August 10th, 2016

  • mbarker

Writing Excuses 11.32: The Element of Humor

Writing Excuses 11.32: The Element of Humor


Key Points: Talking about humor ain't so funny. Why do we turn pages for humor? Because we enjoy laughing, and hope that it will happen again. Every joke is a story. Look for the twist at the end that recontextualizes everything. Lots of classes of humor, but the techniques get applied to everything. Make sure you are laughing, that it amuses you. Don't play with a doll, be funny for the audience. Use comic drop, a change in status. Payload, then pause (put the funny just before the break, so we can laugh). Rule of 3, beat, beat, punchline. Reversal, give us a surprise. Use callbacks, referring back to jokes you have already made. To make a whole story out of humor, look for key elements, and make promises to the reader that you are going to be funny. Set something up, have something happen later, and then pow, deliver it even bigger (aka rule of 3 in action!).

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[Brandon] We are out of time. We will come back and talk about this in a few weeks, but… Howard? Why don't you give us some homework that they can work on during that time?
[Howard] Okay. Yes. I want you to get something funny. A book, hopefully, that you can actually make notes in. Outline… I say outline. Underline, highlighter… Look for rules of three. Look for places where there are three things in a list, look for places where three similar things happen. By the same token, look for comic drops. Circle or underline any place where characters' statuses change. As you go through this, I have no idea what you're actually going to find, because I don't know what it is you're reading. But as you go through this, try and figure out what the pattern is to this story that makes it work. Why are these elements working, working so well? Ultimately, what you want to be able to do is you want to know how to apply these tools in your own writing. So you have to look for them specifically in someone else's work.
[Brandon] All right. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.