Do you want to learn the secrets of writing funny? Check out the five tips below.
Laughter has instantaneous health benefits including relaxation, lowering blood pressure, curing male pattern baldness and increasing immune system response.
Almost all of these health benefits can all be obtained by making your reader giggle, laugh, guffaw or otherwise shoot beverages out an unexpected orifice.
Before I share a few of the methods you can use to add humor to your writing, I’d like to digress for a moment by predicting and addressing your objections.
- “I’ve just never been a very funny person.”
Have you ever laughed at something? A sense of humor is a bi-directional feature. If you can laugh, you can make someone else laugh.
- “I write about stuff that is serious.”
Surprising your readers with a chuckle in the midst of a serious discussion is a terrific way to build a loyal following. Notice I said chuckle – after all, this is serious stuff.
- “When I try to be funny, nobody gets it.”
You’re trying too hard. Stop that.
- “I’m a writer. I don’t tell jokes.”
The rules of good writing also apply to humor. Show, don’t tell.
- “But, I write poetry | fiction | a blog | non-fiction | essays | on bathroom walls | screenplays.”
Humor isn’t one-size-fits-all, but there are several techniques you can use to drag a smile out of almost anyone.
Tip #1: Be the joke. There’s only one way to make fun of something without offending anyone else, and that’s if you’re making fun of yourself. Your readers will welcome the invitation to laugh with you. This applies to poking fun at your accoutrements as well – parents, spouses, siblings, children, dogs, hamsters and fish. Never make fun of the cat.
Tip #2: Be specific. Generalizations can be funny, but specificity is better. For example, a story about squirrels would be funnier if it were about nine beady-eyed squirrels that stuck to the side of my deck in formation, reminding me of the time my little brother glued his G.I. Joe’s to the kitchen wall and declared war against all things legume.
Tip #3: Use comedic timing. This can be as simple as applying the funny word, phrase or sentence at the last possible moment. You can force a pause before the punch line by starting a new paragraph. If you’re telling a story, you can use this technique to apply the element of surprise, taking the reader in an entirely unexpected (and funny) direction. This method works 100% of the time.
Unless it doesn’t.
Tip #4: Use a thesaurus. A single word can be really, really funny. It may be the way they sound or even how they’re spelled that gets the laugh. You’ll know immediately when you see one, which is why your thesaurus is essential. For example, destroy is routine but pulverize is hilarious. Yellow is conventional but chartreuse is witty. Surprise is ordinary but flabbergasted is priceless.
Tip #5: Use a swipe file. This is one of the best tools for anyone who writes. A swipe file is a collection of really good stuff that you didn’t think of first. Despite the name, there is no plagiaristic aspect to a swipe file. These tidbits are purely for inspiration. I keep my file electronically, and two of my favorite items are transitory phrases: ‘Not to be outdone’ and ‘In a related development’. These are quite useful in introducing a comic turn of events. Feel free to swipe them. I did.
Tip #6: Edit the crap out of it. (Notice how double entendres aren’t really that funny.) The truth is that being funny is incredibly hard work for most of us. Your first draft has some good stuff in it. Use the rules above to make it better. Then do it again. Then read it out loud to someone who doesn’t speak your language. This avoids humiliation while allowing you to hear, and correct, the cadence of your writing. When you think you’re done, ask a friend to read it, silently, in your presence. Focus your attention on the outer corner of their eyes while trying to appear indifferent.
When you see the crinkle, start breathing again. When you see the grin, let out a sigh of relief. When the grin turns into giggle, you’ll find that you are giggling, too. When the giggle turns into a guffaw, send the piece to your editor with the serenity that can only come from contributing to the good health and soda-stained keyboards of your readers.
Author: Annie Binns
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