I’ve always had an innate sense of humor. From the time I was a little girl, I loved making people laugh, even if it meant making a fool of myself in the process. My dad educated me in the gentle art of humor through his Miss Carolina Bowler beauty award and his practical joking.
As a kid, it was only natural that I would participate in talent shows. It didn’t matter if I was singing and dancing with a construction-paper-faced broom or playing the part of a down-on-her-luck Queen for a Day contestant, my goal was always to win the audience with humor. And most of the time it worked.
So when I began my speaking ministry in 1998, it was only natural that I would entertain my home-church audience friends by standing on my head during the introduction. After all, I reasoned, if I could make them laugh, they would be more likely to really hear the truth in my message.* And even though my techniques have changed (Believe me, I haven’t stood on my head in years!), the use of humor has been a constant ingredient throughout my ministry.
But when I decided to write a women’s book, I discovered what had worked well from the stage didn’t make the transition to paper. In his blog post, The Secret to Writing Humor, Brent Diggs stated, “…nearly every tool of comedy is denied to the writer.” How true that is! The tools that had worked so well from the stage–timing, facial expressions, tones and inflections–were not available to me in written words.
That struggle led me to the study of humor writing. And even though I can’t share everything I learned with you in this short blog time, here are some techniques to help you engage your reader through laughter.
- Set the story up well. Take the time to lay out the groundwork in a logical way.
- Use exaggeration. This is one time you want to take literary license through the use of hyperbole. The story is still true, but you just make it more. As I tell the school students in my Writing is Fun Workshops, take real life and make it bigger, badder, meaner, sadder.
- Apply the rule of threes. Even though it’s not officially a rule, we know there is melody in the use of threes. And there’s humor in the use of threes, too.
- And whether you’re using the rule of threes or simply telling a story, try to place the funniest word at the end of the sentence.
- Punch words and/or punch lines often work well.
- Write tight. When I initially write out a story, it’s a rambling story with all the details I normally include when I tell it from the stage. But in writing, I discovered it was best told in no more than half the spoken words.
- Use words that begin with hard consonants, especially the K sound.
- Use short sentences for more emphasis.
- Even in humor writing, be sure to listen for the music or cadence of the words.
I hope this list helps you in your goal of writing humor. And just to prepare you as you work on humor, I’ll close with these words of truth from the well-known humorist, Dave Barry:
“It’s hard to think of an ending. The beginning is really hard, and the ending is always really hard, and the middle part is also very hard. It’s just hard, hard, hard.” Dave Barry
*Disclaimer: If you plan to attend the Christian Communicators Conference to learn how to begin or expand your speaking ministry, I can assure you, I will not be teaching you how to stand on your head. I won’t even recommend it. As a matter of fact, I’d rather we didn’t even talk about it at all…
A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick. Proverbs 17:22
Grace and truth be yours in abundance!
(Photo courtesy of TinaPhillips/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)