Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Writing Funny

Last night after I got the fam fed and settled, I pulled one of my mini writing retreats and headed to my favorite writing spot--Whataburger. The choice of this prime writing location has nothing to do with the fact that Whataburger is to hamburgers what Rolls Royce is to the automobile and Shilo Jolie Pitt is to good genes. I simply find the ambiance of this prime Texas eatery conducive to the flow of my creative juices. (Okay, so I like to munch on a burger and fries while I write. Shoot me!)

It was fairly late for dinner--after 8:00--so there weren't a lot of patrons in the joint. With my food on the left and my AlphaSmart on the right, I began a new chapter in my manuscript. I have to admit, I'd been looking forward to writing this scene. It had a perfect set up from the ending of the previous chapter, and I was enjoying every minute of this process. So much so, that I found myself laughing out loud after writing a certain sentence. Right there in Whataburger, with a french fry sticking half-way out of my mouth, I was cracking myself up.

Suddenly self conscious, I gobbled the fry and scanned the surroundings to see if anyone had noticed my outburst. Thankfully, the four other diners were preoccupied by their own food and conversation. They had little interest in the loony lady in the corner.

Now, I've made myself cry while writing certain parts of stories (think of Kathlene Turner's character at the beginning of Romancing the Stone--it really happens) but I don't ever recall having a good belly laugh over something I've written. I've been told my writing is humorous. I guess that can be taken two ways...

A few years back at a writing conference, I taught a class about writing with humor. Now, I've taught a lot of writing classes in the past and have always enjoyed the experience, but I found teaching this subject excruciating, because I didn't know how. How do you teach someone to be funny? I was at such a loss on the subject that I wrangled one of the funniest LDS authors I know, Robison Wells, to team teach with me, and thank goodness for that. Rob saved the day.

In the end, it all boils down to one question--how do you write "funny"?

Now maybe this is a total cop out, and I'd love to hear your thoughts, but I've finally come to the conclusion that the ability to write humor is something you're born with. You've heard of the funny bone? Maybe there's some validity to the notion. Is writing humor like having rhythm? Can you teach rhythm to someone who simply can't hear the beat to the song? I'm not saying everyone can't enjoy the music. But not everyone can pick out the rhythm when they dance to it.

Below, I'd like to salute a few writers who make me laugh. My favorite books are the ones that combine good writing with humor (okay, and a little romance always helps).

I mentioned Robison Wells--funny guy, family man, talented author, and now grad student. Even though he's on hiatus for the next two years, you can still catch him at Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog.

Janette Rallison has been one of my favorite authors for years. She's managed to combine humor with some great writing for the YA market. We need more Janettes out there!

James Dashner. That's all I'm gonna say. The dude has received way too much publicity lately! He's crazy funny. I have a hunch 2008 is going to rock his a good way.

Stephanie Fowers and The Ink Ladie's own Elodia Strain are both young, funny, and beautiful! Two fresh voices in LDS fiction.

Elasticwaistbandlady! (I'll call her Ewbly for short.) Ewbly is a blogger friend and momma to six, who has managed to capture a worldwide audience, one witty blog at a time as The Smiling Infidel. Of course, she sometimes turns to the dark side--BB&F humor (butts, boogers and farts--gasp!). Don't despair, Ewbly. I still laugh at, "pull my finger."

So, what writers make you laugh? And more important, why?


Heather B. Moore said...

I love authors who are funny! In fact, most of the time I refuse to listen to the news at night because it's depressing. But I'll tune into Letterman for a good night's sleep.

Stephanie Black said...

Humor is one of the reasons I admire JK Rowling. We read Harry Potter 7 aloud and it was amazing how many times we all burst into laughter--and this is a very serious, tense book! Interweaving humor with suspense and tension makes for some very delightful writing.

Marcia Mickelson said...

I'm not funny at all. But I totally agree about the ones you wrote. I laughed out loud at Rob Wells and Elodia Strain. My husband would look at me curiously when I was reading their books. I also love Sophie Kinsella. She's so funny!

James Dashner said...

Tami, you are far too sweet to include me on this list, but thank you.

Humor is the only thing that makes life worth living. Well, that and family and all that jazz.

By the way, YOU should be on that list.

Annette Lyon said...

Sounds like my idea of a night made in heaven!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

And now you went and outed me to a very nice group of upstanding LDS citizens.....I've been thinking of adding a tag line to my blog. Something that says, "Your Daily Source For Sins Of Light-Minded Laughter."

I came to the foredrawn conclusion long ago that life is too short to read tales of angst or woe. I want to laugh so hard that I cover everyone within a 10 foot radius with spittle while I'n gasping for air. Is that so wrong?

stephanie said...

Oh you are so nice to me!!! Thanks for including me. And now I have absolutely nothing funny to say, sad, huh?

And now I'm going to have to put in a million passwords to get this comment through since I NEVER can remember what it is...

Elodia Strain said...

Ditto Marcia's comment about Sophie Kinsella. She's my writing hero!

And you, Tamra! I loved Molly Mormon and Molly Married. And now that I've heard about the Whataburger Incident, I can't wait for your next one.

Thanks for the great blog and for the writing inspiration!

Robyn Heirtzler said...

My daughter began reading one of Dashner's Jimmy Fincher books to me in the car one day and we were both hooked, as well as nearly running off the road! I love reading well written humor!

Janette Rallison said...

Thanks for the compliment! Now I want to read what it was that cracked you up. (And yes, I've done that too.)