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Friday, 29 November 2013

The Snarky Sarcasm Chromosome

Nic Tatano

"Do I look like a clown to you? Do I amuse you?" Joe Pesci's famous questions to Ray Liotta in the movie Goodfellas are valid when it comes to writing humor. Because there's no real definition of what's amusing and what isn't.

As a writer of romantic comedies, I try to draw on the three things that have shaped my personality: I'm Italian, I'm from the New York City area, and I work in the television news business. For me, writing snarky, sarcastic characters is easy because I'm a snarky sarcastic character in real life. I can't help it. Like Lady Gaga, I was born this way.

Growing up in a loud, sarcastic Italian family I learned early on that just about anything could bring on a snarky comment. If Mom overcooked something, Dad might say, "At least she didn't burn the salad." She'd get even if she caught him looking at his bald head in the mirror, with something like, "Hey, Mister Clean, it aint growin' back." During the Christmas family dinner my cousin gave it to the wealthier members of the clan. "Can whoever owns this garish Mercedes convertible move it? You're blocking my Ford Pinto."

Author Nic Tatano
And to a New Yorker, any simple question demands a smart-ass answer. Ask the average person for the time, he'll tell you. Ask a New Yorker, and you'll get an eye roll followed by, "What do I look like, Big Ben?" Of course there's the classic response to, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Answer: "Practice, practice, practice."

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Spotlight... Forever Fredless

A new contemporary romance 
Suzy Turner

Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday.

Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

Friday, 22 November 2013

The fun of Harry Potter

Mary E Twomey

Writing a comedy started out as a way to challenge myself. I had just finished a fantasy fiction space opera quadrilogy, Saga of the Spheres, and needed a bit of a laugh. I had never written a comedy before, but as I slipped into the genre, I found it to be incredibly relaxing. There were no megalomaniac plots to interweave. My cast of characters was cut in half. Plus, I had a wealth of humorous situations stored up from years of marriage. 

One thing that always manages to make my husband laugh is my impeccably bad aim. We spent a very long evening where he had me practice giving high-fives. After being smacked in the head, the neck, the shoulder, had his fingers bent back, and watched several total misses, he ruled the training session a flop. This scene made it into my comedy book, well after my pride (and my hubby) had healed. 

Another thing the people around me have learned is that I am, perhaps, too sensitive to animals. Aside from being a vegetarian, I burst into spontaneous tears if I drive by a particularly mangled bit of roadkill. This translated into one of the characters throwing miniature funerals for the poor animal they hit on their roadtrip across the country.

Needless to say, the jokes were piling up, and needed a place to go. Jack and Yani Love Harry Potter combined my two happy things: young adult fiction and ridiculous humor.
I adore Harry Potter. I also love a great many books in the booming young adult genre. If it’s got a vampire on the cover, I’m all over it. After reading the Iliad four times through high school and college (that’s right, four), I decided to cut myself a break and just read for fun. I devoured all things wizard, witch, vampire, superhero, angel and the like. We even throw an annual Harry Potter’s Birthday Party on July 31 every year. I wear my Luna Lovegood dress robes with my crazy blonde hair, and wish everyone a magical evening. I used to bring in cupcakes to work that had golden snitches and broomsticks on them to celebrate. It’s amazing how tolerant people will be to my theatrics, so long as there is cake involved. 

Yes, I’m in my thirties. No, that does not bother me or my ridiculous friends one bit. That’s the gem I’ve found in the people I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with. While they may not read the YA books that I adore, they can get into just about anything. I made sure to add to the novel a group of friends to egg on the two main characters, as all good friends should.

When searching for a plot for my comedy novel, I came across some great advice by Stephen King. He said to write what you know. I know Harry. I even have dress robes that make me look like Luna Lovegood all dressed up for a party. And so the plot of Jack and Yani Love Harry Potter was born. Yani is a girl obsessed with all things young adult fiction, which I could write without any further research needed. She gets to visit all the places she’s read about in her books. As I read and write, I smile and sigh with longing that one day I might be able to go on a similar young adult adventure of my own.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Comedy and Fun Excerpts

Bryan Taylor

When you think about fun, what is the first word that comes into your mind? Is it nuns? No? Most likely you never met the nuns in my novel, or you had to put up with nuns as teachers for twelve years in Catholic School, or both. As one person who read my novel put it, I never knew any nuns like that. To which I replied, what is it about the word fiction that you don’t understand?

