It’s almost impossible to explain how humor works, but given that, do you know how to be funny in fiction? Here’s a secret: Sometimes the most important tool in writing effectively is knowing exactly what not to do.
Harrison Demchick identifies the most common pitfalls to avoid when writing humor so you can be funny in your fiction in his new guest post at Romance University. These mistakes, Harrison explains, come in several forms. Sometimes it’s a matter of writing comedy that doesn’t connect with the characters or story you’re trying to tell. Sometimes it’s a matter of sentence structure, the same joke succeeding or failing on the basis of phrasing. And sometimes it’s all about overwriting.
“Have you ever known a joke in real life to become suddenly hilarious once explained?” Harrison asks. “No? Well, it doesn’t work in prose either. Explaining a joke in prose is, in effect, repeating it—each time to diminishing returns. So don’t explain it. Make the comment and move on.”
Harrison Demchick came up in the world of small press publishing, working along the way on more than two dozen published novels and memoirs, several of which have been optioned for film. He is an award-winning, twice-optioned screenwriter, and the author of literary horror novel The Listeners. He’s part of The Writer’s Ally team as a developmental editor of fiction and memoir, for which he’s currently accepting new clients.