10 Ways to Write Funny for Young Readers

Recently one of my editors commented that she had just heard from an agent that in adult writing editors want romantic comedy and humor.  I have to admit that I’ve expected to hear something like this about writing for children and teens as well.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about humorous writing for young readers.  Here are 10 types of humor for young readers.

  1. Cummulative Tales.  In cummulative tales, things start small and grow ridiculously large.  One of my favoirte examples is One Dog Canoe in which the narrator and her dog are in a canoe.  One animal after another joins them until . . . comedy!
  2. Silly situations.  Can you take a story and turn it into a silly situation?  I appreciate this stories, such as Neil Gaiman’s, Fortunately, the Milk but they are not what I am good at writing.
  3. Dark Humor.  I have to admit that as much as I love dark humor (think Zombie in Love), I am not sure that these are the stories that are going to sell.  Maybe, but I’m not sure.
  4. Puns and Punny Stories.  Are you good at weaving puns into your stories?  Jeanie Franz Ransom did this in What Really Happened to Humpty?  which just happens to be a story of a hard boiled detective.   Get it?
  5. Funny Characters.  Sometimes you can create a funny character and build a story around them.  This is what, in my opinion, Kate DiCamillo did with Mercy Watson, her tutu wearing, toast eating pig.
  6. Normal Character/Odd World.  Think Wizard of Oz or MT Anderson’s Whales on Stilts. 
  7. Parody.  It is hard to write parody that works for young readers because it has to be a story that they know.  This makes nursery rhymes ideal.  Not sure what I mean?  Think The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier.
  8. Bathroom Humor.  I almost left this one out but there is a whole class of stories that revolve around bathroom humor as in Walter the Farting Dog.  While I will admit to sometimes laughing at these books – hey, I’m a boy mom – I can’t imagine writing them.
  9. Voice. You can also write a story with a humorous voice.  Think the Lemony Snicket books.
  10. Topsy Turvy.  Stories where characters switch places are funny.  The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Freaky Friday.

Can you think of something forgotten?


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