It’s hard to be funny when you’re trying.
With plot, you can practice easily. Create a character (Bill), decide what he wants (a sandwich), and structure it around that. You can easily gather your antagonist, a couple side characters, and a neat little Hollywood Formula from just that information. You can decide your length, and use that framework to practice subplots, red herrings, and a million other things.
Practicing character is the same. With the same framework as above, you can work on character development, introducing characters without too much exposition, and all sorts of wonderful dialogue. With setting, exactly the same. Brainstorm your setting a little, but don’t let yourself get carried away with either the brainstorming or the description. Even prose is easy to practice, if you take a little more time to work on it.
But humor… ick. It’s hard to be funny on command without falling back to a joke. Something with a setup and a punchline… Sure, it’s fine for dinner table conversation, but for a story? You can’t just stick a couple puns in there and hope everyone will laugh. People know when humor is forced, and that’s what makes it so hard. If you can’t force it, but you want it, how do you include and practice it without, well, forcing yourself to?
You can acquaint yourself with all the humorous tools. You can try subverting expectations. You can try using silly words. You can try everything under the sun, but it remains difficult. Meanwhile, funny writers like Joss Whedon and Howard Tayler keep saying that humor has to arise from the characters, not from the situation. Once you start making fun of the situation, the reader will no longer suspend their disbelief— you’ve destroyed their engagement with the story.
So how do you use character-based humor? How do you practice it? Continue reading “Character-Based Humor”