Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Make 'Em Laugh

You can’t cry if you’re laughing. That fact alone is reason enough to read and write humor. However, I have dozens of folks ask how I can write something that is funny and how can they imitate it. I’m not sure I have a cut and dry answer for you. All I can tell you is what I do.

First, it helps that I’m from the southern U.S. Southerners can be naturally funny. Why? Because we have interesting drawls and sayings, a penchant for story-telling and a long colorful history from which one can draw material.

My mother grew up in the country in south central Virginia. Most of her family members were highly optimistic, very religious and family-oriented. These people didn’t know a stranger and welcomed anyone who wished to come to dinner or just to visit. Growing up around these people helped me. All I had to do was observe. If I had to give advice to writers who wish to write humor, I’d say that’s number one on the list. Observe and catalogue away vignettes you have seen.

Let me give you an example. Once in the eighties, a friend and I walked into my aunt’s kitchen. My friend was wearing a short skirt with hot pants under it, a fashion trend popular for the day. My aunt took one look at her, and in a chipper voice, she said. “What a cute little short skirt. What’s under it?” She lifted the skirt up without a word of permission and said, “Short shorts. Wouldn’t I have been embarrassed if there hadn’t been anything there?”

She’d made her point without one scolding word, and the episode made us both laugh.

How about sayings? I used many colorful ones in my book, Coming to Climax, releasing from Turquoise Morning Press in September as well as in my co-authored book, Slam Sisters of Serendipity, releasing in June from Eternal Press.

Here are some examples:

Butter my butt and call me a biscuit.

Cuter than a sack full of puppies

Well hit me up the side of the head with a two-by-four.

A newcomer to the area would be spotted faster than a streetwalker in the choir.


The other thing you need to do is listen to conversations, especially between men and women, and most especially married couples and lovers. Note that many married couples communicate in non-verbal cues, and some, who have been married long enough, can even ignore their partners, especially men of the species.

Here’s a short excerpt from a novella WIP, Buried in Briny Bay, where the married woman and her sister need to speak with her husband about something:

“Do we dare interrupt him on Monday afternoon?”

Trixie grinned. “Honey, it doesn’t matter if it’s his day off. You can’t talk to Floyd unless you interrupt him. His concentration on the TV screen is amazing. It comes close to deep hypnosis. I wish he’d concentrate on me that much when we were making love, not that I remember when the last time was. Honestly, why I listened to the other cheerleaders in high school, I have no idea. I should have guessed since his last name was Frye, but I swear they said he was a real stud, not spud. Now I have my own couch potato.”

“Guess when they said small Frye, you thought they were talking about children.” Roxie giggled.

Trixie sighed. “That part is not a laughing matter. Let’s go see what Floyd can do to help.”

They got up and rounded the corner to the hall. Minutes later, they entered the man cave. Wall-to-wall leather, low-lighting and a big screen TV. Just Floyd in a room with theatre seating, languishing on his “throne” with a remote glued to his right hand.

“Sugar plum, Roxie has a problem.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Floyd’s eyes stayed fixed to the screen.

“Does he hear us?” Roxie stared up at Trixie. “Besides the murmur, I didn’t see any recognition, not even a flinch.”

Trixie sighed again. “Honey, he heard us, just doesn't want to answer. I thought the fact someone besides me needed help would register. I should have known better. The man is currently absorbed into the screen. We have to try something more desperate to get his attention.” Trixie cleared her throat and raised her voice. “Sugar, I was thinking of making some popcorn. What do you think?”

His head turned. “Great sweetheart. Plenty of butter.”

“You have to be quick,” Trixie said to Roxie in a low voice. “Hit while his focus is off the action.” In a louder voice, she addressed her hubby. “Right, will do. Look, before you go back to the show, we need your help.”

“Make it quick.” Floyd turned in his chair. “Gold Fever.”

“It’s also a re-run. I’ve seen them pan that river before.”

“Best of the Best. Whatcha need?”

I hope you also noticed the play on words here. Hope I’ve given you food for thought and would love any questions.

Bobbye

4 comments:

Liz Fichera said...

"Butter my butt and call me a biscuit."

That made me howl! I must remember that.

I love the south and southerners. A couple of summers ago, we vacationed in Alabama. Whenever we went into a restaurant, we were greeted by people like we were old friends. I loved it.

Susan Hatler said...

I laughed aloud on that one, too, Liz! :)

Tina said...

I'm lucky enough to come from a Southern family too -- the only problem is now everybody finishes their anecdotes with "And you'd better not be puttin' that in some book, you hear me?"

Bobbye Terry said...

You guys are too funny. Liz, if you like how they treat you in restaurants, you'll love my new novella I'm writing, "Buried in Briny Bay." One of the MCs owns a diner called Happy Daze. More sayings to come. Susan, nice to see you here.
;0) Tina,you're fortunate they haven't asked you to write a book with their "well-crafted" plot.
Bobbye