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Writing: How Comedy Can Punch Up Your Prose Regardless of Genre-Part 3

Posted on Nov 4, 2016 |

PART THREE – GENERAL COMEDY TIPS AND THE DANGERS AND STRENGTHS OF USING HUMOR IN SOCIAL MEDIA

CHARACTER & DIALOGUE

Strong Choices

  1. We are drawn to distinct characters whether they’re likeable or unlikeable. So what makes your characters unique?
  2. To differentiate characters, you have to be adept at noticing and then capturing human mannerisms.
  • Example: On the show Friends, Monica was obsessed with cleanliness, Phoebe and Joey were ditzy—once the writers knew the characters, their reactions to situations fueled humorous punchlines. On show The Big Bang Theory Sheldon doesn’t understand social cues. The main four friends are all nerds and some of the humor comes from their neighbor Penny not being as smart as they are but being pretty and a regular person, not a smart geek. When you know your characters’ weaknesses, you’ll find what makes them interesting and amusing.

GENERAL COMEDY WRITING TIPS

A writer should keep a pen and paper with him/her at all times. When you say something that gets a laugh, write it down. When you see something that makes you laugh, same deal.

  1. The best comedy seems natural and spontaneous, so free form writing is especially good for this:
  2. Don’t judge yourself (yet).
  3. Don’t try to be funny – 80 percent of the time you won’t be funny, but humor can emerge from dark places, so even when you don’t feel like it, write.
  4. Pretend you are just emailing a friend.
  5. Make fun of yourself – everyone screws up and we feel more comfortable around people who can joke about their imperfections. That goes for our characters as well.
  6. Let it sit for a while – a month – and if it makes you laugh then, someone else will likely find it funny, too. (See above – humor is unexpected and surprising, so you need to come at it with fresh eyes)

vii. Read funny writers of all genres, particularly genres you write in

Nonfiction: Bill Bryson, Laurie Notaro, Augusten Boroughs, David Sedaris, Dave Berry, Erma Bombeck

Fiction: Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner, Kristan Higgins, Rachel Gibson, Katie Macallister, Jennifer Crusie

USING COMEDY IN SOCIAL MEDIA

Downsides

  1. What you intend as comedic may be misunderstood.
  2. Remember the woman who sent tweet as she got on plane to visit her father, who lived in South Africa? She wrote: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDs. Just kidding. I’m white!” by the time she landed, she’d been devoured on social media and lost her job.

Upsides

Because people like to laugh, if you use humor effectively on Facebook and Twitter, people are more likely to “Like” and forward your efforts. Most viral campaigns are humorous—One of the most effective ways to market is to evoke emotion and people feel good when they are laughing.

Writing Prompts:

  1. Your day job
  2. Being a parent
  3. Dating / Marriage / Divorce / Sex
  4. Things that anger you or you find frustrating

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