Many stories benefit from a touch of humor (and if you’re writing a funny story, it’s a must-have). Even the most serious novels, memoirs, or stories can use lighthearted moments to diffuse tension. When used correctly, humor can help hook your readers and keep them engaged. The experts at Writer’s Relief know a few ways to flex your funny bone and enhance your writing with some humor.
Tips For Writing With Humor
Know Your Genre. It’s important to match the humor to the genre and story. Unless you’re writing an actual humor piece, limit the comedic touches to selective references. You don’t want the funny moments to completely distract readers from the jump-scares in your horror story or the tenderness in your romance novel. Be familiar with the tropes and conventions of your genre and its audience so you can play with norms and include humor that fits in well.
Use Conflict. As writers, we want to present our characters with challenges. Seeing how characters navigate their way through a struggle keeps readers interested. Throwing a serious, uptight character into a comedic situation can be very effective—as is throwing a comedic character into a serious one. Developing effective conflicts for characters is essential, and comedy can make it more memorable while revealing something about your character’s personality.
Surprise Your Audience. Contrast one moment in your story with what happens next. Following up a serious moment with some humor is a great way to take your reader by surprise. On the flip side, hitting your reader with something serious after some levity can also be powerful and will help your reader connect with what your character is feeling.
Funny Is Funny—Don’t Overthink It. To get those funny ideas and moments into your writing, you have to be in the right headspace. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself worrying if readers will find something amusing. If you see the humor in what you’ve written, odds are readers will find it relatable and also get the joke.
The Rule Of Three. Comedy works well in the “Rule of Three” pattern. Start with the setup and then surprise your audience with a punchline. An easy way to do this is to create a simple list: Come up with two similar ideas and then add a third, out-of-left-field idea. This is a simple and effective way to add some humor to your work.
Read It Out Loud. “Listen” to the humor by reading your writing out loud so you can hear if it’s working. Hearing your words said aloud lets you check the rhythm and timing and make any needed adjustments.
Get Another Set Of Eyes. Not literally—you should keep the eyes that came with your head. But humor can be subjective, so it’s good to get a second opinion. Have a fellow writer or trusted friend read your work to see if that Dad Joke setup really kills as much as you think it does. Getting feedback will help you refine the humor in your writing so you can be sure it’s working effectively and is not offensive or alienating.
With the right balance, adding humor to your writing can help your readers connect with you and your story. And as you add some humor to your writing, we’ll leave you with this one-liner: Why do writers always feel cold? Because they are surrounded by drafts!
Question: How important is humor in writing?