Friday, May 23, 2014

Got A Stiff Upper Lip? Try Humor by Ashantay Peters


Do you like reading humor? I do. I enjoy reading and writing humor, especially when the dialogue is witty and quick.  To me, humor is the social lubrication that allows people to coexist. Well, humor along with flirting, which is a skill that rarely appears anywhere outside the big screen or really great books. 

Unfortunately, comedic writers are not always given their due, because, well, many people think writing funny is simple. Plus, there are so many types of humor ranging from dry wit to slap stick. One person’s “funny” is another’s “not so much.”

What readers who don’t appreciate humor may not understand is that comedic writing does not differ much from drama. As with all writing, humor draws on the author’s experiences. Humor can reveal, mask, or define a character’s emotional response to conflict.

For example, sometimes I’m unsure about a character’s motivation until I grasp their comedic response to a situation.  Is my heroine telling jokes to cover her nerves at standing beside a really hot guy? Or is she flirty, confident in her sexuality?  Now I must dig deeper, because comedy has its roots in misfortune.  Shall I embarrass my heroine or show her getting over herself and growing through her fear? Fight or flight becomes laugh or leave.

Writing humor well means exposing a character’s vulnerability in a way that makes them look strong rather than weak.  That’s also true for protagonists and secondary characters.  Humor is finding the common bond that ties women (or men) together through similar or shared experiences.  The connection often has its roots in disaster, but the character’s—and (hopefully) reader’s--reaction is funny rather than reflective. 

Though, let’s face it, you often have to reflect on something before seeing the light side. Kind of like learning how to laugh at your mistakes instead of letting small errors—like finding spinach on your teeth after your blind date takes you home early--negatively influence you throughout your lifetime. Besides, if your date couldn’t tactfully tell you to check the mirror, how will he approach more difficult topics later on? I rest my case.

In the process of writing, the humorist faces conflict, reflects on it and blows raspberries in response. Reading humor allows readers the same journey, but with a smile on our face. And a heck of a lot less work!

Remember the Greek’s masks for drama and comedy? The idea is that both are flip sides of the same coin-human experience. You can choose to move through life wearing the drama face or the comedy face. Neither is better than the other; both have advantages and are appropriate at different times.


Me? I reach for a comedy every chance I get. Laughing uses less muscle power and leaves no frown lines. And a smile is the ultimate in social lubrication, saying so much without words.  So give humor a try.  All you’ve got to lose is your stiff upper lip! 


Ashantay Peters loves escaping into a well-written book. Her reading addiction also has her perusing magazines, newspapers, Internet articles and even food labels. The last is usually feebly excused as an attempt to maintain health, however. She lives in the mountains of western North Carolina, a happy transplant from the much colder (and flatter) midwest.

Death Rub Coming Soon!




23 comments:

KaydenClaremont@bell.net said...

Thanks for this great blog. I envy people who can write humor.

Frances Evesham said...

Thanks for this, Ashantay. I love your comments on the different reasons why a character may use humour. Made me think!

Laura Strickland said...

I have to admit, I love the darker side of humor. Like when the zombie goes on a blind date and his nose falls off into his soup. Or is that slapstick? Anyway, I had the pleasure of reading Death Stretch and it's full of clever quips and engaging humor. Great post, Ashantay!

Lilly Gayle said...

Well-timed humor is like a well-timed kiss. It's like icing on the cake!

Alicia Dean said...

I loved the post! You definitely write humor well, and I do believe there is a correlation between humor and drama. Nicely done.

Barbara said...

Really enjoyed the post, Ashantay! You're so right that it's difficult to write! I enjoy it very much, intentional and tucked away where it isn't expected, as well. I tend to have a dry sense of humor so that kind of thing appeals. Barb Bettis

J.C. McKenzie said...

I adored this post! I especially loved your, "fight or flight becomes laugh or leave" line. Brilliant!

Sandra Dailey said...

Great post, Ashantay. What's life without a few good chuckles?

Liz Flaherty said...

Great post, AShantay. I love humor, too--even when things are dark, there's room for funny.

Ashantay said...

Kayden - so do I envy humorists - I hope I improve in that line every time I write!

Frances - so glad I made you think. Funny, I hope?

Laura - I don't know if that example is slapstick or not - too funny, though! Still making me laugh.

Lily - well said!

Thanks, Alicia - good editing really helps!

Barb, thanks much for your comment - I also have a dry sense of humor. Most people don't "get" it.

J.C. - thanks! Your kudo is much appreciated!


Sandra - agreed!

Liz - I totally agree. If we can laugh when life is darkest, we are able to move on faster.

Sandy said...

Humor really is hard to write. I struggle with it, but then I have a weird sense of humor that does'nt always come come across. Good post.

Susan Coryell said...

So true. Humor depends on the reader understanding what underlies the situation. Irony, which involves stating the opposite of what you really mean, is flat unless we know what that opposite is. This requires knowledge and wit and intelligence on the part of both the writer and reader.
Thanks for making us writers THINK!

Ashantay Peters said...

Thank you, Sandy - I think you have a better sense of humor than you give yourself credit for having!

Susan, your comments are much appreciated!

Robin Weaver, Author of Blue Ridge Fear said...

Great post, A!

Ashantay said...

Thanks, Robin!

Linda Lovely said...

Your post is excellent. I need to do what you suggest more often--think about why the character has latched onto humor. It's my favorite coping tool. And the humor in Ashantay's books is great!

Samantha Gentry said...

Great article, Ashantay. One of the personality/character traits I often give my hero with regard to what he's looking for in a woman is that she chould have a sense of humor.

A. Y. Stratton said...

Thank you, Ashantay, for giving me a challenge. I always have some moments of humor in my romantic mysteries. Now I'm thinking I should make the character's aunt funny, instead of sweet and proper.

Mary Morgan said...

Great post, Ashantay! I always try to add humor into my stories. It helps to add a different element to the scene -- sometimes giving it a jolt.

Ashantay said...

Thanks, Linda Lovely-you write great humor and are an inspiration!!

Samantha - I agree with humor being the main characteristic in a protagonist. Adds another dimension, I think!

AY - yes! Make that aunt a character to laugh with!!

Mary - I agree that humor often adds a jolt - and i love nothing more than laughing out loud when reading - makes my whole day better!

DeNise said...

Ashantay, you made me re-think the deeper side of humor. I doubt I'd be able to do it justice, but I'm more willing to try. Thank you for a great post.

DeNise said...

Ashantay, you made me re-think the deeper side of humor. I doubt I'd be able to do it justice, but I'm more willing to try. Thank you for a great post.

Kat de Falla said...

Ashantay - you hit the nail on the head with this post - writing humor is subjective and way harder than people think. If we could all start by laughing at ourselves, that would indeed be a good start - :)

Kat de Falla