One of the most important factors in writing comedy is that it must not feel forced on the reader; it must flow naturally and effortlessly. Writers are great for observation and watching people and situations play out are great material for us. Using humour is a great way to show life authentically as it is as much a part of our lives as love, sadness, and happiness. However, the humour in your novel must serve a purpose, and while it is a way to tell a story it must serve the story and not the other way around. I have put together some articles and podcasts with tips and techniques for writing comedy.
This article from Writer’s Digest emphasises the importance of humour in novels feeling as natural and effortless as laughter. It shares 7 serious tips for writing a funny novel, including knowing your genre well enough to play with it. Writing Digest encourages you to start by making a list of the conventions, cliches, and tropes of your genre so that you can choose which ones to turn on their heads in your story. You need to surprise your audience and use layers of humour in your writing.
Another article from Writer’s Digest. This one discusses 7 comedy techniques and how cliches are used in writing humour. It explains techniques and definitions for creating a play on words including double entendre, a malaprop, reforming, and a take-off. Cliches are the perfect launch vehicle for the comedy writer because one-liners are the most saleable humour form today.
The 4 key qualities of a humour writer are discussed here including the superpower of observation. Timing, delivery, and language choice are so important when writing comedy, and a writer can learn a lot from watching stand-up comedians. 10 techniques to use when writing humour include being realistic, surprising the reader, using situational humour, and importantly this articles explains and encourages you to use the rule of three. 10 great writing prompts are shared for you to practise.
This is a very useful article for beginners. It looks at writing comedy from several different perspectives including knowing your audience, knowing your comedy; layers of humour; knowing what you’re writing about; making yourself laugh; the importance of mapping and structure; and the comedy of conflict.
Masterclass tells us that there are certain writing techniques that you can employ to add comedy to your writing. It shares 5 tips for incorporating humour in your novel including identifying your style of humour, playing with genre cliches, mine material from real life, using the rule of three, and choosing humorous moments carefully.
This article by Ciamh McDonnell tells us that they are no golden rules when it comes to writing comedy. Comedy isn’t a genre, it is a style, a way to tell your story. Comedy serves the story and not the other way around. Ciamh discusses voices, watching your references and that timing is everything.
How can you write funny characters and make readers laugh with your writing? This podcast talks about what writers commonly get wrong when trying to write humour, the importance of feedback, different approaches to humour, and ways to make something funny.
This podcast is about writing romantic comedy. New York Times bestseller, Annika Martin talks about her plotting and writing process and getting the most comedy in her writing.
This podcast has eight episodes about ‘writing funny’. Episodes include Covering the tools to create comedic moments in a story; The cardinal rule of comedy surprise; Tools to build suspense and create anticipation in comedy; Foundational Tools and principles for using humour in the story. These are well worth the listen.
Deciding what your own lens on life is, and what makes people and situations funny to you is an important part of writing humour. You can use it to illuminate something about humans and the world in which we live. As always, reading the sort of books you want to write will give you a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. I hope this week’s column has been useful to you. Please get in touch if you have any topics you would like me to cover.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan