Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Can't Make You Be Funny!

The Book Academy Conference, continued...

Immediately following Brandon Mull's Keynote address, in which I decided I need to add more comedy to my writing, I stepped into Becca Wilhite's class. Let me tell you, she is adorable. And funny. And adorable (did I already say that?). I found myself suddenly wanting to cut my hair just like hers. That's how adorable she is.

She walked into the room with a burst of energy I can only dream about. And I do - dream about it, that is.

Becca is the author of two books (with more to come). Her first is Bright Blue Miracle, and her second is My Ridiculous, Romanic Obsessions. I have to admit that I hadn't read either of these before the class, but after meeting Becca, and seeing her personality and sense of humor, I've added them to my "To Read" list. Check out her website here.

Okay, onto the class notes.

The first thing Becca said when she walked into the room was:

"If you're not funny, I can't make you be funny."

We all laughed, and she announced that because we had, she could teach us how to use our funniness (my word, not hers. I'm not sure if is really is a word).

First thing? Read funny books! (Do you see a pattern here? Writers have to read!)

She identified Three Kinds of Humor:

  1. Silly
  2. Sincere
  3. Sophisticated
Silly humor is things like puns. She used the movie Shrek as an example.

Sincere humor is everyday funny.

Sophisticated humor is a little more complicated. First, she said you are required to be British to pull it off. (Jane Austen, for example.) This type of humor is intellectually demanding. You have to understand the back story to understand the humor. No one-liners here.

Testing your humor:
Not sure if your stuff is really funny? Test it by having three different people read it out loud to you. Not just any three people though. Becca provided a formula to make sure you cover all the basis.

Person number one: Someone who reads like you.
Person number two: Someone in your target audience.
Person number three: Someone with no sense of humor.

After listening to all three, you will have a better feel for how it reads. Did they understand? Did they laugh? Did they stare at you like you're an idiot? (That might be okay if person number three is the one staring. But on a personal note, I think you need to find someone who is more fun to hang out with.)

Sometimes swear words are used for humor. Sometimes they work. (For me, most of the time they do not.) Whenever you are tempted to use swear words, think of them as cliches. And as writers we want to avoid cliches like the plague! (Did you get that, or are you a person number three?)

Lastly, make your story funny for different age groups. If your writing children's books, add something that the parent will laugh at. If it's for adults, don't forget to include humor that a teenager will get.

For example: One of my daughter's favorite movies is Toy Story 2. She loves the part at the very end, where Jessie skateboards down the loopty-loo ramp, flies across the room, and opens the door for the dog. Buzz Lightyear watches in amazed awe, and... (do you remember?).

She laughs every time. I laugh too, because she has absolutely no idea what it means. She's three. When she's older, I won't think its funny anymore.

Check back tomorrow to learn about Research! (Seriously, come back. It's not that bad. Every writer has to do it!)

Now go. Write something funny.


Becca said...

Kim - Did I really say that? It sounds like there was Actual Information passed during that class. What a relief. (Also, I cut my own hair. I can help you with that, even if I can't make you funny.)

MT said...

Thanks for posting your notes, Kim. I'll come back again for the one on research. :)

I admit I laughed at an old lady swearing in Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, but usually swearing is nowhere near funny to me. Blah.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I hadn't heard of these books either but that sounds like such a fun workshop and I'll definitely check those out now! Nice post!

Rachael Renee Anderson said...

Kim, you've got the perfect personality to write a fantastic book. You have a wonderful sense of humor, and you have a depth and sincerity that will really touch people. If you make that come out in your writing, you're book is going to be brilliant. That, I guarantee. Loved this post, by the way. Thanks! :)

L.T. Elliot said...

Oh, I ADORE Becca. She's truly so wonderful. She's not only good at funny, she's good at "moving." I love her books.

Heather B. Moore said...

I KNEW I should have gone to Becca's class. Darn :)

Amber said...

This is where I fail spectacularly. I cannot write funny. Arrgh. I guess this is where I need the most work.