L is for Laughter

Portrait

This post by Craig Snider.

When I think back on all the best books, movies, and stories I’ve ever been exposed to, there is one thing that stands out no matter what the genre may have been. Since you’ve already read the title, you know what that thing is.

Why is it that laughter has such an impact on us? Simple. Our brains are hardwired to reward certain behaviors, like food, sex, laughter, and anything that releases endorphins. Because, when we get right down to it, our brains are like a spoiled little three year old on sugar-crack that throws a tantrum until it gets what it wants. And, when it gets what it wants, it gives you a treat to

“Oh, banana. You so funny.”

keep those things coming. Okay, so it is more like a drug dealer that will hurt you unless you try their stuff, then you get addicted and have to come back for more.  Activating the reward center of the brain is a great way to quickly engage someone. That is why most women say they appreciate a man’s sense of humor and will overlook my, I mean “his,” lesser qualities, like–you know, his face, or spindly arms, or his somewhat feminine overall physique… Be right back. I need to get a tub of Haggen-Dasz.

Okay. What was I saying? Oh yes, laughter. Humor is absolutely essential in modern culture. While humor may not necessarily be universal, it is present in nearly every society on the planet, and presmuably elsewhere. Though, I’m sure the fact that the insect-like Zeebldorx of RX-243 love to peel the soft flesh from other animals might not seem so funny to us, they think it is downright side-splitting.

Some of my favorite horror movies are either outright hilarious (Evil Dead, Dead Alive, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil), or have very dark humor (Re-Animator, Slither, Cabin in the Woods). Even “The Shining” had some very humorous scenes. And really, who didn’t want to beat Wendy’s head in with a bat? tumblr_nm7hcmDVI51r745vdo7_500

Adding humor to your work, no matter the genre, takes it to another level for the reader. Some authors take themselves and their work way, WAY too seriously. Don’t be that guy, or girl, or Zeebldorxian. No one likes them. They are pretentious, annoying, and their work reeks of it.

When you make your reader laugh, you will activate those pleasure centers in their brain, creating a strong memory link that will keep you and your story in their minds for a long time. I’ve read a lot of good books. But, the ones I remember are really well written, and often humorous.

The problem then, is how do you inject humor into your writing? Well, the first thing is not to force it. There is nothing worse than someone TRYING to be funny. Believe me, I know. Have you read my posts before? It takes lots of practice. The first step is don’t take yourself too seriously. Writing is hard work, and if you don’t approach it with some levity you’ll end up as that guy who corners people at a party, forcing them to listen to his terrible novel’s synopsis, all the while oblivious to the fact they have already slit their wrists and written a suicide note to their children in their own blood. Poor Jimmy. He’ll never get a chance to disappoint his parents…

As you are writing, you will often find places where a joke or scene comes to mind that makes you laugh. Don’t resist it. Put it in, especially if it is a rough draft. You can always edit, tweak, or remove it later. Let it breathe for a bit first. Of course, this greatly depends on the style of your writing. If you are a “serious” writer, shoot yourself. Sorry, I mean–no, shoot yoursef. If your writing style is “heavy,” that’s fine. Be subtle with your humor, and make it come from the characters and the scenes, not, I REPEAT, not from the narrator. That is a terrible mistake unless you are a writer whose work is intended to be satirical.

It is a fine balance to maintain for serious genres, but it can be done, and the benefits will be immense. The best part is, that when done correctly the reader may not even realize that is why they remember you story so well. Instead, they’ll say something like, “that was really well written,” or “I just loved the characters,” or “please don’t Facebook stalk me anymore. It is just weird when you like a picture from seven years ago…”

Try it. Start small, say for example, in a series of blog posts, or an article, or just in your Facebook statuses. Force yourself to be funny. As a writer, you already see the world differently. Now all you have to do is teach yourself to see the funny in the world around you. Believe me, it is there. If you’re having trouble seeing something funny, do what I do every morning. Look in the mirror.

