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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adding a Little Laughter to Your Love

Please welcome guest blogger Dana Marie Bell.

Writing humor can be a daunting task. Everyone reacts to it differently, and everyone has an opinion on it. For instance, my husband took me to see Dumb and Dumber when it first came out in theaters. He laughed until he damn near cried. I wanted to slink out of the theater and beg for mercy. And neither of us could understand the other's reaction.

Humor is a subjective thing. Some people will read the excerpt below, roll their eyes, and move on to the next excerpt. Other people will grin and reach for the author's webpage, hoping to see a longer slice of that scene. They might even check out the rest of the author's work to see if it too grabs their attention.

Here's an example of how you can use humor in a scene. It's from Steel Beauty, a part of my Halle Pumas series. Gina is trying to take Belle's position as not only Rick's mate but Luna of the Poconos Pack. Belle is understandably upset by this and, shall we say, takes steps. Some authors would use posturing, disdain, maybe even anger to get Belle's point across that Rick belongs to her. There's a lot ot be said for that approach. It's one I've used myself.

However, Belle likes to do things a little differently...

Gina howled in pain as Belle smiled vacuously. "I really wouldn't try to hit Graciela any more, okay? That's bad." She shook her finger at Gina, who was desperately trying to get her wrist out of Belle's curled hand. "Bad woof-woof."

Half the patrons of the restaurant had their faces buried in their napkins, their shoulders shaking. The rest were openly laughing.

Mocking your enemy. It's a tried and true tradition sure to get someone to try and kick your butt. It also lets you know exactly how Belle feels about Gina without coming out and saying, "I hate your guts you skanky ho."

Rick scented blood and realized his kitty had unsheathed her claws right into Gina's arm. Her pretty green eyes had turned bright gold. Her expression was still as vapid as she could make it. A cheery smile graced those full lips as she put her free hand in her pocket.

Gina managed to get her arm free of Belle's grasp. "Bitch."

"Oh, silly poodle. I'm not the bitch, you are, remember?" Belle shook her head sadly. "Didn't your mommy teach you anything?"

Sarcasm. Not only is she pointing out that she thinks Gina's an idiot, she's doing it in such a way as to humiliate her opponent. And Belle knows that if Gina is going to hold her position as alpha female the last thing she can handle is being humiliated by a handicapped cat.

Rick swiped at his mouth, desperate to wipe the grin from his face as Gina shook with anger. To be defeated by someone she considered inferior was bad enough, but to be defeated by someone who was acting like a complete imbecile was intolerable to someone like her.

"Why you little--" Gina lunged forward, losing what little self control she had.

Only to be brought up short by the air horn Belle pulled out of her pocket and set off right next to her ear. The alpha female dropped, hands over her ears.

Belle let up on the button. "Not done yet." Belle's cheery voice floated through the sudden silent, causing more than one patron to choke out a laugh.

Mental note: take Belle's new toy away. Rick's ears were ringing from halfway across the room. He could only imagine what Gina and her coterie felt like. With another quickly hidden grin he realized Chela had covered her ears, muffling some of the sound.

Belle is ready to drive her point home and she's not afraid to use weapons of mass destruction to do it.

"So, here are the new rules, okay?" Belle looked dementedly happy as she started ticking things off on her fingers. "No more trying to piddle on Rick's carpet. If anyone's going to mark territory there, it's me."

Gina snarled up at Belle but rapidly pulled back when Belle brandished the air horn.

"No more beating up on the other women or I will take you to the vet and have you tutored."

"Neutered." Gina corrected her with a frown.

Belle leaned down and patted Gina's cheek. "Don't worry, sweetie, someone would learn something."

Threats. Gina now knows where Belle stands without any doubt whatsoever. "You try and take my man and I will make your life hell."

Rick coughed as Belle straightened. He lost his fight with his grin as she winked saucily at him.

"And last, but not least, you will show deference to the Omega. Because if you don't, you will regret it in a very bad, no good, terribly awful way." She was really laying on the inane sincerity. Rick wondered what she was up to, and how much in damages he'd probably have to pay.

