Friday, November 19, 2010

Insecurity's Ugly Head

How do you know when something you’ve written is funny? The short and simple answer is that you don’t. Just because something is funny to you doesn’t mean it’s funny to other people.
            When Larry and I got serious about finishing this book and actually trying to publish it, insecurities started chomping at my gut—What if you’re not really funny? What if people are laughing to be polite? What makes you think you can do this?
            How did I react to my namby-pamby self? I went where I always go when met with a challenge—books. And it turns out that there are precious few about humor writing—most talked about essays and magazine articles, but none on writing a funny novel. Of those I purchased (I think two), they both say that humor is wildly subjective, and, I’m paraphrasing here, “Good luck with that.”
Drama is different. Everyone would agree that a 9-year-old boy getting stung to death is tragic and tear jerking. But not everybody would agree that A Confederacy of Dunces is brilliantly amusing. To me, the wittiest thing about that book is the title.
What I learned is that humor writing can’t be learned. Writing itself can—here’s how you construct a sentence, here’s how you build a paragraph, etc.
Humor, though, comes from your characters, the situations they find themselves in, and from the authors ability to construct the story. As authors, we need to make sure we set our characters up well for comedic opportunity and to write every sentence as visually and actively as possible. And if it makes us laugh, then hopefully, our readers will be amused as well.

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