The Emotion of Humor or Show Don’t Tell Part 2

Laughter is the best medicine

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On Sunday, we took a peek at using the emotions evoked through dramatic license. But, there is an emotion that stays with us often far longer than the dramatic ones. That’s humor.

While having and revealing a sense of humor is a powerful characteristic for a character, a writer who has mastered the art of writing humor, has my deepest appreciation and gratitude. I don’t have that gift.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love my mysteries and suspense novels that require I pay attention, find the clues and solve the puzzle, or have me running for cover. But when I REALLY want to get away, I reach for the over-the-top, silly, exaggerated funny writers. Janet Evanovich comes to mind – I don’t read Stephanie Plum for any other reason, but that I know I will laugh out loud for long periods of time, more than once in a while when I read those books. The humor covers the gamut from barely-disguised sarcastic wit to full-on frontal hilarity.

I’m envious of the writer who can write humor well. I have a good sense of humor, or so I’m told. I can make people laugh – in person. I love to laugh. I love to hear others laugh – it makes my heart smile. But although humor is part of my character’s way of handling stress and such, my writing just isn’t really funny. I’ve tried my hand at it. Evanovich has nothing to worry about from me. (Okay, that’s true on several fronts, but we aren’t going there.)

We’ve got a local columnist, Brian Thompson, who writes a weekly column that I make sure I don’t miss. He employs one of my favorite humor devices: exaggeration. And he does such a good job of it that some weeks I am in tears from laughing my way through his column.

WHY does humor make writing so memorable? I suspect that it’s because we all need to laugh far more than we do. It reduces blood pressure, helps with headaches and physical recovery. It helps to eliminate depression and self-condemnation. To summarize, because it makes us feel better. And let’s face it – we’re living in times that don’t leave us much to laugh about most days.

So, if your gift is to write with great humor, embrace that muse and do it! Please. I beg you! And if writing humor isn’t your thing, please remember to give at least one of your characters a great sense of humor that will make us chuckle once in a while! You can make that character, and that book, a very memorable read. And memorable reads see really good sales.

Keep reading and writing! Nancy Q.

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About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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3 Responses to The Emotion of Humor or Show Don’t Tell Part 2

  1. April says:

    Great post, Nancy!

  2. JL Mo says:

    I couldn’t agree more about writing characters with a sense of humor. However, I fear the difficulty is that, like beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder. For instance, while my adult son will read something and laugh hysterically, I’ll read the same thing and chuckle politely. Although, there are many instances where we laugh together at the same source. Laughter is good medicine!

    • NL Quatrano says:

      Great point – a joke to one person is not funny to another. And, humorous writing is not telling the occasional joke, it’s a voice and style of writing. It can be shaped in some sense by the region in which is it born and nurtured. And voice is a personal thing for both writer and reader. I’ve read some books by talented authors and not liked their voice and style at all. It’s the same with humor. I know writers/readers who can’t stand Evanovich and I think for a second, “are they crazy?” but they are entitled to their opinion. And to be honest, there have been one or two of her books I wasn’t delirious over either, but overall, I do, so I look forward to her next book. I understand her. I was born and raised in that area, I get the people, the attitude, the lingo, the liabilities. But you got my point – humor and laughter make life tolerable, good even, especially in challenging times – it’s “good medicine” as Reader’s Digest used to tout all the time. If humor is your style, then do it up right! Be bold and brave and experiment with your characters – let them – or make them – shine! Great post, JLM!! Hope your writing is still going strong!

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