I have the awesome part one of Humor Writing from Leila Sales. I hope you enjoy.
Above all else, Mostly Good Girls is a funny book. I gave copies of an early draft to three different friends and asked them to mark every place where they laughed aloud. Whenever there was a page that none of them had marked, I would go in and fix it to make it funnier. That is how important it was to me to have a laugh line on every page.
Humor writing takes instinct, for sure, and I would never claim that I always get it right. That said, I did three years of improv and sketch comedy with a troupe called Off-Off Campus, and I used to write a humor column for my college newspaper and over the years I’ve learned a lot of rules for being funny. On my blog tour, I’m going to share with you a few of my best humor writing tools and tricks. Starting with:
1. “YES, AND.”
Agreement is your number one tool for getting a scene off the ground and making it be funny. If one character says, “Let’s go explore the abandoned library!” and the other character says, “No,” then, um, that’s it. Your scene just ended. But if one character says, “Let’s go explore the abandoned library!” and the other replies, “Yes, and let’s bring our ghost-finding apparatus!” then your story just got the opportunity to go somewhere.
More to the point, this is a rule about all the characters agreeing to exist fully in this world. There’s a scene in Mostly Good Girls called “The Candy and Tampon Locker,” and it talks about the communal all-class locker that’s filled with candy. And tampons. This concept would be a lot less funny if Violet and Katie kept being like, “This is really weird. Why do we have a Candy and Tampon Locker in our school?” (Even though, of course, it is really weird.) It’s funny because they all just go with it, like, “Obviously we have a Candy and Tampon Locker; otherwise, where would we go every time we need Sour Patch Kids? And tampons?”
Unfortunately, since I wasn’t man enough to own up to being the tampon thief, we all got the benefit of Mischa’s lecture. “What if somebody got her period, and there were no tampons in this locker?” Mischa asked us, rhetorically. “Would you just let her bleed all over the floor?”
Rachel’s face paled, and she looked like she was going to puke. I felt the exact same way. I’m all for the female empowerment fostered at all-girls’ schools, but sometimes I really wish Westfield were co-ed because I think if we had guys here we wouldn’t talk so often about menstrual blood.
Mischa’s so picky, anyway. It’s not like the Candy and Tampon Locker was completely empty. There was totally a half-full bag of Rollos in there.
Last thing on agreement: I have found that it’s almost always funnier to be excited about something than it is to be disparaging. Some of my best humor pieces have been about how I love Degrassi, or cider donuts, or Jock Jams. No one is interested in hearing that you hate doing homework. We all hate doing homework. But if you were super-excited about doing homework, well, that’s an opportunity to be funny.