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Thursday, November 12, 2009

These Shoes Make Me Laugh

Okay, they really only make me giggle, but still, they get a reaction out of me. I can just picture the poor woman walking down the street, tilting backward because it's impossible to stand up straight. Seriously, is that Barbie wearing them? Every novel, even the most serious one, should at least garner that--a giggle or two. So how do we manage to bring in a little bit of humor? Donald Maass gives us some suggestions in The Fire In Fiction. Hyperbole: Take similes and metaphors; then exaggerate them into the outrageous and unexpected. Irony: Don't be afraid to point it out, build it up, and have your characters react to it. Overreaction: Let your characters have over-the-top reactions to the little catastrophes. These are only a snippet of what Maass talks about, but the bottom line is, exaggerate at some level. Maass says, "Even a serious novel needs to occasionally exaggerate for effect." Well, you heard him. Go exaggerate!

42 comments:

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Those shoes are insane.

This is one of my favorite things about writing, finding those little moments where I can hopefully make the reader laugh or at least smile. It's also one of the things I enjoy most when reading. If an author can make me laugh a few times even if it's an overall serious book, they've won me over.

Robyn Campbell said...

Susan, I'm the queen of exaggeration. Just ask the hubby, he'll tell ya! :)

He's right as usual. And adding humor to even the most serious novel lightens up the heavy. Just what the reader needs. Thanks! I love these posts. And I loved reading the book. I wouldn't have without your gentle nudge. :)

Melanie's Randomness said...

Ohhh I love those shoes!!! There are new Alexander McQueen shoes that I'm sorry to say just make me giggle. hehe.

I've been writing a very serious horror novel but Of course I had to add in some humor. I'm using the more direct laugh-out-loud comedy but I love using irony. Ya know your posts referring to this book have really helped me get a handle on my story. Thank you so much!! =)

Diane said...

Finally, a skill set I can pull from. :O)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Wooohoo! Permission to not hold back (to some degree)? I love it! :0)

Janna Qualman said...

I like bringing humor in through a supporting character. One who views things a little skewed, or who has some uncommon zest, and shares it all in funny ways. Then the pressure that my writing be funny isn't too much, since the character only appears in so many scenes.

Patti said...

I think it's really important to brint some levity into your book. Whether you do it by adding characters or situations.

Another great post. Who needs to go to school when we have your blog.

B.J. Anderson said...

Wow, those are some funky shoes. And I love humor in a book. Thanks for these Donald Maass lessons on writing. :D

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

Exaggerate, me no, not me...I never do that. Those shoes are the most crazy, insane, ridiculous things I have ever seen. I actually think I had a pair once...well...not exactly like those but they were crazy and I tripped every time I walked down the street. People would stop and star but I still wore them a lot...well...twice but it was because my knees hurt. So yea I had shoes like that once, kinda.

Valerie Geary said...

I need me a pair of those shoes! Seriously. I need to wear them when I go to the agent's office with my manuscript. (okay I'm not really going to do that, but it would get some attention, right??) Keep the tips coming! I am loving them!!!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I love a good laugh, whether I come across it in my own or in a book I'm reading!

Tamika: said...

Susan those shoes a priceless, every glance warrants a giggle.

Maas is right we need to loosen up and go a little wild, even if its only our characters brave enough to do it.

Let me introduce you to drama queen- hi me!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Hey! I have a pair of those shoes!

Hehehe... Just kidding!

You're absolutely right about humor- it should be present in every novel. It's rare that a novel makes me laugh out loud, but I appreciate the book so much more when it does. And I love to find out that something made my readers laugh. And it is usually hyperbole- often some thought of the protagonist that is totally exaggerated.

Someone once said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." Something to keep in mind as a writer.

Dominique said...

Those shoes really creep me out. They look like they're melting off her legs, which just has painful connotations in my mind. And they look like they're on backward, somehow. Gaahh!

~Ellie Kings~ said...

I guess I'm not the only queen of drama and exaggeration. We should start a club! Love the shoes, Susan, wouldn't be caught dead in them, well, on the other hand, that's probably the best place to wear them... you wouldn't have to walk. :)

Paul said...

Great Advice. Permission to be over-the-top.

Lily Robinson said...

Permission to exaggerate... what could be better? No matter how serious or even tragic a situation may be, it happens in life. And in life there is always a bit of humor...

