nearly every writing conversation and interview. I’m puzzled by the question and completely stumped by the answer, whatever it may be.
So how did I end up writing humor? The first bit of fiction I endeavored to pen was a murder mystery set in the future. That was ten years ago and futuristics weren’t exactly the hot item then, but that’s beside the point. I have 32 first chapters. That doesn’t count the first chapters I revised and revised. It was dark and gritty. Oh, I was so happy to be lord over such drama!
Only there was a problem-my critique partners kept laughing at it. By the last half of the book, I made it into a pretty decent romance, except of course most of it took place in the Virtual Wild West Theatre. Then I had two elements I hadn’t ever bargained for: humor and western. (Westerns weren’t selling, either.)
So my next venture into a novel took me to western historical romance. This wasn’t a stretch at all for me because I grew up in a sparsely populated county in southwest Idaho where the Old West still lives, sorta. But I knew westerns weren’t selling and humor sure wasn’t, so at least I could make it dramatic. Only I soon found that plopping a laced-up schoolmarm in a brothel with batch of color-coded prostitutes was . . . well, dang it, funny. And it finaled in the Golden Heart that year.
Neither of these books sold, nor did the next three. So westerns and humor aren’t getting me very far. Until I hit the short story market.
Some writers thrive in a shorter format. Me? I’d never tried to write a short story and didn’t think I was suited for it at all, but was badgered into it. So while I love to write full-length novels (I have three of them started right now), my first success came in short stories. Two of my stories, Faery Good Advice and Single Girls Can’t Jump, were included in an anthology to benefit breast cancer research, No Law Against Love.
The editor asked me to write a faery anthology based on Faery Good Advice, so Faery Special Romances was born. I decided to write ten stories chronicling the life of the lead character, Keely, a matchmaking faery princess with attitude. And the first thing I thought of was a four-year-old faery with not so good wing control and downright lousy faery dust control, not to mention a lack of understanding when it came to consequence. Made me laugh. Thus, the concept of writing ten short stories starting in 1199AD when Keely was a kindergartener and works to match the faery Shaylah with the knight Sir Darian, to the future when Keely gets her own HEA. It’s a fun book.
For me, situational humor tickles my funny bone the most. And in fantasy, you can create nearly any situation you want. What if: Bill Shakespeare was a changeling? A servant girl’s faery godmother stranded her on a pirate ship? A Regency miss needs glasses? A faery woman singing in a speak-easy is committed to the wrong man?
I suppose another person could make all these into dark stories, but I see the humorous side. Once, I was critiquing a synopsis for a friend of mine, Eilis Flynn. I raved about her story idea and laughed at the possibilities. She looked at me, puzzled, and said, “It’s not funny.” And when I protested she said, “I have no sense of humor.” Maybe not, but nearly everything she says cracks me up. I love clever wit.
Clever wit, ah, another topic. Rowena Cherry blogged earlier this week. I loved her latest release, Knight’s Fork. And one of my favorite quotes is from the tyrant emperor’s sidekick, Grievous: “The problem with your bloody Great Djinn gene pool is that there’s no lifeguard on duty.” This book is rife with clever nuances.
Unexpected roles is another way to create humor. In Deborah Macgillivray’s Invasion of Falgannon Isle, The Cat Dudley (yes, an actual cat) plays poker every Friday night at the pub. And wins. I loved The Cat Dudley-a great character. Made me laugh many times. My current release, Down Home Ever Lovin’ Mule Blues, features a cogitating mule named Socrates who has decided his human needs love and sets out to find him a woman. Socrates is assisted by an Australian Shepherd named Perseus and a skunk named Guinnevere.
The only other thing I can say about writing humor (and believe me, analysis of humor is very un-funny) is to let your hair down and don’t let your brain interfere with what your fingers type. And good luck! About reading humor? Suspend disbelief as much as possible, because the more you do, the more open you are to ludicrous characters, situations, or events.
And enjoy the ride!
Jacquie Rogers is a former software designer, campaign manager, deli clerk, and cow milker. Her first release, Faery Special Romances, won the Fall NOR Award for Best Print Sci-fi/Fantasy Romance and finaled several other contests. She also has stories print-published in two other anthologies–soon to be e-published as well. Her current print release is a short contemporary novel, Down Home Ever Lovin’ Mule Blues, which has garnered outstanding reviews: two Keepers, two Top Picks, a TRS 5-Heart Sweetheart of the Week, and several other 5-star/heart reviews. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and cat.
Jacquie has donated all royalties from Faery Special Romances to The Children’s Tumor Foundation, ending neurofibromatosis through research.
You can find Jacquie at…