The Girls Got Bite (and humor to go with it!)

Today’s Tuesday Tip comes from Marta Acosta. I’ve been exchanging e-mails with Marta who is the author of Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. Happy Hour at Casa Dracula was a Book Sense Pick and Catalina Magazine’s Best Humor Book of 2006.

In April, Marta is releasing Midnight Brunch which continues the wildly comic adventures of Milagro de los Santos, Fancy University graduate who lives with a family of urbane vampires.

Marta was kind enough to offer some tips on writing humor, so here goes!

Funniness happens when you encounter the unexpected, the peculiar, and the outrageous. Here are a few suggestions on cranking up the humor in your writing.

  • Avoid clichés and provide lively imagery. Instead of describing a character as “being as cold as ice,” say that the character is as cold as something else: a nudist in a Minnesota winter, a Slurpee in a blizzard.
  • Exaggerate. Instead of crying, your character cries a million tears. She’s not just smart; Stephen Hawking cheated off her homework.
  • Have characters react in unexpected ways. For example, your character is accused of stealing. Instead of being outraged, perhaps she’s delighted at being thought so devious, or is thrilled with the attention. Select an alternative that says something about your character, makes her unique, and provides an element of surprise.
  • Play with words. I love to listen to people having fun with language, like Paula Deen on “Paula’s Home Cooking.” She doesn’t say that bridesmaids at a wedding were beautiful. She says they were “pure lickable,” and if that isn’t evocative, I don’t know what is.
  • Allow characters to lack self-awareness. Reality television shows us the large gap between how people think they are behaving and how they are really behaving. Show the disparity between your characters’ thoughts and their actions. Lucy on “I Love Lucy” always saw herself as brilliant, gorgeous, and supremely talented. Cher in “Clueless” was indeed clueless.
  • Throw a wench into the works. Add a silly character (a crazy aunt, a vicious animal, a visitor from out of town) who mucks up your main character’s plans and efforts. This can add a layer of humor onto otherwise serious situations.
  • In comedy, timing is everything. Read your work aloud and rewrite it until the phrasing works.
    Learn from funny people. Watch funny movies, comedy TV, and stand-up comics, and talk to that slacker at work who is always making people laugh at meetings.
  • Realize that humor is subjective. If you’re the only one who thinks it’s funny, delete it. You may be able to use it another time, or maybe you’ll come up with something better.
  • Thanks for all this wonderful advice, Marta!

    MORE ABOUT MARTA’S BOOKS:

    The Romantic Times rated it “Fantastic! A Keeper, 41/2 stars!” and New
    York Times Bestselling author Christopher Moore called it “a comedy of
    manners with fangs” and Julia Spencer-Fleming described it as “stunning,
    darkly hilarious…Acosta flings every vampire cliché out the window.”

    Midnight Brunch is as “wickedly snarky, full of page-turning excitement”
    (El Paso Times) as Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. Come for a drink and stay
    for a bite!

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    15 thoughts on “The Girls Got Bite (and humor to go with it!)”

    1. Stephen,

      Don’t try to use your giant brain power to get those girls to discard their already scanty garments. What good is all your genius if you only use it for evil, not good? I’m pretty sure the Dept. of Energy would not be happy to find out that you have taken their entire grant for an eternal energy machine, changed it to one dollar bills, and are stuffing them into thongs at Sam Tropez’s.

    2. Marta, Caridad, and Irene,
      I’ve attended all the finest schools, hold 12 honorary degrees, and speak 14 different languages, but I have never been able to understand the female gender. In the grand scheme of all the universe, can someone please explain the principle function of a string bikini?

      PS: Some of my finest hypothesis have been contrived at Sam’s Place.

      Salutaions,
      Stephen H.

    3. Ya know, he was kinda cute in high school…pity. I just wonder who he messed with.
      I was actually thinking of naming my firstborn after him, but settled for “Elyse” instead.

    4. Stephen, whenever you’re nice, I’m always afraid you’re going to “borrow” my credit cards and hit San Tropez again. And I asked another physicist pal and he told me there is no such thing as “string bikini theory.”

      Marta

    5. Actually, teenagers’ rooms qualify as evidence of the 2nd law of thermodynamics and entropy: things want to spread out and get disorganized. The more energy you put into containing them, the worse it gets. This is why it’s futile to clean someone’s messy room. At least this is what Stephen told me after he trashed my guest room.

    6. Wait a second — Steven copied off of you? I thought he was copying off of me? I had the whole chaos theory worked out (which led me to discover that my daughter’s bedroom is actually a black hole into which all manner of food and clothing disappear — possibly forever) and suddenly, someone else was getting the Nobel Prize for the theory.

    7. Hi, Irene, well, that explains something. When I last met with Stephen, I wanted to talk chaos theory and he kept asking me if I knew the secret to your chocolate chip cookies. I finally told him cinnamon and he rushed off, claiming he suddenly remembered that he had a conference call with the Nobel committee. I still don’t understand chaos theory. Marta

    8. Excellent advice, Marta, but how did you know about me and Stephen Hawking? Couldn’t get that guy to keep his eyes off my paper. What a cheat! Of course, it was in home ec class, not in math or physics….

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