Writing Funny - Some Tips
This is a shortened excerpt from Susan Shapiro's new book, The Byline Bible. It's out August 21. Already preordered. Susan is da bomb when it comes to getting people published - especially in the bigger publications. I intend to read the book cover to cover. Find her full article here.
18 Ways to Write Funnier Fast
By: Susan Shapiro | July 26, 2018
1. Try to replicate the exact humor page you want to emulate, but in your own words. When you do, underline the lines that make you laugh. Sometimes I even count words and syllables to copy the exact length and sound.
2. Experiment with a variety of forms: a 600-word online “Shouts & Murmurs,” timely late night comedy monologue jokes, a MAD magazine parody of a new TV show, a 400-word Onion news story satire. See which best suits your voice and your topic.
3. Watch repetitions. The third time you do something, it has the opposite meaning. If a character cries or screams once or twice you may fear or feel bad for them. Three times, it stops being sad or scary and becomes maudlin.
4. Laughing is said to be a reaction to being surprised. So remember that lists are funnier when the last item you end on is surprising.
5. Try out material before an audience, class, or friends yourself and see if—and where—anyone laughs.
6. Sometimes the best humor is edgy, outrageous or creepy.
7. Don’t tell the reader something is funny, using the verb “he joked” or “chuckled” or saying “and they all laughed.” Show a scene and let your audience decide.
8. Self-deprecation is comedy gold. Start by writing a list of all the horrible things you hate about yourself. (Though if you trash your weight, race, or age, you have to be careful not to cross the line into also shaming others these days.)
9. Be unexpected by twisting clichés. A white grandma who talks like a gangsta rapper is funnier than a gangsta rapper speaking like you’d expect him to talk.
10. Tell the truth about dark emotions nobody admits, like feelings of failure, jealousy, and loneliness and stories of bad breakups.
11. Try a funny unusual word you don’t hear often.
12. Use odd juxtapositions.
13. Try observational humor. I know it feels old-fashioned, but trashing everyday things that seem odd offers a good humor structure.
14. Specifics make everything funnier. “I ate too much junk food,” isn’t as good as “I ate seven bags of Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies,” ...
15. Exaggerate a lot. I often interject “Then $400,000 worth of therapy kicked in,” though I haven’t spent that much on shrinks over the years.
16. Nutty metaphors and similes add color,...
17. Cut extra words, unintentional repetitions, and clichés. The end of a sentence, paragraph or piece should land the weirdest or funniest. Often great humor pieces, like poems, are tight and succinct.
18. Half of what’s out there now is topical humor. Remember to keep a pen and pad handy when you watch the news.