Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Blogger N. R. (Nancy) Williams

Tension and Humor in Fiction Writing.

I want to thank Jean for hosting me on this murder mystery blog spot. I write fantasy, but I love a good mystery just as much. There are two things a good murder mystery has and these two things are also found in fantasy and all genres. Tension and humor.

Picture if you will, your heroine rounding a corner in her home, on the street, down the stairs to the laundry room of her building, or just about anywhere and there is a dead body. Add tension. Does she know this person? Did she just notice how upset they were? Did she just exchange angry words with the victim? Or is this a completely random act that occurred in a place the heroine normally felt was safe.

More tension; does she notice bloody footprints leaving the scene? Maybe there’s broken glass, or a pipe wrench, candlestick, bowling ball. Okay, I had to throw that in there because I started thinking about the game Clue. You get the idea. The more tension, the shorter the sentence, the more you, the reader, or the author, are on the edge of your seat.

Now imagine if every sentence, every paragraph, and every chapter was full of this kind of tension. Yes, it’s too much. We love the tense moments, the scary edge of things unseen and hinted at, but if we don’t give you, the reader, or the author, a moment to pause, it’s over done.

Enter humor. What is humor? Every story should have some. Humor may be a character who acts out in a predictably funny manner. Think about the robots in Star Wars. Or the fool in medieval times, helping the king laugh. Humor might be a sentence or two in the middle of a difficult scene to help relieve the stress. Humor might be an animal. Remember Bambi slipping on ice?

In my high or epic fantasy, “The Treasures of Carmelidrium,” my heroine, Missie, is a modern American young woman, who finds herself in a French speaking medieval world. It’s a fantasy, so I get to play with this world and make it differ from our medieval history. In one scene, she is shouting out her frustration and says to the prince, “I am less then three months from graduation, but I won’t graduate. I have worked all my life, all my life, Healden, for the opportunities given to me by a music degree. But instead, I’m trapped in the twelfth century.”


“Whatever!” Once again she resumed pacing. “Have you any idea what my family is going through? I have disappeared off the face of the planet with no trace!”

In this scene, I use humor to break a stressful moment for my heroine and while she doesn’t react to the humor, I hope the reader will. I use this type of humor often in the story. I wrote my fantasy so readers, regardless of their favorite genre, would enjoy my book, “The Treasures of Carmelidrium.” I hope I’ve sparked enough curiosity for you all to give it a try.

I’ll stop by to read your comments and answer your questions all day. Thank you for spending this time with me.

N. R. Williams (Nancy)


N. R. Williams said...

Hi everyone.
Just want to mention a CONTEST!

Yes, when you comment and leave you email address I will enter you in a contest to win a free e-book of "The Treasures of Carmelidrium."

Drawing is Feb. 1, 2011 after my book tour ends. I will post the winner on my blog and email you as well. 3 e-books are up for grab.

I hope you will enjoy the post. I'll be back a little later.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Linda Leszczuk said...

Nancy, I make a point of only entering giveaways for books I really think I'll enjoy. I'm entering this one. Thanks.

Joanne said...

Humor is such an effective tool, in any genre. It has a way of letting the reader catch their breath in a tense situation, before going on. I like the way you subtly wove it into this passage.

Tony Benson said...

Hi Nancy, Yes, pace and humour have to be used at the right levels otherwise the reader gets either bored, annoyed or exhausted. It's an interesting challenge to get the amount of tension right in each scene, and get the changes of tension to engage the reader rather than lose them. The same goes for use of humour.

Great post, thank you

Margo Benson said...

I agree - I believe that even on the darkest days, there is humour in something. Also I come from a family possessing very dry and witty humour and can't help but pop it in a story somewhere.

Bob Sanchez said...

Hi Nancy,
Humor can be so important in giving the reader relief from a mystery's tension. It has to fit in smoothly, though, and not distract from the story itself. That makes it a bit tricky.

Unknown said...

What a funny scene! I think it's true that you need tension but you also need humor to break it up so that it doesn't become too stressful for the reader.

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you Linda for the compliment but you forgot you're email, I'll swing by and remind you.

I agree so much Joanne.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Nancy,

Another great post. I agree, I hate when books go on forever with no comic relief to break it up. I made sure even in my current WIP which as you know is very tense that I have comic moments.

A fantastic week so far in your blog book tour!


N. R. Williams said...

You made an excellent observation Tony. You left your email, so you are entered in the contest.

Hi Margo, I would love your humor. You also left your email, so you are in the contest.

I agree Bob, humor must fit both the plot and characters smooth as an android's bottom. LOL

So glad you liked the scene Clarissa. You also make a good point.

Yes, Michael, your current wip is intense and I think humor becomes all that more essential.

Thank you all,
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Linda Leszczuk said...

Nancy, about my missing e-mail...sorry about that. I get used to thinking of it as part of my name. It's


N. R. Williams said...

I'm glad you made it back Linda. You are now in the contest to win a free e-book. Loved your post.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Golden Eagle said...

Humor is a good way of breaking things up, true, and I definitely notice it when it's in a book I'm reading. It adds something to the overall story.

Great post!

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you Golden. I agree with your observation.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Humour is a difficult thing to get right. It works best when it's subtle or under-stated: much like your example. Great post.

Unknown said...

I agree that every book should have tension and humour and I would also add mystery and relationship. It is the relative weighting of these elements that determines whether it is a romance, or comic novel, or thriller, or adventure. Layer on top of that the scenery and era and there you have your genre sewn up!
I am very much enjoying the humour, the mystery and the tension in Treasures of Carmelidrium. The relationship (romance) is still simmering at the moment!

N. R. Williams said...

I agree Lynda, humor is tricky but so worth it in the characters voice.

Good point Dominic. I'm also so thrilled that you like my book, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like to have a little humor mixed to break up the drama and tension.

Mason Canyon said...

I think adding that little touch of humor throughout a story adds so much to it. It helps make the story more believable to me no matter that genre it is. Great post.

Thoughts in Progress

N. R. Williams said...

I agree Susan, salt the tension with humor.

Mason, so true, humor can do so much to enhance a story.
Thank you both for dropping by.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

You are so right, humor can truly lift a story. I love it when I'm reading a dark mystery and something makes me laugh out loud.

Thanks for the post.


Helen Ginger said...

Hi Nancy. I tend to insert humor in dialogue. I like snappy conversation. 'Course, I'm better at writing it than actually doing it.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Marilyn, I love to laugh at unexpected times too.

Me too Helen, inserting humor in dialogue seems the natural thing to do.


Denise Covey said...

Hi ladies. I'm sorry I'm a johnny come lately to this post but you wouldn't believe how many times I've tried to get here. We are having internet/phone trouble in Queenland due to floods and sometimes links works, sometimes not.

That said, I loved your take on mystery/humour Nancy. True, even the Jeffrey Deaver's of this world give us a little light relief at times and sometimes short chapters help. Get your breath there!

Great post! I'm liking the sound of 'Treasures...' more and more.

Denise :)

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Denise, I'm glad you could stop by. I hope things improve for you in Queensland soon. It must be a great concern.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Jeff Beesler said...

Humor is a very important natural resource for writers, characters, and readers. It lets all three blow off some steam when tension has a hold of them for a while. Plus, it's just a really good equalizer in my opinion.

jeffrey beesler (at) gmail (dot) com.

N. R. Williams said...

Nice to see you Jeffrey. You're so right about humor. I've got you down in the contest since you left your email address.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author