4 Tips for Writing Funny

I wish I could remember where I heard about Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman.  But I can’t.  Someone, somewhere must have recommended it.  Fortunately, the book was in my hands when the library closed.  I read it in one sitting.  It isn’t a long book but it was just what the doctor ordered, silly and goofy and fun. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when you decide to write a funny story.

  1. Choose Your Character Wisely.  Not every character is capable of being the funny one.  In Fortunately, The Milk, the opening chapter shows us that Mom is all business.  Dad gives the impression of being a little scatty – no one expects him to be paying attention when Mom gives instructions for when she is on her trip but he surprised them all by listening.  Mom couldn’t be the funny one.  Dad?  Dad has potential.
  2.  Have a Plan.  If you just throw in one funny bit after another, the whole thing can feel disjointed.  It works best if, like Giaman, you have a plan.  You don’t find out exactly how pirates, dinosaurs, and a volcano are all tied together until the very end but that’s okay.  Eventually all is revealed.
  3. Reversals Are Funny.  Just when you think you know what is real and what Dad made up, you turn the last page and . . . surprise!  It isn’t in the text so I’m not sure if Gaiman came up with this one or if the illustrator Skottie Young cooked it up on his own but since this is an illustrated book, the designer was able to use the page turn to make us all laugh one last time.
  4. Don’t Expect to Get It Right the First Time.  It doesn’t matter if you are writing something factual and serious or something super silly like Fortunately, the Milk. Good writing comes from rewriting.  Draft your funny scene and then look it over.  Would a different setting be funnier?  Could your character’s favorite snack make your reader laugh?

Lately, I’ve seen several editor and agents ask for funny manuscripts.  Why not give writing funny a try?