Phillis Root’s ONE DUCK STUCK brings humor to our lives in the way Mister interprets it and uses it in his life. In addition to almost swearing in church, (see this post) he recently invented a game with it. He drives his Cozy Coupe around the back yard. When he crashes it into the fence, he yells, “Muck!” starting our whole routine. Mum has to, “Help! Help!” and get the car unstuck. Then he can drive it and get it stuck again.
Mister, although he’s not even a year and a half old, has recognized the value of books in providing humor. But most older children and adults don’t find the humor in books by making them a part of our lives in this way. So how do books provide humor for older readers?
Some books provide humor in content. I think of books by Mo Willems and Dav Pilkey and Judy Blume.
Some are ironically funny. I think of books by Doreen Cronin and David Shannon and Judith Viorst.
Some, like some people *ahem, Husband,* are funny “hmm.” Insert your own list here.
But how do writers create these books? Beginning writers are often given the advice, “write what you know.” I would say that this advice applies to humor. If a person isn’t funny or doesn’t have an active sense of humor, they’re going to have a pretty hard time writing with humor. And that’s ok. There are plenty of books out there that aren’t funny.
I’ve talked about it before, but the other piece of advice writer’s often get is, “show don’t tell.” This advice applies to humor as well. And this is what, I think, can make or break a writer’s use of humor. Just saying, “[character’s name] is funny” or “[plot-moving event] was funny,” isn’t enough to show humor in a story. Just as writers show characterization or back story by including it in the plot, they also have to include humor in a way that moves the story forward.
Whichever way you enjoy the humor in your reading, or your writing, I think we can all agree that books are a pleasure to have in our lives. Who doesn’t like a good laugh?