The second workshop I attended at Crimebake on Friday night was called Techniques for Using Humor in Mystery and our speaker was Toni L.P. Kelner. Humor tends to seep into my writing, so I knew this was a must-attend workshop.
She started by talking about the different ways humor can be incorporated into a mystery:
- Crazy capers
Mysteries can be funny throughout or simply have a smart aleck character. There can be humorous moments to allow the reader to catch their breath. It also makes it easier to ratchet up the suspense. When building tension you can use humor before inserting a clue so that you are hiding information in plain sight.
There can also be humor in the setting. Keep in mind that everything in the story should be doing something. Don’t insert humor unless it performs a function for the story. Humor must pull double duty such as exposition or catching your breath between tense scenes.
Humor can be risky because no one loves the same humor. You also run the risk of losing a reader. There is no margin of error for humor. Your book can be a moderate thriller, a tepid romance, or sorta sci-fi. If you miss the mark with humor, it fails.
It is important to realize that humor differs by age, background, culture, etc. Things will not translate. Be aware that humor can hurt people’s feelings.
Revision is key–If I had longer, I’d have made it shorter. Remember to whittle down your humor. If it’s not moving the action, cut the humor.
Keep in mind there is a time and place for humor, but it slows down the pacing. And some moments cannot be funny,
Humor can be very visual and hard to do in a story–like when the Three Stooges throw pies in people’s faces.
Structure matters with humor. Don’t tell the funny line first.
Topical humor can be a roadblock–try for age trying to get to.
In her mysteries, Toni found that the more specific she got, the more universal it got. She didn’t set out to write funny, she just based things off of the people in her life and readers found it very funny.
Timing is essential with humor.
Note: This week my wordcount is not moving. I am doing another serious revision of my first book for a contest including new chapter breaks. So second book is on the back burner until next week when I get this contest submission in.