I recently had what I thought was a funny experience with an editor, and I shared it at a critique group meeting. The first two people I told thought it was funny. The next person just looked at me and shook her head. She didn’t think it was funny at all, even though I was laughing at the situation. She thought it was unprofessional.
Who was right? We both were. I was laughing at a situation in my life that if I didn’t laugh, I would probably cry. My friend didn’t laugh because she put herself in my position and reacted the way she would have if it had happened to her.
Humor is a funny thing — no pun intended — and yet that rolled off my fingers as glib as if I’d meant it.
Each person, (insert each reader), has their own sense of humor, meaning that what you find hilarious, another person will tilt their head in a good imitation of the RCA Victor dog.
We’ve seen a lot of good tips for writing humor this month, and they are all valid. One consideration when writing humor is to consider your reader so that you pen words of hilarity that they will understand.
Do you write for kids? Then many of your humorous lines will include mention of body odors, weird mouth noises, and references to current movies.
Do you write for the older population? Then you can make reference, as I did, to the RCA Victor dog, and they’ll get the point.
No matter who you write for, you will want to put yourself in their shoes, if you aren’t in that demographic, and use references they will understand.
I once had a friend who claimed she had no sense of humor. People would tell her jokes and she never got them. If she tried to repeat a joke she’d heard, she’d mess it up in the telling. She never laughed because she thought something was funny. And yet she made people laugh. We laughed at her complete lack of humor.
Humor can lighten a harsh word. It can teach the reader a lesson they wouldn’t want to hear otherwise. Humor can ease the tension in a scene, and it can draw the reader into the story by allowing them to lose themselves in the fictional world you create.
And, isn’t that really the purpose of our stories?