~ By Becke (Martin) Davis
I’m an obsessive reader and a longtime fan of romance, particularly contemporary romances. As a reader, I love contemporary romances liberally laced with snappy dialogue, quirky plots and even, occasionally, slapstick. As a writer, I flounder in my attempts to be funny.
When I try to write a humorous scene, I often go off the deep end and find myself—and my characters—shipwrecked on a rocky sea of overwrought emotions. I’ll try to lighten up a heavy scene with a laugh and before I know it, the Keystone Kops have hijacked the dark moment. It’s frustrating when I’m so clear on what I like and what I’d like to write.
This summer I’ve moved my muse from the keyboard and spent many lazy hours reading recently discovered authors and rereading old favorites. I try to quickly forget books where the humor is a painful #FAIL. My bookshelves are overflowing with books by authors who, apparently without effort, strike just the right note.
Books that make me laugh out loud are few and far between. Authors who consistently pull that off include JENNIFER CRUSIE and SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS. I’ve read all their books and every time I re-read one, I find new things to make me grin. While searching for excerpts to share, I came across this and this.
Then there are the authors who let loose their sillies and cracked me up in a particular book, like Dianne Castell in HOT SUMMER NIGHTS, which I reviewed awhile back, and Julie Ann Long’s HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON. I finished the last few chapters of that book with a sleeping granddaughter in my lap, and laughed so hard I almost woke her up. And I absolutely love Vicki Lewis Thompson’s HEXED series. I wish she’d written a dozen or more books set in Big Knob, Indiana. I am eagerly awaiting more books from Sally Thorne, whose debut book THE HATING GAME entertained me this summer.
Other authors who write with witty panache include Julie James, Erin McCarthy, Rachel Gibson, Victoria Dahl, Heidi Betts, Diane Holquist, Lani Diane Rich and Susan Sey. I never read Sophie Kinsella’s popular Shopaholic books, but her others are clever and some (like TWENTIES GIRL) are very moving. Kristan Higgins’ books can pull a whole range of emotions from me. British author Jill Mansell can also make me laugh. I know I’m forgetting many others, but it would take all day to dig through my over-packed bookshelves, and then I’d end up re-reading half the books. A fun way to spend the next few months, but not productive.
While I have no scintillating advice to offer contemporary romance authors who are struggling with their amusing (or not-so-amusing) muses, I can recommend this article on how not to be funny in fiction: http://romanceuniversity.org/2016/08/19/how-not-to-be-funny-in-fiction-by-harrison-demchick/
This blog takes a look at the pros and cons of writing humorously (or trying to): http://annerallen.com/how-to-write-funny-novelsand-why-you/
There is more excellent advice here: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/writing-humor/
For those of you who have successfully managed to write with wit, you have my congratulations. I’m a little jealous, but not too jealous. Until I manage to get it right, I thank you for providing new additions to my keeper shelves.
* Who are your favorite “funny” authors? Do you have any tricks for adding humor to your stories? *
Becke (Martin) Davis moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued last year. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&Nâs Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. She has written six garden books and one book about âN Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke has two adult children, two wonderful granddaughters and two cats. She has been married almost 45 years and lives in Chicagoâs Hyde Park.