Though I have written a book about three former nuns who do things most nuns would never think about doing, it isn’t from experience. I have never been a nun, since I am a man, and I have no background as a Catholic. My dad was a minister, and both my parents’ dads were ministers of the hellfire and brimstone Jesus-died-for-your-sins variety, which probably explains more than never having attended Catholic School. So as you can see, when I took that writing class and the teacher told me to write about what I knew, I didn’t listen to a word the teacher said.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Adding comedy to your manuscript whatever the genre

R.J. Crayton

Whatever genre people write in, there has to be a touch of comedy somewhere in the manuscript. Why? Because in real life, people try to make things funny. They do it because that’s their personality, or to break the tension, or to entice a lover, or because that’s what the situation calls for. Every person you have ever met has told a joke and had someone laugh at it. The computer nerd whose jargon everyone else ignores has friends who will laugh hysterically at some jargon-filled joke very few would find funny.

 So, if you want to infuse humor into your books in appropriate places but don’t feel you’re particularly humorous, don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to try to see the humorous side of things.

1. Try to look at things in a different light. The best comedy often comes from looking at things from a fresh perspective. My six-year-old daughter, for some reason, was looking at the milk carton, and turns to me with a look of utter horror on her face. “Mom, why is it only one percent milk? What is the rest of it?”  Yikes. She’d be right if the one percent referred to the milk content, not the milk fat content. (Sadly, in a bad mommy moment, I laughed hysterically at her question, causing her to look at me like I'd been conspiring to feed her 99 percent bat sweat for many years.) Regardless, a fresh look at something can often provide a wealth of comedy.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Minor Characters: Big Humor in Small Packages

Jayne Denker

I write romantic comedies—emphasis on the comedy part. I suppose I’d be able to write angst-filled dramas if I really tried, but I’ve always believed that if I’m going to spend many months crafting a decent story, and have a whole mess of characters taking up residence in my head, I might as well be laughing the entire time.

However, there’s one thing I’ve learned: The main character can’t have too much of the cray-cray. The reader is in that person’s head and expects to sympathize with her or him. If the main character is too weird, it alienates the reader.

So I reserve the highest level of insanity for the peripheral players. They can be there for pure comic relief, or they can play integral parts in the plot, or both, but whichever role you set for them, you—and they—have the freedom to make them as bizarro as you like, with fewer consequences.

I had a lot of fun writing my second book, Unscripted, about Faith Sinclair, a high-powered TV producer who gets fired from her own show. She’s fun, and crazy in her own way, but the people surrounding her are really off the rails—just the way I like it. She has a freeloading stepbrother, a domineering movie producer mother who will only drink “pure glacier water” (which Faith notes probably has mammoth poop in it), and Randy Barstow (also known as Randy Bastard), the sexist head of the TV network who swears so much he turns the air around him blue. Oh—and there’s Bea, a grouch of a studio gate guard who hates Faith on principle, a few air-headed actors whom Faith has to shepherd like wayward children, and others populating the story.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Every Woman - Whose A&& Is That?


Marylu Zuk with 


Filled with whimsical illustrations and witty rhyme, Whose A&& Is That? encourages women to laugh at our collective selves. Author Marylu Zuk reassures us that we are indeed perfect regardless of the size or shape of our buns. Whose A&& Is That? permits every woman to relax her abs, exhale, and laugh at what we rarely see - our own backsides! This quick read is a delightful gift for your female tribe - sisters, aunts, coworkers, and friends.

Reviewed in September: Ugly Reviews 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bringing the pain of real-life into fiction

Sad. Scary. Tragic. (But Funny!)
Francine LaSala

I got a call from an old friend the other day. We'd fallen out of touch over the years, but she reached out when she'd heard I'd been through a significant loss. We spoke for a while, sharing memories and getting caught up.

Then she told me the thing I most needed to hear. "Francine," she said, "I know you're going to come through this. Your sense of humor always pulls you through."

77p/99c for ONE week only (ending November 8th) 
I thanked her, as you do when people say seemingly absurd things to you at times such as these. And then I thought about what she'd said and why she'd said it.

