Finding Humor in Writing with Wendy Sparrow and Giveaway

Please join me in extending a warm, Preternatura welcome to fellow author Wendy Sparrow today. Wendy is dropping by as part of her virtual book tour celebrating the release of her most recent book, Past My Defenses. Past My Defenses was published on June 23 by Entangled and is the first book in Wendy’s Taming the Pack series.

Writing is in Wendy Sparrow’s blood…which is also about thirty percent Mountain Dew and twenty percent chocolate brownies. Wendy has been telling tales since she was a child with varying amounts of success. Her parents clearly anticipated her forays into the paranormal because she heard “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” so many times she could have written the screenplay at age five. She lives with a wonderful husband and two quirky kids and is active in Autism and OCD support networks. You can learn more about Wendy by visiting her website, on Facebook and by following her on Twitter where she’ll talk to anyone who talks to her and occasionally just to herself.

PastMyDefensesABOUT PAST MY DEFENSES: Vanessa is the fastest Lycan around. In wolf form, the only threat she can’t outrun is her allergies. After a feline dander-bomb takes her down, she wakes up naked in a cage staring at a hot park ranger who had no idea what he’d trapped. But ooooh, he smells so good. Mine. Dane hoped to tame the silver wolf in his kennel, but all bets are off with the deliciously sweet Vanessa on two legs. Her temper makes his pulse race, and he can’t escape the feeling they belong together. They’re hot as a forest fire even before they scent-match, but Glacier Peak’s Alpha considers Dane a danger to the pack. Meanwhile, Lycans are being poached, and Vanessa has been targeted. Dane will have to keep her close to protect her, but with Vanessa in heat and mad to mate, who will protect him?

And now, let’s hear from Wendy…

Finding the Funny – Humor in Writing
by Wendy Sparrow

Writing humor is difficult. I’m convinced only insane sociopaths can really manage it well. People say I’m funny. I think I can rest my case.

There are a few different aspects to humor that I’m not even sure can be nailed down, but I’ll try because nothing is as humorous as really analyzing it. You know a joke isn’t funny until you have to explain it several times and dig underneath the layers. I’ll add in the occasional quote from Past My Defenses to bolster my claim to being somewhat humorous.

Okay, let’s find the funny.

Tone. Humor is found in everything from slapstick to dry wit, and it’s all in wendysparrowknowing one’s audience and striking the right tone. I’ve stood in front of a church and made those gathered laugh, but I definitely wasn’t saying the same things found in my stories. (I tend to be irreverent everywhere outside of church, and it’s amazing I manage on Sundays to pull it together. If I had said the same thing—my mother would have been transported to the building just to wash my mouth out with Irish Spring.) (Do you see what I mean about being irreverent?)

“She’s nearly rabid.” He narrowed his eyes. “We’re allowed to make those jokes, by the way. You’re not.”

Timing. Have you ever sat through a Bond film and noted all his one-liners? One minute, he’s hanging from an airplane with the crazed assassin hanging onto his boot. The next, he’s one boot short, saying, “I gave him the boot.” If you were in a theater, there’s a good chance that line was met with an audience-wide groan, even if everyone was smiling. 007 is forgiven a lot. In most novels, you can’t get away with a post death-defying situation tossed-off one-liner. It’s tough to find the right moment to lay a joke down and walk away from it, but unless you’re in a parody, reality should guide you on knowing when the time is right. Would this happen in real life? If it did, would you laugh or groan…and is it funny regardless?

“You snore like you’re trying to swallow sandpaper.”
Her mouth dropped open. Oh, no, he didn’t just say that.

Delivery. Sometimes it comes to me as fast as it would in a conversation, and sometimes I agonize over a single sentence so that it isn’t so cluttered that the joke gets lost. And you don’t want to be the person who nudges and winks with an overdone, “Know what I mean?” The joke drops off drastically if you linger too long. (Unless you’re Monty Python. In which case the above just gets funnier with each wink and nudge.) I’ve found that my characters build their own humor and know when to deliver a line and what to say, but I still have to strip away the extra words. Streamline jokes as much as you can while still keeping their personality alive.

