Bring in the Clowns! Writing with Humor

When I was asked by our writer's group to speak and teach on humor, I was surprised. What did I know about humor? I was writing humor, but not sure how I did it. I thought I had just fallen into another voice. Well, surprise! I had and I did.


I am a humorous writer and didn't know it. People who have been reading my weekly column with the SUN Newspaper for many years tell me they love my funny pieces. That was an unexpected twist. I wondered why they thought my articles were funny.


I basically was following principles for writing funny, but I didn't know what those principles were. In fact, I didn't know there were principles involved for writing humor.


In preparation for this mission impossible, "teach how to write humor." I learned that anyone can write funny if they understand the principles of humor. By the time I finished researching how to write humor, I had thirty pages of typed notes. I didn't realize how much I didn't know about humor, and yet I was doing it.


If you had asked me what humor was, I would have immediately thought of a stand-up comic or telling a joke. I learned quickly that neither applied in writing humor.  Stand-up comics rely on timing, facial expressions and a quick punch line. Telling a joke in a written piece does not work.


So what works in writing humor?


1.  Decide how valuable humor is to your writing and how much better your writing is with humor than without.

2.  You have to see that it is funny. If you don't think it's funny, the reader will not think it's funny.

3.  Let yourself be funny. Get over yourself and be willing to sound stupid. What you think is stupid, someone else will think is genius.

4.  Learn principles that make your writing funny.

5.  Timing is everything.

6.  Write concise. The tighter your writing is, the better the humor.

7.  Humor must deepen your characters.

8.  Surprise at the end.

9.  Make the moment. Bring the reader into the moment, and then enjoy it.

10. Use these expressions, saving the absurdity for the end.


These are just a few principles for writing humor. It takes a little cranking up, forgetting about oneself and becoming involved with the piece of writing. I believe writers must dare to become funny. When they do, they will bring in the clowns.