Squawk Radio

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

This is Karen's Sister Early in the Morning

Tales of a Self-Professed Humoraholic, Karen Hawkins

I love to laugh. My family loves to laugh. One of my earliest memories is of watching my dad chase my mom around the house with a dish towel while she was carrying a basket of rolls. He’d snap the dish towel at her legs and she’d throw a roll at him.

They were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe.

They don’t run now, but just yesterday my mom hid the remote control under her newspaper and changed the channel to The Shopping Network every five minutes. My dad was knee deep in a golf show. Just as someone important would tee off, zap! the channel would change to The Shopping Network. Worse, they were showing a line of full-figured lingerie.

This went on for thirty minutes – Golf. Lingerie. Golf. Lingerie. He’d grumble at the TV and wonder what was wrong. She’d just hide further behind the paper and snicker. He finally caught on, burst out laughing, got out of his recliner and promptly tickled her.

They are in their sixties. It was a beautiful moment.

One of the most wonderful things about life is our capacity to love and laugh. I think romance novels take us from a drab, over-worked day and bring us those little tastes and glimpses of fresh, new love that remind us not to take our own lives too seriously.

Better yet, laughter is best when shared. When we find something funny, there is an instinctual desire to share it with someone else.

I’ve given many workshops on writing humor. It’s unfortunate but humor doesn’t write itself. Yet well-written humor will seem to be just that. It has to appear effortless and natural, and frankly, that can be difficult.

As I’ve evolved as a writer, I’ve discovered that almost all humor will fit under one of four types:

1) Three Stooges. This is a physical, slap-stick comedic act like falling down a set of stairs or being tossed into the hero’s lap when the carriage hits a deep rut in the road. Such humor requires careful set up and a light, deft hand at story telling to keep it from sounding mechanical. I love this sort of humor because it’s immediate and action-filled.

2) Character Humor. A certain character has a humorous trait (a butler who is also a pick pocket), or a non-humorous character has a humorous reaction to a specific situation (a pirate afraid of a spider). Character humor is very powerful. I use it more than any other kind as I feel it creates a bond between the reader and the character. I also love it because it’s so incredibly human. We are all sort of funny when you think about it!

3) Throw Away Line. This is when a character will say that laugh out loud one-liner that you want to read to all of your friends. It’s a lovely way to lighten up a rather dark character or a tense moment and speed the book’s pacing.

4) Running Gag. A running gag is recurring joke that is threaded throughout a book. It’s usually a light joke, sometimes between two characters, and sometimes between the character and the reader – where perhaps one character has a comical reaction that is not witnessed by anyone else in the book. Naturally, the reader knows what is going on and can appreciate the gag without it interfering with the storyline.

The best part of humor is sharing. Nothing is as funny as when you show it/share it/tell it to someone else.

Share with your fellow squawkers! What are the two funniest scenes you’ve ever read in a romance novel? The two funniest characters? What made these scenes and characters funny to you?
Teresa Medeiros, 6:03 PM