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!
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.
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.
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!
Tag: Marta Acosta, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, Midnight Brunch, Writing Humor