Friday, December 12, 2014
Yeah, But Can You Make It Funny?
We writers take everything way too seriously. Not only should we enjoy life – and writing is a huge part of our lives, so by all means, let’s enjoy it – but: why is our writing so serious? People like humor. This was proved twenty years ago by Janet Evanovich, who stood the mystery-thriller genre on its head with her first book, One For The Money. Her squirrely heroine, Stephanie Plum, bungled her way through life, solving mysteries by accident and luck, and finding love along the way – and people by the millions bought her book. She has over thirty-five thousand followers on Twitter alone, and is still pumping out Stephanie Plum novels to legions of adoring fans.
Yes, I hear you. You say your book is non-fiction? Self-help even? Not the stuff of comedy, surely. And yet: everywhere I go, someone is recommending – nay, imploring that I read Write. Publish. Repeat, a non-fiction, how-to book for indie publishers. Excellent book, best-seller, chock full of information – and the authors wisecrack all the way to the bank.
Or, consider Exit Man, by Greg Levin. It’s a novel about a very unfunny subject: assisted suicide. Levin had the option of playing it straight, as his character questions his ability to do the job, the morality of helping people take their own lives, and the constant fear of being caught by the police. And he does play it straight, while also making ironic observations. A lot of ironic observations. As of this writing, he has twenty-one reviews on Amazon, the vast majority of them five star, and almost without exception readers highlight and appreciate the humor above all else.
Nelson DeMille, a successful author by any standard, writes mystery/thrillers. I’m reading his Panther right now, a grim tale about an Al Qaeda operator in Yemen who is wanted by U.S. anti-terror operations for plotting the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. John Corey, the main character, is a tough, no-nonsense ex-NYPD FBI agent. Well, he’s no-nonsense when he has to be, and he always gets his man, but there’s a lot of downtime on that no-nonsense stuff, and he fills it with wisecracks. Pages and pages of his snarky observations on people, places, things, and anything else that’s put in front of him. And we readers just keep reading his books.
I, too, am finding that when people reach out to tell me how much they enjoyed my book, it is the humor they mention first and foremost. And I’m listening.
The funny thing is, Seeing Eye didn’t start out be funny. Rory Wilson, the main character, does not see the humor in her situation. If anything, she’s depressed at being estranged from her family and angry at being cursed with a gift she doesn’t want – and that’s before the murders start happening. But, somehow, this ironic tone emerges that I’ve left in and even expanded upon. I didn’t think about it too much, to tell the truth, it just felt right. And I’m glad I did.
This advice isn’t for everyone, of course. If the normal reaction to your humor is eye-rolling or grimacing, tread carefully. I’m just saying, if you can pull it off, go ahead and jump in there – readers like it.
About Liz Marshall: She was born and raised in New York City, and moved to Phoenix to raise her children. Seeing Eye is her first book, written at the ripe old age of - well, she won't say, but it was a bit old. And very ripe. Prior to publishing her novel, Liz had a short story, Falling Into Place, published in the 2012 Desert Sleuths Sisters in Crime Anthology, and a poem, Woman Eye, Man Eye, published in the Winter 2012 Issue of Canyon Voices. She is currently working on the sequel to Seeing Eye - A Day at the Fair, to be titled “Seeing Eye – A Walk in the Park.” See: http://www.LizMarshall.Co Twitter: @elizmar987 www.facebook.com/AuthorLizMarshall
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014