Make 'em Laugh!

Hello from David Parkin and a question.

Make 'em Cry!

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
If you accept the idea that using humour is a nice way of getting people to like you, then it's surprising that more stories aren't amusing.

Actually telling jokes, like a standup comedian, is awkward to incorporate into the narrative, though the jokes that someone tells could be used to show their character. If they liked racist or sexist or religious jokes, the reader would have an idea of their stance on what has happened in a plot. Not that a person's sense of humour is a foolproof method of character analysis, for in a group there are social pressures to conform—individuals laugh because those around them are laughing.

Also, there's black humour, as often found in the emergency services—police, firefighters and medical personnel—tasteless jokes that help them through stressful situations. I've used dodgy banter in my crime novels, to stay true to how coppers, firemen and nurses react.

It's said that we laugh at what we secretly fear, and indeed folk laugh when they're scared and under threat—a nervous denial of what's happening to them.

Actually describing laughter is tricky, with a limited vocabulary of available verbs—my Roget's Thesaurus lists seventeen, including smile, simper, giggle and guffaw. Again, how a person laughs could be used as a guide to their character. I once knew a quiet and shy nurse who used to explode with laughter like a demented hyena, so much so, that people were visibly shocked by the racket, looking at her askance, which only made her howl even more.

I find situational humour to be effective, in what I read and write. The strange stories of Richard Brautigan and the picaresque novels of Donald Harington tickle my funny bone. I still smile, remembering some of the misunderstandings they engineered for their characters

What's funny to me, is when someone is behaving in a way that's perfectly normal for them, but which is bizarre and open to misinterpretation by others. In a novella I wrote, a recently divorced man falsely accused of a murder takes refuge in his home-built garden shed where he's laid out a model railway on shelving around the walls. He sleeps on a camp-bed in the middle of the floor, ensconced in a sleeping bag, captivated by the lights in the carriages of his trains as they race around him. This eccentric fellow was based on a neighbour from my childhood, whose ogre of a wife chased him out to the shed at night, to play with his choo-choos!

What makes you laugh?

Are there any humorous writers you'd recommend?

How do you use comedy in your writing?

Agreed, @Paul Whybrow - I like to incorporate humour into my thrillers. I usually do this in dialogue. You may (or may not) find this amusing - it's an extract from 'Sword of Allah':

“Ok, Boss. I’ll follow orders then. They say that sex is better when the end of the world is nigh. There might be more to come.”

“Less of the ‘end of the world’ stuff please.”

“And more of the other?”

They laughed together as they strolled easily from the hotel L’Acropole and turned left off the Rue Loch Ness along the Rue du Lac Windermere, towards the British Embassy overlooking Lac Tunis.

“These are bloody bizarre street names.”

“Yes, strange. Have you ever been to the Lake District, Steve?”

“Where, in England you mean?”

“Yes. North of Watford.”

“No, never. Too far north for me.”

“I’ll take you there one day.”

“You don’t need to rush it for me - I prefer the coast. Beats me why they named this road after Windermere.”

“There must be a story behind it. I’d understand if it was named after a French Lake.

“Maybe Lady Windermere’s Fanny?”

“You berk! I didn’t know you read Wilde?”

“I’ll read anything at sea. It was free on Kindle.”

They laughed.

“Still, there is a lake. Probably very salty. Reminds me of something else, but I’ll save that for later.”

Steve smacked her bottom.

“Hey, you get jailed for doing that here.”

“I think not, woman. You are a second class citizen here. In fact you should be walking three paces behind me!”

“Fuck off you misogynist!”

“What’s that?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

Well, like the cartoon, it seemed funny at the time...
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Hello from David Parkin and a question.

Make 'em Cry!