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22 Responses to L is for Laughter

  1. Wranglers says:

    Thought I was commenting here, but it was your other blog. Love humour in writing. “HERE’S JOHNNY ” I also love funny shows and humor in other shows. Thanks Cher’ley

    Like

  2. Wranglers says:

    Hi Send Sunshine, glad you stopped in.

    Like

  3. Neva Bodin says:

    Good points in your blog. I do remember the humor and when listening to an informative lecture, realize the humor should have made a point, else I forget the important point and only remember the humor. But it can be hard to do, and may depend on the reader’s mood I think. I know some days all the funnies seem humorous to me, other days, none of them. Suppose that has anything to do with me? Took me a while to figure that out.
    Laughter is good, a merry heart doeth good like medicine!

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    • Craig Snider says:

      Hey Neva. Yeah, I agree, the mood of the reader has a drastic effect on their perception of a piece. But, I feel a well thought out and well planned injection of humor can sway a reader to your side. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  4. Gayle Irwin says:

    I went to “Menopause the Musical” while I was in Vegas recently — I laughed SO HARD that I cried, and it FELT GREAT! I’m not good at humor but I truly appreciate it. Great blog post, Craig!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Doris says:

    You are correct, Laughter is the glue that holds you together. Nothing I like better than a belly-laugh, and my cats give me plenty of them.

    I do confess, humor in my writing isn’t always easy, and I’m not sure writing the history research lends itself, but sometimes folks from back then did something stupid that you have to laugh about.

    Thank you for an engaging post. Here’s to the laugh, and thanks for the reference to “Hitchhiker’s Guide”. Doris

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    • Craig Snider says:

      There is certainly nothing better than a good belly laugh! I would contend that even if your material doesn’t lend itself to humor, it will be your perspective that can be funny (depending on the format and if you have the freedom to do so). Thanks!

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  6. I rarely write anything funny unless it’s a humorous poem, but will keep all this in mind. Thanks for the tips.

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  7. Nancy Jardine says:

    I agree with you, Craig. I can’t force humour in my writing, since I’m not a naturally funny person. What I have done in a couple of my contemporary romances is as you’ve described above. I’ve listened to my characters. They’re quite laid back so what they say in reaction to each other is ‘not serious’. It’s not laugh out loud funny but there’s a certain degree of humour to make the whole story lighthearted. My recent release-Monogmay Twist – is one of those lighthearted novels.

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  8. Mike Staton says:

    Here’s something funny. Internet connection is screwing up. I just lost what I wrote for my comment here. I’m laughing, and it’s 2:44 a.m. and I’m tired. I’m going to try again. And I’m laughing… saying you better work right this time and post correctly. I’m smiling… maybe that will help out. Here we go….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I hadn’t thought about that, but you make a great point about humor in horror!

    2015 A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Matthew MacNish from The QQQE

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  10. What a great post, Craig! As a sort-of serious writer, I never thought to put humor in my writing. You have just given me an ah-ha moment. I can’t wait to try it! Thank you for sharing the humor even in horror writing. This will certainly be very helpful to any writers who read your post.

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    • Craig Snider says:

      Hey Leander. Yeah, again this is just me. I love it when serious writers catch me by surprise with a good, well-placed, and relevant laugh in their work. It really makes me appreciate their talent.

      Like

  11. erinfarwell says:

    There is one scene in my book that cracks me up every time I read it. Have no idea if it makes anyone else laugh but I certainly do. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. sstamm625 says:

    Great post, Craig. I love reading that makes me laugh, but I have a more difficult time writing humor. The humor in my stories tends to be more subtle and comes from the characters or the dialogue.

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    • Craig Snider says:

      Well, I have always had a hard time with humor. But, now that I’m doing improv and my mindset has had to change to accommodate my new activity, I have found that I’m able to find the humor in more and more things. So, I suppose it is like any things else. It requires awareness and practice. Keep at it!

      Like

  13. S. J. Brown says:

    Good advice, thanks for sharing. I am curious What flavor?

    Like

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