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 talking.
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 comments.
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 slowly.
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 sounds dangerous.”
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 stores.”
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.
Something Shady at Sunshine Haven: War correspondent Kate Tessler has followed the most dangerous news stories around the world. But can she survive going home?
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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:
Melanie 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.
Melanie 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:
And during the pageant:
Melanie 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, Alabama.”
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.
“I’m always a girl on the go, working my hardest to leave my mark on my community.”
A few chuckles came from the audience.
What? Her statement was the honest to God truth.
“I love fashion, football –” and one football player in particular – “and I aim to make my hometown proud one day.”
By 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.
Visit 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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