Friday, April 29, 2022

Writing Humor: Wordplay, jokes and puns #Writingtip #amwriting #writing #Comedy

In writing the humorous mystery series The Accidental Detective, I explored different types of humor writing. My previous posts addressed physical comedy and quirky characters. Today let’s explore wordplay, including puns, with one example from Something Shady at Sunshine Haven and another from Felony Melanie in the Big Smashup.

Wordplay is simply the manipulation of language with the intent to amuse. Types include Double Entendres ("I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” (Mae West), Tongue Twisters, Malapropisms (the mistaken use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, to humorous effect, as in “A rolling stone gathers no moths.”) and Puns. While some of these forms of humor may be disparaged, they were good enough for Shakespeare.

 A pun is a joke that depends on a play on words. It typically involves a word that has several meanings or sounds like a different word. Some people love puns and some people hate them, but even those who love puns agree that the best ones get the audience to groan. Some books, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are filled with puns. Cozy mysteries often have a pun in the title, as in Becky Clark’s Police Navidad and Punning with Scissors. Children often enjoy puns, so you’ll find books such as Bruce Hale’s Chet Gecko Series that are packed full of them.

For most of us, a few puns go a long way, but they can add a chuckle to any story. Here’s an example from Something Shady at Sunshine Haven. Kate has had to admit to her father that she’s investigating suspicious deaths at the nursing home where Kate’s mother now lives. He wants to help and thinks the other senior men in his coffee group would also help.

“If I . . . if we can reduce the list of people to investigate, we can focus on the most likely culprits,” I said. “That does mean more internet research but also talking to people or maybe following them.”

“I can help with that. In fact, all the fellows could help. They’d like to, I’m sure.”

Uh-oh, what had I started? “Dad, it has to be confidential.”

“We don’t have to tell them everything. We can ask them to follow specific people, find out certain things. They won’t ask why if we say it’s a secret. The men in my coffee group may be old retired guys, but we have a lot of life experience. And a lot of free time.”

Having a whole group of helpers might save time and effort, or it might turn the investigation into a Keystone Cops comedy. “I don’t want to put anyone in danger.”

“I’ll make sure they understand, but we’ve survived this long. Most of them will think it’s fun, being private detectives for a while.”

I pictured a bunch of seniors in trench coats and fedoras. “Sherlock Holmes had his Baker Street Irregulars, the ragtag kids who gathered information for him. I get an old guys brigade?”

“We could call ourselves the Coffee Shop Irregulars.” He chuckled. “Although at our age, we spend a lot of time trying to be ‘regular’!”

Men. No matter how old they got, they still loved a poop joke.

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? Get a free Accidental Detective short story and bonus material when you sign up for my newsletter. Find the book:

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The Teenage Adventures of Felony Melanie series is based on characters from the movie Sweet Home Alabama. People in the South enjoy a lot of humorous sayings, which means that my cowriter and I can draw on those sayings or make up our own.

Here’s an excerpt from Felony Melanie in the Big Smashup, where the girls are annoyed that sexism is keeping Melanie from participating in the junior demolition derby: 

Melanie glared back toward the cabin [at the junkyard]. The porch was empty, so either the boys had gone inside with Mr. Hopkins, or he’d taken them in another direction to find the parts they needed. “Grumpy old fart,” she muttered. “I’ll show them a thing or two.”

“Don’t let it bother you,” Dorothea said. “As my grandpa would say, old man Hopkins is a turd in a punch bowl.”

“My mama likes to say folks like him have the personality of a dishrag,” Lurlynn said.

Melanie started to smile. “He’s as windy as a sack full of farts.”

“He’s so country he thinks a seven-­course meal is a possum and a six-pack,” Dorothea added.

Pretty soon, the girls were shrieking with laughter. Melanie hoped Jake heard it all the way to wherever he’d gone.

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

For most forms of writing, it’s probably best not to get carried away with puns. Still, puns and other wordplay can pump up the giggles in a humorous novel and add fun to any kind of writing. Once you start to tune into this kind of language play, opportunities may jump out at you. You can find more extensive articles on writing puns and other wordplay, such as this one from Masterclass.

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