Gina bared her teeth at Belle. "Who's the Omega?"

"Me." Chela's grin was not in any way friendly.

"You?" Gina's laugh reminded Rick of a hyena, especially when her loyal minions joined her.

There was a gasp as Belle rapped Gina on the nose with...

Rick lost it. His Luna had just hit the alpha female with some rolled-up papers she must have grabbed from her scooter.

God I love that woman.

And finally, the coup de grace, using rolled up papers on a "dog's" nose, showing her complete disdain for her enemy. If she hasn't made her point by now, then Gina really is an idiot.

So. Did you chuckle? Or did you roll your eyes and skip to the end?

Still thinking of injecting that note of humor into you own work? Then here are a few things for you to think about:

  1. If you're not laughing, no one else will either. I chuckled gleefully as I had Belle torture Gina, and boy did Gina deserve it. If you're not grinning as you type then you might need to rething what you're doing.
  2. A little goes a long way. An entire novel filled with airhorn scenes won't really work, especially when all you start writing is airhorn scenes. It would be the same as a book filled with nothing but love scenes or fight scenes. It would get old pretty fast. And while I firmly believe in laughter in the bedroom I also believe that you shouldn't have the characters joking at certain critical points.
  3. Just like no one in real life cries and moans about fate all the time, no one laughs all the time either. Keeping it real will make those scenes more memorable to the reader. They have to live for the reader to identify with them. So have them laugh, have them cry, and let them have some quiet time, too. It will help the reader get drawn into their lives all the more.
  4. Listen to what your beta readers or crit partners have to say. You might not agree with everything they tell you but if they all say "this isn't funny", then you might want to revisit those scenes. Timing is of huge importance with humor, and if they're all saying "time and place" then they may be on to something.
  5. If you're not laughing, no one else will either. I'm not sure I can say that one enough times.
  6. Not everyone can write a humorous scene successfully. I've cut entire books to scrap because the humor didn't work with the rest of the novel. Don't be afraid to trust your instincts on this, because it could make or break what you're attempting to do.
  7. And most important of all? Be a duck. Once your novel is accepted and put into print, let the bad reviews flow off your back. Some of them will hate what you wrote because they don't like your style, your voice, or your sense of humor. Others will love it for those exact same reasons. As long as you love what you're doing, you're on the right track. And that will be true whether or not you try to inject a little smile time into your work.

Dana Marie Bell wrote her first short story when she was thirteen years old. She attended the High School for Creative and Performing Arts for creative writing, where freedom of expression was the order of the day. When her parents moved out of the city and placed her in a Catholic high school for her senior year she tried desperately to get away, but the nuns held fast, and she graduated with honors despite herself. Dana has lived primarily in the Northeast (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, to be precise), with a brief stint on the US Virgin Island of St. Croix. She lives with her soul-mate and husband Dusty, their two maniacal children, an evil ice-cream stealing cat and a bull terrier that thinks it's a Pekinese. She's a serial series writer with a bad case of, "I really wrote that?"
You can check out Dana's work at http://www.danamariebell.com/.
Shadow of the Wolf
Christopher Beckett is tired of being alone. His wolf is howling for his mate, and Chris knows it is only a matter of time before his needs override everything else in his life. He casts the spell all the Becketts have used to call their mates to them. What he wants is a woman of an older lineage, of power to equal his own. And she has to accept the one aspect that sets him apart from almost every other wizard: his wolf.
What Chris gets is Alannah Evans, a powerful witch of the Evans Coven. The petite, dark haired woman has no problems with the wolf. What she does have a problem with is the fact that Chris is a wizard. Since wizards and witches don't get along very well, neither should they, but the sparks flying between them can't be denied. Chris isn't taking no for an answer. When it becomes clear that an old enemy has targeted them both Chris will wind up engaging his enemy in a duel that could cost him his life.
Or worse: Lana.


Beth Caudill said...

I have to say I love that scene (as well as the whole series). I laughed the whole time and I could see every step of it.

Danica Avet said...

Great post. I love humor in a book, especially if it acts as a spice for darker scenes. Thank you, both for the good advice, and the funny scene.