I have always been in the awkward habit of laughing when I hear terrible news. Not all terrible news, but those things that are so terrible that sorrow somehow doesn't seem appropriate. That giggling (yes, crazy), somehow makes more sense. It's not schadenfreude. Maybe it is schadenfreude. But whatever it is, it's the defense mechanism that gets me through.

I do it in writing, too. All of my books--the two that are published, and the ones that are in progress and will be published next year--have all been born from some pain or loss. For Rita Hayworth's Shoes, it was the heartache of a boyfriend's betrayal. For The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything, it was the fear of financial ruin, dread of the dentist--among other things. No one would ever call my books "tragic"; they're all totally screwball and silly! Yet they center on various plights of the human condition. Laced with laughs.

I don't think you need to be sick in the head like me to find the humor in any given situation, and then weave that humor into your own stories. Sometimes you can do it with a situation; sometimes with a kooky character you bring in to the situation to help break the tension. The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is peppered with these characters. There's Char-a'tee Pryce, who continually mocks protagonist Mina Clark for allowing the world to roll over her. There's neighbor Harriet Saunders, who takes all of Mina's "bad mother" anxiety and flips it on its ear. (I wrote a character piece for Louise Wise a few months back that will give you a taste of just how kooky Harriet is.

What I've come to learn is that in any horrible situation, there is the possibility to laugh. To take "Turn that frown upside down" to the extreme in your life and in your books. It feels good to laugh. It pulls you (and your characters) out of the gloom and doom; it helps you take a step back and detach so you can breathe.

Friday, 1 November 2013

How to mix comedy into your writing

Alison Morton

Why do we laugh, giggle or grin? Or even give a little smile?

Perhaps it’s nervous relief we’re not in the other person’s dilemma and feeling their pain or maybe an instinctive reaction to being in an awkward situation ourselves. Sociologists, linguists and biologists say that our ability to laugh and desire to do so isn’t all fun and games, but actually serves two essential life functions: to bond with members of our “tribe,” and to lessen tension and anxiety. And let’s not discount wishing to look clever or impress somebody or to look like part of the cool crowd.

Unlike stand-up comedy, written humour is often subtle. Some may smile, but most people don’t laugh out loud when they’re reading. A stand-up comic has a huge advantage over writers; a comic can incorporate facial expressions, body language, gestures, and vocal inflections to reinforce their delivery. Writers only have wit, words, and the rhythm of the language. But if well-written, humour enhances how much we like what we’re reading and how well we remember it afterwards.

So how can writers do this?

Juxtaposition - Dragons getting smashed out of their minds and flying with a hangover the next morning, the tarty-looking girl speaking with an upper crust accent, a trucker quoting Hamlet.

Timing – As important on the written page as in stand-up. Don’t let the joke, witty remark fall into the scene until the end; string it out as long as you dare, but don’t let it lose its snappiness. Remember how effective punch lines are. And try to arrange the sentence so that the funny word or phrase falls at the end. If it’s the last thing readers see, a funny sounding word strengthens the memory of the joke in their mind.

Characterisation - Remember your characters are real people and why people use comedy in real life. This will round out your characters, make them far more human and let the reader connect with them more easily. Nobody likes poker-faced, hundred per cent driven and serious people – they’re rather boring…

Appropriateness and tone – Is your story the place for dry humour, wittiness, exaggeration, euphemism, understatement, knockabout, sarcasm or misdirected dialogue? Decide on the comic tone appropriate to your characters and, importantly, to your reading audience.

Integration – Weave the humour into the dialogue, speech tags, description and thoughts. Make it reveal something about the characters or push the story forward. These four lines immediately build an impression of the characters and their relationship, then lead to the next scene with anticipation of danger.

Crafty bastard. I gave him a dirty look. Lurio would never let me forget it if I gave in now. I also wanted to have the edge over Conrad.

‘You know full well I’ll do it,’ I grumped. ‘Just don’t get me killed.’

Lurio laughed. I smiled back in a sour way.

(Extract from INCEPTIO)
Avoiding author interference - Let the characters and situations be funny, don't try and inject ‘funny’ e.g. ‘he laughed uproariously’. Use reaction in others as one of the main reflectors of the humour, e.g. how a wittier person reacts to the words of somebody suffering from a humour bypass, such as Lizzie’s reaction to Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice.