what’s so dang funny? the plot

You might be Robin Williams in everyday life, but that won’t do you much good in your WIP.  When a writer uses humor, it has to serve the story.  Otherwise, you get a bunch of random one-liners that jump out at the reader like an Attack of the Living Dead.

Buff up your plot with situational humor.

juniorhighhilarity Everything that’s achingly funny starts with real life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exaggerate. Like in Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney–the stuff about “the cheese touch”.   Didn’t everybody have some stupid superstition like that in school? Jeff Kinney starts with a perfectly mundane, childish scenario and blows it up until it’s a side-splitting recurring  joke.

Or look at  An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  It’s about Colin 19?really?Singleton, a boy who’s dated and been dumped by 19 girls, all named Katherine.  Sure it’s possible, though not probable.  But a reader might have dated all blonds, or all baton-twirlers, and would identify with Colin’s inability to branch out.

Take a look at something interesting and swerve in a different direction.  Ask yourself, and then what?

Say, for instance, Main Character throws a water balloon at Nemesis.  And then what?  Nemesis retaliates with a water balloon barrage launched by sling shot.  Then what?  Main Character gets his buds together, puts together a plan of attack and rains water balloon hell upon Nemesis’ territory.  Then what?  Nemesis calls upon the entire fifth grade.  Then what?  They buy out the entire supply of water balloons at Nugent’s Drugstore. Then what?   Main Character’s Army frets and worries, shores up the battlements.  Patrols the perimeter.  Then what?  Finally, Nemesis’  Minions attack—with shaving cream!  Ah, the unexpected twist. Gotta love it.

Even serious stories need humor.  A tense plot must allow the reader an occasional breather.  Novels are not verbatim transcripts of life, but they are reflections.  And no matter how dire the straits, there is always room for humor.

“I would never have made it if I could not have laughed. Laughing lifted me momentarily . . . out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable . . . survivable.” (Victor Frankl)

A little humor gives your reader the confidence to believe he, too, could survive the ordeal your Main Character endures.  Another way to draw your audience in.

Lucky for the rest of us, you don’t have to be Bill Cosby, (the early years),  Douglas Adams, (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), or Tim Conway (with Carol Burnett).  Be observant.  Life is funny enough if you squint just right.



About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on May 25, 2009, in childrens' literature, humor, writing, YA literature and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on what’s so dang funny? the plot.

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