I love to laugh, but I’m not exactly skilled in the art of making other people laugh. Just ask my four-year-old. I’ll tell a story that I find hilarious, and he’ll look at me with his big, blue eyes ten years more mature, and say, “That’s not funny, Mom.” Usually he’s right. I’m lucky to have him to keep me humble.
Not long after I started writing, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try to write something in a genre that was actually selling. At that time, Chick Lit happened to be popular, and I thought it would be a great fit for me. I wrote what I thought was a very funny novel about the wittiest character ever created. My book ended up being a finalist in the Genesis contest (I think there were a total of ten entries), but one of the agent judges came back with a verdict that sounded much like what my four-year-old continually tells me: NOT FUNNY. She was right. The comedy in the book was forced, the voice was somewhat clichéd and the character was not all that likeable. (Some may say I have a sarcastic sense of humor.)
Since then, I have faced the fact that I am not a humorist, but I have also realized that a book does not have to be a comedy in order to be funny. In fact, my favorite books are the ones that make me laugh and cry. The ones that reach deep into the soul and thread in a universal theme, but that also include irony and moments of comedy. Take The Help, for instance. So much of that book made me sad. I couldn’t believe how those women were treated. Because of the injustice against them, parts of it were hard for me to read. But the author used humor as a device to break up the tension and make the difficult parts of the story more palatable. It worked brilliantly, and yet it was so simple. She brought in a couple of quirky characters and an outrageous action taken by one of the characters (having something to do with pie), and I found myself laughing out loud. Can you imagine what that novel would be like without Minny Jackson? Instead of reading it in a few days like I did, it might have taken me weeks. Rather than being too heavy or trying too hard to send a message, it was one of the most perfectly balanced books I have ever read.
I’m not funny, but even I can come up with a few good lines here and there. I can invent quirky characters who get themselves into deep … trouble. Every novel should have some element of humor. Even the saddest, most dramatic storyline needs comic relief.
A lifelong storyteller, Sara Richardson is passionate about communicating reasons for hope. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, an Internet communications manager, and a whitewater rafting guide. In addition to writing fiction, Sara has published nonfiction articles in parenting and family magazines. As a member of MOPS International, Sara enjoys speaking to moms’ groups. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Visit her at www.hopetolife.com