Humor in writing – effects, techniques, examples

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Does humor in writing help book sales?  Points to consider while incorporating humor in fiction writing. What books to read to hone your humor writing skills? 

Introducing humor in your writing: 

Humor in writing can be introduced in a variety of ways, such as using puns, irony, satire, and wordplay. Incorporating relatable and unexpected situations or characters can also add a comedic element to the story. It’s also important to consider the audience and what they may find funny. Remember to use humor in moderation and not overdo it, as it can detract from the overall tone and message of the writing.

How humor helps the reader

One study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people who read humor scored higher on measures of well-being and had a more positive outlook on life than those who did not.

Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. Humorous books were found to be particularly effective in reducing stress levels.

Humor can also be beneficial for people dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that laughter and humor can increase the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Humor can also help to change negative thought patterns and provide a new perspective on difficult situations, which can be beneficial for people.

Examples of different types of humor that can be used in writing:

  1. Puns: “I used to be a baker, but I couldn’t make enough dough.”
  2. Irony: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
  3. Satire: “The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.” (Oscar Wilde)
  4. Wordplay: “Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything.”
  5. Relatable Situations: A character getting stuck in a porta-potty.
  6. Unexpected characters: A talking dog as the narrator of the story.
Example of Wordplay-
Example of Wordplay – Hasty Stories

Points to consider when incorporating humor in fiction writing –

Audience: It’s important to know who your audience is and what type of humor they will find funny and appropriate. What might be hilarious to one group of people may not resonate with another

Tone: Humor should be used in a way that supports the overall tone and message of the story. It should not detract from the story or make the story less serious than it needs to be.

Characterization: Humor can be used to create memorable and likable characters. Incorporating a sense of humor into a character’s personality can make them more relatable and engaging for readers.

Timing: The timing of the humor is important, it should be used in a way that adds to the story, not to interrupt it.

Mix of humor types: Using a mix of different types of humor, such as puns, irony, satire, and wordplay can make the humor more varied and interesting.

Be careful with the humor: Humor can be a tricky thing to pull off, and if it’s not done well it could turn off potential readers. Make sure to use humor in moderation and avoid offensive or insensitive jokes.

Relevance: Humor should be relevant to the story and characters, it shouldn’t feel forced or out of place.

Don’t overdo it: Humor should be used in a way that supports the overall tone and message of the story, and not overdo it. Overuse of humor can make the story feel less serious and make it harder for readers to become emotionally invested in the story and characters.

Does humor help in sales?

Humor can certainly be a selling point for a book, as it can make the reading experience more enjoyable and relatable for readers. Humorous books can also help readers to relax and escape from their daily lives. Humor can also help to create a memorable and likable protagonist, which can be a great way to connect with readers and create a loyal fanbase.

However, it’s important to note that humor is not a guarantee of success. The book’s content and story, and the overall quality of the writing are still the most important factors in determining its success. Humor can also be a tricky thing to pull off, and if it’s not done well it could turn off potential readers.

A book’s sales can be affected by many other factors such as its genre, marketing, and the author’s reputation and platform. It’s difficult to isolate the effect of humor on book sales without taking into account these other factors.

It’s also important to remember that different readers have a different senses of humor, what one person finds funny another may not. So it’s important to keep in mind that the humor that you include in your book should not be offensive to any particular group of people and it must be in line with the theme of the book.

Books that may be helpful for learning how to incorporate humor in writing:

  1. “Humor Writing” by Steve Allen – This book is written by the creator and original host of “The Tonight Show” and covers different types of humor, from puns to satire, as well as how to write jokes and comedic material.
  2. “The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom – The Comedy Writer’s Ultimate “How To” Guide” by Judy Carter – This book covers various aspects of comedy writing and includes tips and exercises for developing a comedic voice and writing stand-up, sitcoms, and more.
  3. “The Humor Writer” by Bradley Trevor Greive – This book is written by a bestselling author and comedian, and provides insights and advice on how to inject humor into writing, including fiction, non-fiction, and speeches.
  4. “The Comedy Writer’s Handbook” by Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland – This book provides a comprehensive guide to comedy writing, including the history of comedy, the different types of comedy, and practical advice on how to write jokes and comedic material.
  5. “Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America” by Kliph Nesteroff – This book examines the history of American comedy, from vaudeville to stand-up, and provides insights into the craft of comedy writing.

By keeping these points in mind, you can use humor in a way that adds to your story, rather than detracting from it. It is not a guarantee of success. Remember, humor is a great way to connect with readers and make a story more memorable and enjoyable, but it should be used in conjunction with a well-crafted story and good writing.

Books with different levels and types of humor

Here are a few examples of books that have incorporated humor, sarcasm, satire, comedy, and absurdity and have been well-received by readers and critics:

  1. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller – This classic satirical novel is set during World War II and follows the characters of the fictional 256th Squadron as they struggle to survive the absurdity of war and bureaucracy.
  2. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – This science fiction comedy series follows the adventures of an unwitting human and his alien friend as they travel through space and encounter strange and absurd situations.
  3. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger – This coming-of-age novel follows the story of Holden Caulfield, a teenage boy who has been expelled from school and is struggling to find his place in the world. It is a story with a lot of irony and sarcasm.
  4. “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole – This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a comedic masterpiece that follows the misadventures of an overweight and unemployed man living in New Orleans.
  5. “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – This fantasy novel is a comedic take on the apocalypse and follows an angel and a demon as they team up to prevent the end of the world.
  6. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera – This novel follows the lives of several characters in Czechoslovakia during the 1968 Prague Spring and is known for its unique blend of humor, philosophy, and political commentary.
  7. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris – This humorous collection of essays covers a wide range of topics, from the author’s childhood to his experiences living in different countries, and is known for its wit and self-deprecating humor.

These are just a few examples of the many humorous books that are available, and there are many more out there to choose from. Depending on your sense of humor, you may find different books funny.

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