Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who's Being Funny?

I apologize in advance if this becomes a random nothingness of dribble, but I haven’t been well this week. Damn head colds! Bleh! After only 2 minutes of sitting in front of the computer my eyes went all blurry and I couldn’t see clearly. Not a good thing when you’re a modern day writer and the keyboard and screen is the new paper and pen (I mean imagine using a pen to write! OMG). As a result this has been written in fits and starts.

I wanted to talk about humour in writing, but seeing as I’m unwell I’m really not in the mood for being funny. Which, when I thought about it, is exactly the problem humorous writing has, isn’t it?

Let me explain.

Humour (or as some would say ‘humor’) is extremely subjective. Sure, you can pick up a book from the ‘comedy’ or ‘humorous’ section of a bookstore and you’ll be pretty sure that’s what the author intended the content of the book to be. Trouble is, what if the book is from the horror section and 20 pages in you’re roaring with laugher? Or worse yet, it’s an erotic novel and god forbid the bedroom scene has you in stitches instead of feeling all gooey and warm. (well, that’s how I feel with a well written love scene).

Believe me, I have read plenty of books that are supposed to be serious and are actually pretty damn humorous. I would imagine that wasn’t the author’s intention. So what goes wrong with writing that’s supposed to be funny and isn’t? Or worse yet, serious writing that’s laugh out loud hilarious?

The truth be told it’s actually very hard to write humour—well, good humour anyway. I have a kind of scale I like to go by when it comes to humour and the world of writing. I like to have little scales and charts and what not around my computer. They keep me focused.

At one end of my humour scale is the slapstick kind of humour, which, sprinkled in sparingly can be quite effective. A moment or two of pure unadulterated ‘pie in the face’ writing can be hilarious. But used too much and it can become really boring really quickly. (I think that’s the problem with some of those horror novels I’ve read. With all those bucket loads of blood pouring out everywhere one can only laugh…and then get tired of it quickly. Which I suppose would explain why I don’t read too many horror books that go this way). I think Douglas Adams did slapstick really well in his book The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, especially when Arthur Dent and gang got to the Vogon Home World. The independent thought ‘slap in the face’ was in my opinion done perfectly. Not too much, but enough to give a belly laugh and then move on. Which is what I’m basically saying. Less is more when it comes to humorous writing, I think.

The other end, or the upper end, is the ‘dry as a bone’ satire kind of writing. Satire is hard to keep up. Even the most hardened writer would find it extremely difficult to complete a novel of satire at the darker end of the scale. Sure, it can be done and has been done quite effectively…it would just be hard trying to write a book where every word is dripping with dark (and ultimately dreary) satire.

Personally, I find a lot of satire tends to slide into silliness if not kept under control. That silliness then becomes slapstick, and, as I have just explained, that’s at the other end of the scale. Of course, you can disagree with absolutely everything I have just said…just get ready to duck that pie.

That’s not to say slapstick, silliness and satire can’t be all in the one story. Some demand it. I just think, for a novice, keeping things simple and leaving the audience wanting more is a far better approach. Sure, write that satire, you may even do it well. But I bet the reason it has been done well is because you’ve focused on keeping the theme of the satire simple. Not taking on too much. Yep. Keep it simple. (I think that’s why political satire does so well. It sticks to one subject and squeezes everything it can out of it).

Until next time…because my eyes are now burning in their sockets and who the hell made computer screens so bright?

P.S. (and written the next day—I do feel a bit better) It seems my next novel, The Pauper’s Prize will be due out in November some time with eXtasy Books. I’m excited about that.

Here’s a promotion thingy/banner I whipped up for the book to help me get the promotion ball rolling. Next week I might post the blurb and a snippet of the book to tease. I like teasing.

P.P.S. Reading back my post I have to say that I think I did pretty good considering I was out of it most of the week.
Mark Alders.


Sierra Wolfe said...

Hey Mark. Great post. I've been out sick most of this week, too. I'm still not up to par. Hope you're feeling better soon. Love the banner. Very nice!


Mark Alders said...

Thank you, Sierra. I can always tell when there is a change of season. I get a cold! Bleh!


Lucy Woodhull said...

Great post Mark. There must be humor int he air, because I wrote a blog in defense of the art of comedy this week! It's so subjective and such a fine line. When when you can do it well, it's magic!

Alisha Paige said...

I hope you're feeling much better now, Mark. Seems like everyone's been sick. I've been sick as a dog too and had a writer's conference all weekend. Boy that was fun...pitching while sniffling and coughing. Nice.

Great post and I love your banner! Very sexy. You are such a tease!

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