Of course, you are not a boring person. Maybe you are a new writer looking for some tips to add some levity to your work, a seasoned writer looking for some fresh ideas, or maybe a professional looking for quick laugh at the expense of a amateur. Whatever the reason, thanks for stopping by.
I am going to be up front, I wrote this article as my personal reference. I was looking at the stuff I wrote on my original blog. I realized that not only have my views shifted in the last 8-9 years but I wrote a lot of crap. Unfortunately, that is something that has not changed and most likely will never change. Well, if I am going to write crap, it should at least be hokum.
It can be said that humorous writing is more challenging than humor in other mediums. With writing, you do not have facial expressions and tone of voice to help convey your meaning. You have to rely entirely upon creating imagery in your reader’s mind.
There are a number of good reasons to include humor in your writings. It can create a bond between the writer and the reader. It challenges you to be more creative in how you approach your topic. Plus, there are health benefits to laughing; it shows that you care about your reader’s health.
If you are writing about serious topics, you may be hesitant to add humor. This is an understandable concern. However, a surprising chuckle in the middle of serious discussion can lighten the mood and keep the reader’s attention. It is important to remember that the humor needs to be appropriate for your topic.
You do not have to be a class clown or a court jester. You should consider humor as a set of tools. If used properly will enhance your writing and if abused will ruin it. The following tools can be used to add some humor to otherwise boring prose.
Show, Don’t Tell
Yes, even with writing humor, this key rule is necessary to follow. Rather than telling the reader something is funny, you need to show them that something is funny. As usual, you will need to paint a picture for your reader using all five senses. Remember the goal is not to overwhelm the reader with descriptive text but to allow the reader to interpret the significant details.
The use of action verbs can be one way in which to paint this picture. Characters that are moving have a better chance of conveying humor than ones that just stand around picking their noses. Additionally, the use of colorful adjectives is another way in which you can add dimension to the picture. Use these adjectives to describe something using all five senses.
The “K” Rule
The “K” rule is a well known rule in the world of comedy. Words that include a “K” sound are considered the funniest with a hard “G” being in a close second place. Basically, when considering words to use for maximum effect, you cannot go wrong with a “K” or a hard “G” sound. Bonus points if you use the word at the end of a sentence. This goes a long way in explaining why the biggest joke of all time is government.
The Trinity Rule
Writing for comedic effect mostly involves setting up a pattern (setup) and interrupting it with a misdirection (punch line). The easiest way to use this rule is to pair two like ideas followed by a third insurgent idea. The reason for three items is that it is the easiest for most people to remember.
Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies
Metaphors, similes, and analogies are tools of the trade for most writers. With humor, you say a lot with few words by presenting familiar images. In this case, you will be choosing to use them for humorous effect.
There are a number of ways in which you can take advantage of these figures of speech. The easiest is that you can state the obvious in a way that is absurd. Brainstorming is another way in which you can use them. You can make a list of metaphors, similes, and analogies and use the one that works best. Using these figures of speech in a dialog is a third option. For example, one character can say something and another character can respond using a metaphor.
Cliches and Idioms
We’ve always have been told to avoid cliches like the plague. When adding humor, you can make an exception by taking it in a different direction. For example, you can say that “the fecal material hit whirling blades” when something goes wrong. You do not have to limit yourself to just cliches and idioms. You can use this tool for common phrases, slogans, and insults. You do not need to substitute a word or clause, you can expand upon it.
Catch Them by Surprise
One of the best ways to achieve humor is to set up a scene for your readers and then hit them when they least expect it. You can spend the vast majority of your work making the reader think you are going in one direction and then spend the last bit going in a completely different direction.
A very important rule for humor is that timing is everything. By adding a word or phrase at the right moment, you can increase the humorous impact. If you need to have a delay for your punchline, you can add a new paragraph.
Anecdotes and Stories
Everybody loves a good story especially one that has a punch line. Some of the funniest stories are ones based on real life with some exaggeration for effect. We are more likely to laugh at real life than a joke. Stories can be very helpful in not only injecting humor, they also help in making a point.
A good source of material is yourself. Not only you are the expert, you do not have to worry about offending anyone. Though, if you have multiple personalities, this might be an issue. Other options can include your family, friends, and mortal enemies.
Putting It All Together
With the tools discussed in this article, one can build works of art. Like any tool, some tools are better suited for certain tasks than others. For example, some tools are best used for driving screws, some are best used for tightening bolts, and others are best for sweeping up the extra parts that you do not know what to do with. You will need to use your best judgment. Here are some additional tips.
Do not just add humor haphazardly. Think of humor as side information that complements the writing. Some of the best places to add humor is in titles, sidebars, illustrations, cartoons, and anecdotes.
Subtlety can be helpful as it allows your readers to fill in the blanks and make a connection by giving them the sense that they are part of the story. The trick with subtlety is that you need to be careful to not explain the punch-line too much. The key is not to try being funny.
It is best to try not to overwhelm your readers with your brilliant wit especially if it is a serious topic. Overusing humor can leave your readers confused. The goal is to keep your reader’s attention and to make your point.
Avoid Losing Focus
Not only should you not be excessive, you need to make sure that you do not distract from your message. Avoid demeaning or degrading your message especially if it is a serious subject. Double entendres can be tempting but they have a possibility of being offensive.
Give Readers Permission to Laugh
When writing about a sensitive matter, you need to let your readers know that they can laugh and that you encourage them to laugh. This is especially true when making fun of yourself or you are discussing a sensitive topic. Find a subtle way to convey that you condone it.
Sarcasm is very hard to convey using the written word especially on social media. The reason that proper sarcasm relies on your tone of voice to convey. Sarcasm can be demeaning and critical which can ruin your writing.
Use a Thesaurus
Using the right word can make a huge difference in your work. There are some words that have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them funny. It might be how they sound or even how they are spelled. For the most part, you will know it when you see it. For this reason, a dictionary or thesaurus can be your friend.
Keep an Inspiration List
A good source of inspiration can be found in other people’s works. If you have a particular style of humor in mind, read or watch examples of that style. When you find something that you like, add it a list. These tidbits that you collect can serve as inspiration for later writing. Building upon or adapting ideas from this list can be both a time saver and a way to expand your repertoire.
Proofread and Edit
Your first draft might have some gems in it but in all likelihood, you will need to revise. When you are done with a draft, put it aside, take a break, review, revise, rinse, and repeat. Take it into the bathroom and read it to that person in the mirror. When you finally have something that you find acceptable, ask a friend or two to read it and get their reactions.
You do not need to be a professional comedian to incorporate humor into your writing (though it does not hurt). With some simple tools, you can make something mundane into something memorable. Feel free to take chances and to explore the possibilities. Remember you can lead a horse to water but it will not laugh until you slip and fall on a wet stone.
- Show, don’t tell
- How to Write Better Using Humor
- Humor Writing for People Who Aren’t Funny
- The Secret of Writing Funny
- Seven Steps to Better Writing Humor
- Dissecting a Frog: How to Write a Humor Piece