Writing Advice from the Bookshelf: Donald Maass on Humor in Fiction
Excerpt from Chapter 7, “Hyperreality,” in The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
It’s one thing to crack a joke or be occasionally witty; it’s another thing altogether to be funny for four hundred pages. But that is what it takes. Humor is cumulative. Laughter builds. Have you ever enjoyed a comedian’s routine? When do you laugh the hardest, at the beginning or the end? Toward the end, of course, because the comedian’s outrageous outlook takes a while to overwhelm you.
So it is with fiction. For humor to come through in a novel, it needs to be bigger and more relentless than most authors realize. You can crack yourself up at the keyboard but barely raise a smile on your readers’ faces. To slay those readers, you need to hammer their funny bones like Noah nailing the Ark.
The malnourishment of comic manuscripts is a shame, too, because the methods of mirth are so plentiful. They’re even free. Here are a few of them, on me:
hyperbole wit biting comment (think insults) ironic juxtaposition and reversal escalation of the mildly ridiculous being extremely literal (“Who’s on first?”) funny name and word choices deadpan delivery of dumb remarks deliberate misunderstanding unlikely points of view extreme personas or voices stereotyping
Maass, Donald. “The World of the Novel” in The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 2009. 169. Print.
- Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to email (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)