The estimable Floyd Hyatt is with us again, this time exploring the topic of humor in genre (mystery, science fiction, and fantasy in particular, which makes the post spectacularly appropriate for this blog).
Take it away, Mr. Hyatt!
Writing Humor in Genre
This one will cause editors discomfort. Most attempts at writing humor, as humor, in genre, will contend with a steep acceptance curve among editors. Why is unclear. Perhaps because the base subject matter is itself, surreal. Successful examples, like Terry Pratchett, and his popular Discworld series, or Glen Cook‘s Garrett P.I. series are few and far between. Yet, many publication sites note they have a special interest in genre humor, if done well. (in their opinion.)
Perhaps success rests in making certain the humor is strongly grounded in human foible and common experience. After all, what amount to funny from the perspective of a bug, an alien, or a fairy queen? Certainly it will need a strong sense of character identification on the part of the reader, which the author must provide. There can occur an over focus on the laughter aspect, at the expense of providing an underlying strong story, which typically means no satisfactory ending to the tale. Another aspect could be consistency of humor style over the course of a story. There are many kinds of humor, and as may be, an author might be advised to stick to one type.
There is a whole raft of literature on the psychology of humor, its mechanics, and causes. I have read several such, and never felt knowledgeable coming away from the experience, so won’t write here about how to be funny. It remains an art, largely, and quite culturally dependent.
Timing and delivery, both hard to express in writing, take on heightened importance. Authors need take greater pains to consider line lengths, and the comparative speeds certain sentence structuring can provide. Which is only to repeat that it has its own mechanics.
Pratchett took advantage, for example, of the footnote. It wasn’t only used to include a humorous aside. There is always the opportunity for a narrator’s interjection without doing that. It’s the inherent pause in tempo looking to a page bottom it provides, as supplies some of the impact, which was likely why his initial publishers allowed its use, usually verboten in novels.
People’s reaction to humor varies much more widely than for what typifies good drama, or romance, say. All this said, there is no reason not to try your hand at it. Certainly, it one of the more fun things to try.
— F.A. Hyatt
And now, because MomGoth loves her sweet little baby angels, she is delighted to inform you that dear Uncle Floyd has sent you an original story written just for you. Click on the link to read it. You mustn’t try to swipe it, though, because it belongs to Uncle Floyd. Don’t make me release the flying monkeys.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: What sort of thing does your main character consider funny?