what’s so dang funny? the characters

I think about 15% of my time with my friends is spent in deep, serious discussion.  The other 85% is spent laughing.  Giggling, guffawing, snorting, chortling, snickering, tittering, sneering…


Pretty sure you see the point bearing down on you like a freight train: we like people who make us laugh.

And we like our book-people to make us laugh, just like our flesh-people.  The right mixture of pathos and humor will connect readers with your characters.  Our audience is familiar with feeling embarrassed, exasperated, frustrated.  The quickest way to a reader’s heart is through his gut.

In The Sorcerer’s Stone, we meet Hagrid when he bursts into the shack with a bedraggled cake.  He ties the Dursleys’ gun in a knot, spouts cheeky vernacular, and hedges on the real reason he didn’t finish his education.   Comedy comes in the form of a surprise.  Memorable?  Yes siree Bob.  We are in love.  And not with the book, with Hagrid, in particular.

guffawfestThen there’s humor from the character’s wry observations and clever turns of phrase.  See:  Louise Rennison or John Green:

He opened the drain in the tub, stood up, toweled off, and got  dressed. When he exited the bathroom, his parents were sitting together on his bed. It was never a good sign when both his parents were in his room at the same time. Over the years it had meant:

1. Your grandmother/grandfather/Aunt-Suzie-whom-you-never-met-but-trust- me-she-was-nice-and-it’s-a-shame is dead.

2. You’re letting a girl named Katherine distract you from your studies.

3. Babies are made through an act that you will eventually find intriguing but for right now will just sort of horrify you, and also sometimes people do stuff that involves baby-making parts that does not actually involve making babies, like for instance kiss each other in places that are not on the face.

An Abundance of Katherines

Colin’s funny comes from being so dead-on true.  Saying what we’re all thinking right-out-loud (metaphorically speaking) in a slightly askew fashion.

It’s one thing to show the funny through your characters’ actions, or let funny happen to your characters, or even let funny spew from their pieholes.  The trickiest funny is Voice.

It ‘s too easy to come off as a smart-ass.  If you read through your draft and hear the rim-shots, you’ve got too many one-liners. (Ba-dum-bum-bing!) And oh, Lawsy, it’s hard to strangle our little darlings, isn’t it?  But if it’s too heart-wrenching to let go, cut and deposit in another document.  Take a look in six months, and I bet you’ll wonder what you ever saw in them.

Here is THE MASTER at comedic voice, Christopher Moore.  He started as a YA writer, but has gradually moved into adult novels:

Nate did not watch her rub the SPF50 on her legs, over her ankles and feet.  He did not watch her strip to her bikini top and apply the sunscreen over her chest and shoulders.  (Tropical sun can fry you even through a shirt.)  Nate especially did not notice when she grabbed his hand, squirted lotion into it, then turned, indicating that he should apply it to her back, which he did–not noticing anything about her in the process.  Professional courtesy.  He was working.  He was a scientist.


Moore gets the mechanics of the scene across, as well as the facts about the tropical sun, the obliviousness of the bikini babe, the very interested disinterest of  Nate. (*Caution: This is a raunchy, adult book.  And it is a scream.)


When you use humor just right, the reader surrenders a piece of himself to your story.    A sure way to keep him turning the pages.

Stop by http://community.livejournal.com/kidlit_central/ tomorrow to find out when not to use humor in your writing.

**Edit  Here is the perma-link to  what’s so dang funny?  when the answer should be: nothin’


About Lisha Cauthen

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

Posted on June 2, 2009, in childrens' literature, humor, writing, YA literature and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on what’s so dang funny? the characters.

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