I’m by no means a funny person, but I’ve found my inner comedian comes out in my writing. Writing humor can be stressful at first but don’t let that stop you. Humor can be as fun to write as it is to read. Like anything else in writing, it takes a bit of practice. Here are some tips and tricks for writing humor that I’ve learned along my writing journey…
1. Let It Sit
Let the joke sit for a few days. Re-read! Is it still as funny as you thought it was when you wrote it? Hindsight is a great tool when you’re unsure of a certain line or scene in your writing. In the moment a line can seem like the best thing you’ve ever written, but looking back on it a week later may paint it in a different light. Going back and reworking a moment of humor can make that scene richer and better for it.
2. Subtlety Is Your Best Friend
Seriously, be subtle. I’ve seen jokes ruined in writing because the author over explains and lingers in the moment. Your reader is often smarter than you think, and overdoing a joke can make it less effective or just downright cringy. Trust your reader to get the joke.
3. Reader Feedback
Send humor scenes or lines to friends that will give you an honest opinion (i.e. not your family or that friend who always says your writing is amazing). Pick the critical friend. Or better yet, ask a friend to send it to one of their friends so that the opinion is unbiased. If you’re shy, try saying something like this: “I found this in a book I’m reading and thought it was really funny. What do you think?”. Reader feedback is going to be key in the editing stage of your writing. Try to gather as many opinions as you can, as people will have different views on whether or not something is funny or not.
4. Don’t Get Overly Attached
This goes hand in hand with reader feedback. Learn to let go of your writing. You may think something you’ve written is the funniest thing in the world but every reader you’ve given it to doesn’t agree. Take that advice and let that piece of humor go. Being able to let things go in your writing is an important skill to learn if you want to be a good writer. Accepting feedback from others is something that any writer should get good at. I still struggle with being overly attached to my writing so I sympathize with how hard this one can be, but I promise your writing will be better off for it.
5. Study Others & Take Notes
Make note of what you find funny in other writer’s work. This doesn’t just have to be in writing. Life is filled with humor and studying when and how it comes about is a great way to improve your own inner comedian. Movies and TV shows are another great source of comedic moments. Take notes on what you find works well and what doesn’t. Just like anything else, studying others can be a great tool in learning and improving your own writing.
6. Don’t Force It
If the humor comes naturally let it flow. If not, don’t force it. Forced humor can come off as jarring and cringy to the reader. If a scene doesn’t need humor, don’t force it in just because you think every scene has to have at least one funny moment. Not every scene calls for humor. Forcing yourself to write humor into a scene when it isn’t needed can make for disjointed writing. Don’t force it.
7. Timing Is Key
Unless your writing is entirely humor based, there’s a time and place to sprinkle humorous scenes into your writing. Putting a laugh out loud joke in the middle of a serious, grief-stricken moment probably won’t go over well with the reader. Finding the right timing to introduce humor into your writing takes practice. Humor can have a huge affect on the tone of a piece so pay attention to how you want a piece to feel and adjust the humor accordingly.
8. Just Do It
The popular Nike phrase is overused and cliche, but in this case it really does apply. Just do it. Throw some humor into your writing. Even if you think you are the least funny person on the planet, just try it. Practice makes perfect. If you never practice, you’ll never get better at it. Don’t be afraid of sounding stupid. That’s what editing is for. Jodi Picoult once said…
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”