I am excited to share with you hints from guest blogger–Celia Bonaduce–about Writing Funny, something I’m working on. Celia and I met several years ago at the Writer’s Academy at WTAMU in Canyon, Texas. After that class, our group remained together, forming Jodi’s Pioneers in honor of Jodi Thomas who brought us together. Though our group is scattered across the country, Celia in California, me in Georgia, and everyone else between us, our group gathers once a year to read, write and critique.
A definition for funny: causing amusement or provoking laughter
Synonyms: comic, witty, humorous,
By Celia Bonaduce
Being “funny” is probably the most subjective of all writing skills. Whether Hemmingway is more to your taste than Fitzgerald, you’d probably at least give both – “Yeah, they’re pretty good writers. “ But do you like Chelsea Handler? Zach Galifanikis? Sarah Silverman? Or are you old school – Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen De Generes, Steve Martin or even MORE old school, Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis? Whatever your taste in humor, you are probably more judgmental – “I just don’t think he or she is funny.” End of discussion.
One day, when I was in high school, my English teacher, Miss Hillbrook, stopped me in the hallway. She peered at me suspiciously and said “Ms. Etheridge says you’re funny.” Since Ms. Etheridge was my creative writing teacher, I was thrilled by this assessment. I beamed modestly and prepared to head down the hall, but Miss Hillbrook continued to stare me down. I waited. Finally, she folded her arms and said, “Say something funny.”
It helps to be funny by nature, but even so, not everyone is going to get you. And luckily, when it comes to writing a humorous scene in a novel, you don’t have to be a joke writer or comedian. While I would not be handing Hemmingway or Fitzgerald the Hasty Pudding Award, when it comes to writing a funny scene, it’s better to go with F. Scott’s approach. The most important rule in writing a funny bit is this: flesh out the scene.
Note the details in the paragraph about Miss Hillbrook. Lots and lots of detailed imagery. Miss Hillbrook “peered at me suspiciously” , I “beamed modestly”, she “stared me down”. Helping the reader visualize what I was experiencing is what sets the tone for the scene. The wording also stretches the scene, creating tension. Hopefully, the structure of the paragraph involves the reader and when Miss Hillbrook’s demands that I be funny, the audience sympathizing with me as I am faced with an absurd request from an authority figure.
Timing is everything…but a few great adjectives and dramatic flare can’t hurt. You’re a writer – you’ve got this.
Celia Bonaduce has been floating around the entertainment industry for years, dipping her toes in lifestyle and reality TV, children’s programming and how-to articles and books. She recently worked for ABC’s EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION and is currently a television producer/director for HGTV’s HOUSE HUNTERS.
And, for those of you who know Celia, see if you can spot her in this video.
How do you write funny?