Forcing Humor

Let’s be honest; everyone loves to laugh. Well, I assume everyone does, anyway. I know I do. Even the most action-y of action movies can be improved with some well-timed humor. Look to the Avengers movies for reference.

And it’s a natural stress-reliever. Why else are there so many movies where the hero (or, more rarely, villain) cracks a joke or witty one-liner in the middle of a tense or sad scene (“You didn’t see that coming,” anyone)? It can be either extremely inappropriate, or absolutely perfect. And I doubt that everyone agrees on which is which.

Problem is: I don’t know if I’m funny. Occasionally I’ll tell a good joke, or my friends will laugh at something I say, but more often than not, they only laugh when I didn’t mean for them to laugh. Which, unless I’m telling them that my cat died or I failed my driver’s test, is absolutely fine.

The problem is that, if I’m trying to write a funny story, I’m trying to be funny. And any fellow writers reading this will most likely agree that the best ideas come to you when you’re not trying to force them. Hence the theory that people get their best ideas while in the shower/bath – you’re most likely not focusing on whatever you’re working on.

Forced humor just doesn’t feel as… funny? It doesn’t seem right.

I like to think that the ideas and plans I have for comedy stories are actually funny. I know they make my friends and family laugh. But ideas and plans and outlines are one thing, and actual stories and rough drafts are another thing.

But funny things do genuinely come when you search for them. Even in the middle of tense situations. That’s a writer’s job, to recognize when to make a funny, and when to keep it serious. Sometimes, it’s one character, whose absolute sour disdain for the rest of the world results in hilarious one-liners in their mind. Or it’s a situation that’s just so ridiculous and bizarre that you can’t help but laugh about it.

Some movies (not mentioning any names) are excellent sources of the latter. The actors all take it very seriously, delivering their ridiculous lines with completely flat faces and serious tones. But the situation is just… ludicrous. Or so cliché-filled that it just induces groans in the audience. Even that’s been parodied and milked to the extreme by movies like Airplane!, that take the “unintentional humor” thing and run with it as far as humanly possible.

So, humor really isn’t something that can be agreed upon by the masses. Even my family and I have very different opinions. My dad is fond of the “cheesy jokes everyone’s heard millions of times before” thing that makes the rest of us groan. I do try jokes occasionally, but I usually end up making my family laugh thanks to some unintentional play on words or said words getting jumbled up and not coming out right.

Say what you will about a verbally-dyslexic writer, but I’m a lot more eloquent on paper, when I have time to think through what I write and then I get to go through it and edit it and rip out all the word vomit. I don’t get to do that in person, unfortunately, a fact my cat can definitely attest to.

So, I guess the solution is to not force it, right? Just like forcing a book doesn’t work. I want this storyline! I want it, I want it, I want it! Too bad. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that your characters have minds and lives of their own? I swear, I didn’t mean to kill off that character when I started writing. It just happened. Those two weren’t supposed to be friends, just like those two weren’t supposed to end up hating each other.

It’s all about instinct, practice, and the  goodwill of your subconscious. Really. Thankfully, I like to think of my subconscious as a friend. We get together and have cookies and milk every week, and discuss possible storylines. This is my life.

For now, I’m focusing on sci-fi. Because I love me some sci-fi. But I hope to focus in on genres that make me uncomfortable, some day. Humor, maybe a bit of full-blooded romance. Because, yes, my books do occasionally feature romance, but it’s a sub-plot. Full romance makes my skin crawl a little, most likely because most of the romances already out there seriously bother me (*cough* Twilight *cough*). So, I’ll just have to add to them, even out the bad with a bit of good.

I know I can make myself and my mom laugh, but she doesn’t really count. Because we all know moms are supposed to be a little biased. So, maybe, I’ll manage to make a humor name for myself while I’m at it. Maybe not up to Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett levels of side-splittingness, but if I make even one other person laugh, I will have succeeded.


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