L. T. Host said...

If something is funny, purposefully funny, in a serious novel, it takes me out. But a sarcastic moment, or a character telling a joke, that kind of thing I enjoy. I like to consider myself a funny person on occasion, so I let a little levity (wow for the alliteration there) into my writing when I can, usually with mild sarcasm, because it's easier for me to stomach saying. Hopefully it works.

Lesley said...

If you can make people laugh, it's much easier to then tug at their heartstrings and make them cry. I don't have any scientific proof of this, but I've found it to be true. Those shoes would do it for sure. haha

Angie Muresan said...

I have no problem with making people laugh. I read somewhere though, that agents don't like humor in first novels unless it's extremely funny.

Natalie Murphy said...

Wow, and I have troubles walking in my socks... I can't imagine trying to stand in those, never mind walk.

I agree, humour is very important to the novel. If I read a book and the overall story was good but it never got me to laugh or smile, it's not going to be one of my favourite books.

Terri Tiffany said...

Will do!! I love a little dash of humor in any book:) thanks for that cute picture.

staceyjwarner said...

How do you find these shoes? LOL!

Great tips to keep in mind.

much love

Carolyn V. said...

Oh I love that! Now I'm totally going to have to get that book!

Donna Gambale said...

Wowwwwwwwwwwww.

Jade said...

The most surprising thing about getting feedback from Charms was being told that the reader laughed so hard in some part and when they told be what made them laugh, I was baffled. I didn't even realise it was funny!

WhisperingWriter said...

Those shoes hurt my feet just by looking at them. Ouch!

Abby Annis said...

Great tips! I like to write the funny parts, although I find that not everyone gets my jokes. All the better, I guess, for the ones that do. ;)

melane said...

I've got to get that Maass book.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I've discovered that the out-of-ordinary usually gets me giggling. Like when a character makes a major faux pas that is so out there. I always laugh, and of course as the character struggles to regain their ground, I start to sympathize with them.

Angela said...

Ooooh. I haven't read this Maass book! I'll have to look for it. Writing the Breakout Novel is fabulous!

(and those are some scary-ass shoes!)

Kathryn Magendie said...

LAWD! Those are some shoes!!

My Mee Maw character is "comic relief" - though I didn't put her in there for that reason - she just is who she is and she's usually outrageous!

But, people say my novel has humor in it and that makes me happy! I didn't want a dark depressing novel - I wanted one with hope and humor and life and love and longing and ....all the STUFF of life :)

Kelly H-Y said...

Crazy shoes! I LOVE snippets of humor!

Lori said...

How true is that. I've always suffered from not being funny at all. I know how important that is. Actually, approaching it from such a logical perspective might be possible even for me. Although, it probably won't be all that successful in bringing in the chuckles, because it doesn't come naturally.

Veronica Barton-Dean said...

Moments in novels that make us smile, those are usually the ones that stand out. Think of this, it will make you laugh. Imagine me, working at Wal-mart, a 16 hour day in those boots. Yeap, humor is the best!

Tabitha Bird said...

LOL oh my those shoes! where do you find these images?!

Exaggeration is something I am a bit prone to anyway at times. I it is nice to know it can be used as a positive in your writing.

quixotic said...

These shoes look familiar? Have we seen them before? They do make me giggle though. I just can't imagine anyone wearing them.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Exaggeration is key, yes! I wish I was exaggerating when I describe how tired I am. I'm asleep right now, actually.

Erica said...

Okay, I thought yesterday's shoes were nuts, but these? OMG I would die in them.

I'm glad he says that, because that is something I really try to do, even in the tense moments, you need that release sometimes. Plus, I love reading it too, I need a little lighthearted humor to help the drama go down smoothly :)

Carrie Harris said...

Those shoes are a comedy sketch waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

From Donald Maass:

Hi Susan, hey all, I'd like to chime in here to add that the use of hyperbole isn't just about being funny--although that's refreshing in fiction.

Hyperbole is about heightening and making the inner lives of characters more intense. Take those shoes for instance...how would you describe them? Here are three possibilities that occurred to me:

1) Clown shoes from the seventh circus of Hell.

2) Torture boots stolen from the Museum of the Fashion Inquisition in Madrid.

3) Fetish wear designed by Salvador Dali on a bad day.

The exaggerated response may be amusing but it also smacks the reader with the wet mackerel mind of the POV character. It shrinks the distance between our brains and the page.

A lot of manuscripts I see don't heighten much of anything. That's a shame. Safe, painless, bland and routine is okay in the dentist's chair but disappointing in fiction.

Thanks for these posts, Susan.

Amy Tate said...

How would you even walk in those things? I'd break my leg!