Thursday, February 21, 2013

Use Humor To Distinguish Your Voice

One of the more gratifying things I hear about my writing is that it’s funny.  That’s gratifying because I decided early on to use humor to distinguish myself from other YA authors in my genre.  It seems to have worked because I regularly get tweets and emails from fans that’ve read one of my books and can’t wait to read another. If you’re a fairly new author reading this, I can tell you first hand that adding humor to your work can help distinguish your voice from the many other authors writing in your genre (Unless, of course, your genre is humor).

One of the keys to unleashing your humor is the point of view chosen for your story or characters. When Charles Schultz looked at the world through the eyes of Charlie Brown or Lucy Van Pelt, we laughed. In the cartoon below he uses Snoopy to find humor in a broken heart.
Point of view allows a writer to comment on things that might not seem funny at first glance. By using humor, authors can have their serious points resonate with readers even better.  It’s all in the angle of attack.

While Charles Schultz did it with Snoopy and the kids, you can do it with any of your characters. A few years ago I was starting a novel about a girl whose father was a corporate whistle blower. The family went into the witness protection program, relocating from New York City to a small community outside of Denver. My protagonist was faced with the unhappy situation of leaving her friends and everything familiar behind. A situation like this can be traumatic for any fifteen year-old. But I wanted to take the trauma out of it and show how resourceful my protagonist could be. So I infused in her the attitude that starting over was good:

If I have to go where nobody knows me, then why not start over as a fourteen year old? she thought. I’ve already made all the fourteen year old mistakes. And I’ll know all the work in school, since I just completed ninth grade. This, my protagonist surmised, would give her more time for her fabulous social life.

By giving my protagonist a slightly skewed (or off-beat) point of view, I gave her the chance to be funny. There’s no humor in the story yet, but with this POV, and compounding the lie that goes along with it, it becomes easier to come up with humorous situations for the characters. I bet you can think of two or three humorous situations you could place my character in as you read this.

If you give your stories or characters a slightly off beat POV, they will more easily lend themselves to humor. Rule of Thumb: Don’t shoot down the middle when you want to add humor to your story. How will you know if you’ve got the right POV? If you’re smiling as you think about it, you’re on the right track.

If you’ve read Boyfriend From Hell or any of the books in The Falling Angels Saga, you know I have a distinctive, humorous voice.  If you haven’t read me yet, I hope you'll give one of my books a try.  Peace.

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