Hell, he was hot for a woman who was part wolf.
This might even be a fetish.

Deploying sarcasm. Sarcasm in the medium of the written word has a bit of a hang-up in that you don’t have audio and visual context. Verbally, sarcasm is often conveyed by change in pitch. In the example above, if I did it right, you should have heard “great” in your head at a lower pitch than the rest of the dialogue. Sarcasm can also be said flatly or by elongating words, and usually there’s the visual cues of facial expressions. All this equates to sarcasm being easier in person than in text.

I’ve had sarcasm not work on Twitter quite a few times, and nothing makes you feel like you’ve kicked a puppy as when someone doesn’t get you’re joking. Over the years, literary types have suggested a sarcasm font to prevent these types of faux pas. And I believe the prevailing wisdom is the font should be an italic slanted in reverse—but researching sarcasm presented me with the novel problem of not being sure if the sites on sarcasm were being sarcastic. So, the joke’s on me…. *coughs* This feels a bit like when I take an Onion article seriously.

Another suggestion has been sarcasm punctuation. In the 1580s, a percontation mark was put forth—a reverse question mark. It has yet to be embraced, but writers have long used scare quotes to convey irony and sarcasm. For example: I’m what you call “funny.” (Hey, you try coming up with sentences on the fly.) Other ironic or sarcastic punctuation has been presented but not adopted. The public can make a Youtube singer into a mega star, but we can’t get our act together to get a consensus on something as serious as not being serious.

In the meantime, sarcasm has to be laid out perfectly to work. Usually if it fits the personality and voice of your characters, it can still be recognized and used without the additional cues. And, if it’s done well, the reader’s minds will provide any missing vocal and visual cues. Readers can see the character roll their eyes even as their pitch drops.

“Now, this house key I’m going to give you—can it be silver or will that light your skin on fire?”

Getting a read on it. One of my beta readers is in charge of telling me where she laughs. I don’t care if she never catches a single typo. I just need to know what plays and what doesn’t. And I’ve had jokes fall flat—typically because it’s confusing. I daresay the mind of a psycho runs a bit skew to rational. And while there is nothing quite so disappointing as the crickets chirping and, “I don’t get this,” I’ve learned to cut and drop it. If one person doesn’t get it, trying to force it never feels natural. Funny should always fit. The joke should fit so well that if you took it out in one draft, you’d be tempted to add it back in with a later draft.

I’m ending with my favorite bit of the entire book, and it was added in a much later draft—sometimes you have to get to know your characters before you know what odd things they just might say.

“Would you like me to pass her a note in homeroom, Dane? O-M-G Do you like me? Check yes or no.”
“I really hate you.”

So, have I ruined humor for you forever? Can you hear the Smiths crooning “That Joke isn’t Funny Anymore”? Well, if I did, I’m really sorry, but you should have known that authors can’t be funny all the time—we don’t get paid enough. *rimshot*

And done.

Thanks for letting me on the blog. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal…and by veal I mean Past My Defenses.

You may purchase a copy of Past My Defenses by clicking on one of the following links:
Barnes & Noble

Thanks, Wendy. Congrats on the release!

As part of her virtual book tour, Wendy is giving away a beautiful dandelion seed necklace and earrings. If you would like to be entered for your chance to win, leave a comment and then enter using the link below.


5 thoughts on “Finding Humor in Writing with Wendy Sparrow and Giveaway

  1. Humor is such a subjective thing. Have never really analyzed it, but your post really interested me.

  2. Interesting post. I enjoy humor in my stories, as appropriate for the characters and for what is going on.

  3. really interesting and informative. i do love humor in the book i read but it’s true that sometimes i don’t have the cultural background ( not being american) to understand it