Humor is a part of our lives. It lightens moods, makes serious situations easier to handle, and provides an outlet for intense emotions. In writing, humor is a deliberate choice of words, metaphors, misdirection, sentence structure, miscommunication, etc.
Humorous stories are written in ways that make people laugh, even if they’re not sure why they’re laughing. One of the best things about humor is that it engages readers. When readers are engaged, they bond with the story, characters, etc.
- Use the ridiculous from real life. Often the best materials for humor come from real life, so carry a notebook with you and pay attention to your surroundings. If something happens that makes you laugh, record it.
What can make a story or anecdote even funnier? Exaggerate it.
Ever seen or listened to a comedian? Often their stories are so ludicrous that it’s difficult to believe they occurred in real life. Most likely they did, just not to the extreme the comedian states. (Exaggeration can help to showcase the point(s) you, as the author, are trying to make.)
- Avoid sarcasm. Sarcasm can be a great way to express humor, however since it relies heavily on tone, it is difficult to pull off, especially in writing. You may inadvertently end up offending or hurting someone. Steer clear of it, even more so if sarcasm is used to make yourself feel better by putting someone else down.
- Make fun of yourself. Using yourself as the fool allows others to relate to you and your story without feeling like the finger is pointing at them. (Who hasn’t at some point felt like a fool?)
Think of some of the best comedians you know. Often they make fun of themselves rather than others. Usually, some of the topics comedians use in their act are serious – something that has effected them greatly, but they use humor to mitigate the severity of the story, and to give listeners and readers permission to laugh. (Giving readers permission to laugh at what you say/write is extremely important. You can do this by peppering subtle hints throughout your work. Humor is only effective if readers feel that it’s okay to laugh.)
- Safeguard the humor. Don’t overuse humor. By being selective with humor, you’ll better grab readers’ attention, and help to focus readers on the major points you want to make.
Humor may not be your forte. Perhaps you feel you don’t have a humorous bone in your body, but writing humor should be attempted. Even individuals who are naturally funny learn how to use humor effectively.
Looking at the funnier side of things can enhance your writing by adding a new dimension to it, as well as forcing you to stretch your creativity beyond its comfort zone. Plus, humor reduces stress, loneness, and helps individuals deal with rejection, loss, etc.
The biggest aspect of writing humor? Listen to the world around you. Then, build upon that world.
What kinds of things do you find funny?
(Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn.)