In writing the humorous mystery series, The Accidental
Detective, I explored different types of humor in writing. My previous posts
addressed physical comedy, quirky characters, and wordplay, including puns.
Today let’s explore my favorite: observational humor, such as comments about
the oddity of life.
This kind of humor is the hardest – or maybe the easiest. It
really depends on whether you make these kinds of wry observations yourself.
If so, you merely need to let your inner snark out. I don’t really think of
myself as a funny person, because I don’t tell jokes or funny stories. I’m not
the “life of the party.” The idea of stand-up comedy terrifies me.
And yet, both my agent and my editor said they laughed a lot
when reading Something
Shady at Sunshine Haven. It’s not that I use a lot of jokes and
slapstick, but rather that Kate makes witty observations about life, the way I
do. I tend to keep those thoughts in my mind, or else drop a quiet comment in a group chat. Then, chances are one person will catch my eye with the amused
look that says, “I saw what you did there.” Everyone else will keep on
But in a book, the reader is right there in the character’s
head, at least if you’re in first person POV or close third person viewpoint.
That gives your audience a better chance to catch those subtle humorous
Here are a few examples from Something Shady. They
probably work better in context, but hopefully you can see why my editor
flagged them as places that made her chuckle. Then keep reading for some
examples written in third person POV.
I put my free hand on her arm. “I
understand. We’ll find the truth.”
Heather nodded and opened the door. I
felt her watching as I limped down the hall. I must look more like one of her
patients than like a source of answers.
Stop it. It’s not all about you.
Most of the people in this building
had it worse than I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t take comfort in knowing other
people were suffering too.
Still, I could help Heather, and
the patients, by uncovering the truth. If Heather’s suspicious were right, I
might even save a life or two, if only to give them a few more months of dying
What a heroic job I had.
I lifted the mug and simply inhaled
the scent for a minute. The whole ‘breathe in and out’ part of meditation was
more interesting with a delicious smell.
I described the strange phone call from Henry Wilson.
Heather frowned. “I can’t believe Henry
would do that. It’s totally inappropriate for any board member to call you like
that. He could get in a lot of trouble. He could get us in a lot of trouble.
And Henry is one of the good ones. There are board members I . . . have mixed
feelings about, but Henry isn’t one of them.”
“Maybe I’ll go see him in person
tomorrow,” I said. “If he’s hiding something, a direct assault might push him
to do something stupid and reveal himself.”
“When you say it that way, it
I shrugged. “I’ve interviewed
warlords. I think I can handle one . . . what is he, in his regular life?”
“He owns a chain of local grocery
Sure, war criminal, drug lord, grocer.
All dangerous people one should avoid.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t gossip!” June
lowered her voice. “Please don’t get me in trouble. I wouldn’t do anything to
hurt anyone here, honestly.”
I didn’t entirely trust anyone who
felt the need to use “honestly” that often, but if she had mentioned my meeting
to someone, she was too frightened to admit it. Maybe I should have tried a
gentler approach. After all, she was a young American office worker, not a
suspected terrorist or military commander.
Did I know any gentler approaches?
None came to mind.
Shady at Sunshine Haven: War correspondent Kate Tessler has
followed the most dangerous news stories around the world. But can she survive
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What about writing in third person?
My brother and I are
writing a romantic comedy series featuring teen “Felony Melanie”
before the events of the movie Sweet Home Alabama. In Felony
Melanie in Pageant Pandemonium, Melanie wants to qualify for the Miss
Alabama Princess Pageant, because the prize could be her ticket out of Pigeon
Creek. These first brief excerpts are the morning of the qualifying pageant,
after Melanie has had a late and eventful night:
had to rally. She forced herself out of bed with one big heave. Stumbled to the
bathroom. Her teeth felt fuzzy as peach skin. Her eyes were red-veined marbles
in sooty sockets, and her tangled hair could be hiding any number of bird’s
nests. She stuck out her tongue at her reflection. Some beauty queen. No
doubt about it, the bill from yesterday had come due.
took a deep breath to clear her head and set to work on her makeup. She added
one more application of eye drops that promised to reduce redness. She blotted
her eyes with tissues, gently pulled down her bottom lashes, and ran white
eyeliner along the inner rim. That was supposed to make eyes look “radiant.”
She was hoping for “awake and sober.”
And during the pageant:
shifted into her pageant voice – a hint of southern lilt but proper grammar and
precise diction. “I’m Melanie Smooter, sixteen years old, from Pigeon Creek,
As if y’all didn’t already
know that. The next part
was harder. She had to say something about herself – and she couldn’t fudge it
since everybody knew her. She and Lurlynn had worked for hours on this,
giggling the whole time, but in the end even Melanie’s mama approved it.
always a girl on the go, working my hardest to leave my mark on my community.”
few chuckles came from the audience.
Her statement was the honest to God truth.
love fashion, football –” and one football player in particular – “and I aim to
make my hometown proud one day.”
getting the heck out of there and showing what a Pigeon Creek girl could do in
the real world.
As you can see, even in third person, staying close to the
character’s point of view lets you add their humorous way of seeing the world
to your story.
the Amazon series page for Felony Melanie: Sweet Home Alabama romantic
comedy novels. Sign up for our Rom-Com
newsletter and get Felony Melanie Destroys the Moonshiner’s Cabin.
These first two chapters from the novel Felony Melanie in Pageant
Pandemonium stand alone as a short story
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