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  • Comedy Writing: How to Add Humor to Your Book

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    Books - Perfect Bound, Self-publishing

    Knowing how to write comedy is a skill. You can use comedy writing to add humor to any book, even if it’s not a funny book. Adding humor, where proper, makes your book more enjoyable to read and adds some brightness to dark subjects. How do you write comedy if you’re not naturally funny? Here are some tips any writer can use.

    Every Book Needs a Little Comedy

    Comedy writing is a specific skill. It’s not easy to write a book, or even an essay, which makes the reader laugh from the first word to the last. You may not be planning to write this type of book. However, any book can use a touch of humor in the right places. Knowing the principles of comedy writing will help you add those touches where you think they’re needed.

    Understand the Various Types of Comedy Writing

    There are several types of comedy writing that fall into this category. Knowing more about them will help you write comedy that makes your readers smile.

    Stand-up comedy

    Stand-up comics always need jokes. While the best-known comics write their own material, even successful comics need joke writers to fill the gaps or add material that’s missing from their acts. If you can write jokes that make the whole audience laugh, you can have a successful career. You may even take the next step and try your luck as a stand-up.

    Comedy Writing for TV

    Funny scriptwriters are the people who make you laugh on popular TV shows and in the movies. Comedy on TV ranges from live skit shows like Saturday Night Live and Whose Line Is It to scripted shows like Two and a Half Men or That Seventies Show. Although they may tackle the occasional serious subject, these shows make people laugh.

    A new, popular type of TV comedy is the show that’s a combination of scripts, improvisation, and reality show. They focus on real-life people and situations while placing them in ridiculous situations. Two successful examples are Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage.

    Comical movies

    Comic movies are enormously popular, and good comedy writing can take a screenwriter far in Hollywood. Popular comedy styles come and go, and certain eras are known for that style. The 1990s are considered the golden age of romantic comedies (rom coms). The 1930s and 1940s brought us screwball comedies like It Happened One Night and The Philadelphia Story.

    Other popular styles are slapstick movies, such as Dumb & Dumber, parodies like Scary Movie and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, or satirical movies like Clueless or Burn After Reading.

    Comic novels

    There are many humorous novels. Some use the same themes as comic movies, employing romance, slapstick, and witty dialogue to create novels that make readers laugh. Comedy writing that stays light-handed and enjoyable is a skill, and it’s one that some successful writers have mastered.

    Examples of comic novels include the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, the Dead-End Job mystery series by Elaine Viets, and the Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse. These writers are so skilled at comedy writing that their readers demanded book after book, which led to best-selling series. If you want to write comedy, get familiar with the best comedic writers.

    Humorous essay

    In essay collections, writers give us their humorous takes on life, the world, and their personal struggles. These essays combine insight and humor to create memorable, punchy short articles. Some good examples of the humorous essay are I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, Me Talk Pretty One Day by Dave Sedaris, and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace.


    Satirical fiction tends to be darker and more likely to tackle serous subjects. Some well-known satirical novels are Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen, and Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.

    4 Comedy Writing Tips to Add Humor to Any Book

    Are you ready to write comedy that works with your book? Here are four comedy writing tips to try.

    1. Create one funny character

    In a novel, you can use one character as the “clown” or comic foil of the story. Every time that character appears, readers know they can expect something humorous. It might be that the character always makes bad jokes, has a habit of punning, or regularly gets into funny situations.

    A comical character can make dark scenes easier for the reader to get through. It’s also fun for you as a writer to create.

    In Stephen King’s classic horror novel It, the character Richie Tozier is a weakling who complains about everything. At the end of a terrifying battle with the evil clown, he realizes that he’s the only one who can save his friend Bill. Richie delivers a tirade complaining about everything Bill has put him through and concludes, “And now I’m going to have to kill this [expletive] clown.” Amid all the horror, it’s a hilarious line that shows Richie has grown in courage and is ready to face death to save his friend.

    If your book feels like it’s getting bogged down in seriousness or darkness, have the character come in, deliver some laughs, and lighten the mood.

    2. Add something unexpected

    When you write a description of a person or place, add an unexpected comic detail. Some experts in comedy writing suggest using the rule of three items. In your list, use two items that are logical and one that is odd and unexpected.

    For instance, if you’re describing the contents of a child’s backpack, you might write, “It contained what you might expect in a kid’s backpack: Candy, schoolbooks, and a rapidly melting popsicle.” The melting popsicle is an offbeat twist, and it also sets up a situation where the backpack has created a mess. You can use that as a plot point or a point that adds color to a character.

    Don’t go overboard and do this for every description. If you do, you’ll sound repetitive. Use it occasionally for the best effect.

    3. Deliver a setup and payoff

    To add a humorous note to any story, think of a situation you might set up at the beginning of the book that pays off later. This payoff will come at the end and offer both resolution and a laugh.

    For instance, if your character is a food snob who only eats the finest meals, your payoff could involve them chowing happily down on fast food. How they got there could be a plot point that runs through the entire story. You can use this technique on the main character or the secondary one. It injects a funny note into the story that lets readers end the book with a smile.

    4. Create extreme contrasts

    Comedy writing often depends on setting up extreme contrasts. For instance, a character might have a belief or a love of something that goes far beyond what we might think of as normal. That character might behave as though their excessive love or need for something is perfectly normal, even if other people don’t see it that way.

    You can write comedy that uses that to good effect when writing scenes or dialogue.

    What is an example of extreme contrasts? Here’s one from humorist Dave Barry: “It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”

    Write Comedy Into Any Book

    Any book, even a book on a serious topic, can benefit from some comedy writing. To learn how to write comedy, study the best humorous writers, and try to incorporate their techniques into your writing. It will make the writing more fun for you and for your readers.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on comedy writing. When you’re ready to print your book, talk to Dazzle Printing.


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