Monday, May 2, 2011

Crack a Smile

I've been told by my critique partners that the novel I'm working on right now has great humor in it.

"This line cracked me up." One partner said. And another one said "I couldn't stop chuckling in several places. I had a smile on my face throughout the entire chapter." Yay! Don't we love to hear those kinds of comments. The validation that some of the techniques we're using are working. 

After reading the chapter on "Hyperreality" from Donald Maass's Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make your Novel Great, I think I need to vamp up the humor even more. Take it over the top. Get crazy. Step into the shoes of my character and have a spaz attack. I like the thought of that. How fun does that sound?

Maass says "Every novel should, somewhere, at least make us crack a smile."  Don't you just love that line!

One of the things I'm already doing in the novel is my character has no problem slinging the insults. She's also sure of herself to a fault and at times sounds a little too ridiculous. It makes for several humorous situations. There are funny names and her voice reeks extreme. But what are some of the other techniques I could employ?

How about interjecting a little more hyperbole? Or how about changing an expected outcome to be unexpected? Maybe a little more slapstick? Or reversing the order of something fairly straightforward? How about escalating a ridiculous situation until it borders on the absurd? There are thousands of ways to be funny and I think it's time to experiment with a few more methods and see which ones will work in my manuscript.
So here's a challenge for you and me. Take an existing chapter or scene and write in some humor. Kids love exaggeration and silliness. Rewrite your chapter with humor in mind? Try several different techniques and see what happens. Deliberate misunderstandings? Funny voices? Insults? And remember we need to laugh at ourselves just as much as we need to laugh at others. If not, more so. 
I remember a time when my ex-husband left the 7-11 carrying two icy coke slurpees.  He had a huge grin on his face. He was already slurping the syrupy ice through the red straw. He was so enamored with his slurpee that he forgot he was walking, too. He didn't lift his foot far enough off the ground and caught his toe on one of those parking cement blocks that was next door to our car. He careened forward and disappeared from my view.  I grabbed the door handle and quickly hopped out of the idling car. I raced around to where I'd last seen him. There he was on the ground, elbows and arms outstretched in front of him. Chin touching the cement pavement. And in his hands were the two slurpees. I asked him if he was okay and he nodded and smiled. 
"I didn't spill a drop," he said. "Not a one."

He was so proud of himself. And I couldn't stop laughing. I buckled over as he lay on the ground and tilted his slurpee to his mouth and slurped. He looked hilarious with his cheeks sucked in, looking up from the ground. His blue eyes tickled mischief and he started to laugh, too, at the absurdity and awkwardness of the situation. It's one of my favorite memories we shared together.
What kind of situation can you create for your character that unleashes your humorous side? I'm sure you can come up with something. I double-dare you to try!

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