Saturday, August 31, 2013

How Do You Know When You Are Funny?

Kathleen Kaska
Fifth Saturday Blogger 

When you are at a party, do your friends ask you to tell your favorite jokes; are you still trying to live down your high school reputation as class clown; were you a standup comic in your past life?
            You might not write humor, but chances are your stories contain humorous lines, dialogue, or occurrences. So, how do you know when you’re funny?
            I could be modest and say when I started out writing my first Sydney Lockhart mystery, I’d planned for it to be lighthearted and humorous, but that would be a lie. I desperately wanted my story to be downright funny—outright side-achingly hilarious. But my answer to the above three questions would be a resounding “no.” I never remember jokes, even those that had me laughing until my mascara ran. While in high school, I tried my best to be invisible, and if I attempted to stand up in front of an audience and tell jokes, I’d get the hook immediately.
            I know I’m funny when I’m with my three sisters; we all are. We feed off one another and laugh at stupid things we say and do: wearing mismatched earrings, walking into doors, going out for the evening with our dress on inside out. My sisters aren’t with me when I’m writing, though. So when I began working on Murder at the Arlington, I had to muster enough confidence to plow ahead and hope for the best. I sent the manuscript to my sisters. They loved it; funniest thing they ever read, but then, they are my sisters, of course they’d say that. Then my first agent said she loved the humor in the story. But I still wasn’t convinced I’d pull it off until readers I didn’t know began telling me they had to put the book down several times because they laughed too hard to continue, or they read some of the funnier lines to a friend.
            Just as I was about to pat myself on my back, I had a rude awaking. I realized I could not take credit for the accomplishment. All I did was pay attention when Sydney Lockhart (my protagonist) walked into my life during during a stay at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Spring, Arkansas. The humor belongs to her and the zany characters she brought along. I merely eavesdropped and wrote it all down.
            I’d love to hear from you, all you clever, witty, funny guys. How do you know when you are funny?


Lynn Cahoon said...

I like it when my characters take the wheel, funny or not. It's happened to me in my stand alones, but now, I'm writing the third book with the same characters. I'm beginning to feel like their friends.

Personally, I have a dry sense of humor, sometimes bordering on black. The good thing is The Cowboy, my personal hero, thinks I'm funny.

Kaye George said...

I seem to have a talent for making people laugh--in person. In fact, if someone I know is having a bad day, I'll make it my goal to at least get a smile. Being funny is the easiest way to lighten someone's day. That's what I try to do in writing, too, when I'm doing my funny series. I never remember jokes and wasn't very funny when I was younger.

I wouldn't know if my Imogene series was funny to anyone but me unless my readers told me so. They do, so I choose to believe them.

I think it's a matter of trying to take people out of their ordinary, everyday troubles and putting them into a ridiculous world where everything goes wrong, but it all turns out right in the end.

Earl Staggs said...

It's hard for me to write something with no humor whatsoever. Equally hard is going a whole day without having a good laugh or having people laugh at me because I've said or done something totally stupid in context at the time. I love doing that, and it often finds its way into my writing.

Kathleen Kaska said...

I think that's why I love reading light, humorous stories as well as writing them; they make me happy. It's a great way to reach out to people. Who doesn't enjoy a good laugh?

Mar Preston said...

I love to laugh. I enjoy funny writing.

Unknown said...

I guess -- when my characters do or say things that make me laugh out loud -- when I'm writing them and/or when I'm reading the words over again. In fact, with my first cozy, I had to learn to tamp it down. It was reading like a Woody Allen routine.
sandy gardner

Kathleen Kaska said...

Love Woody Allen!