Michael Murphy is one of my favorite authors. I discovered him when his novel, Goodbye Emily, was recommended to me. If word of mouth helps to sell a book, I should get a prize for the number of people I’ve told about it. If you’ve heard of Woodstock or can remember it, you’ve got to read the book. When I learned that he had a new book out, I asked if he’d write a column for my blog and here it is. Trust me, this is someone who knows humor well and we can all learn from him!
Four Reasons Authors Should Incorporate Humor in their Writing
Many authors are hesitant to utilize humor in the stories, even though readers love humor in most any genre. Nelson DeMille interjects humor in fast-paced frightening thrillers. Stephen King’s stories are chilling and often absurdly humorous which he uses to enhance scenes and characters.
Writing humor is not as difficult as some writer imagine. Humor results from conflict, the same as drama. The perspective is different.
Think of two great slapstick comedians, Charlie Chaplin and Dick Van Dyke. They could fall down stairs or struggle to lift a heavy object and it’s funny. In other situations, other stories, a fall down stairs would be a tragic.
There are many reasons for authors to utilize humor in their writing:
- Humor can complement suspense by temporarily lessening tension
- Enable an author to address serious issues
- Allow an author’s work to stand out from others in their genre
- Enhance characterization
Humor has always been an important part of my writing, even in my recently released historical mystery set in 1933, The Yankee Club. The story unfolds during the Prohibition-era in New York City. This is my 9th published novel, but I’ve never attempted to write a true historical fiction and wondered whether I’d be able to capture the life and times of 1933, particularly whether my humor would translate to life in the thirties.
The use of humor in my previous novel, Goodbye Emily, allowed me to address serious issues faced by aging baby boomers. Of the three principle characters in that novel, one struggled with broken heart syndrome over the loss of his wife, his career and the possible separation with his only daughter. Another, a Vietnam vet, struggled with drugs and PTSD. The third had been placed in a nursing home with Alzheimers.
Without humor, the novel would present these conditions in a more serious manner and would no doubt depress readers rather than offer an optimistic look at the future of our aging baby boomers, the novel’s theme. Equally as important, the main character, Sparky, would be presented with a more sullen makeup.
In 1933, our country’s economy was on the brink of collapse, and Prohibition had led to the rise of organized crime. 12 million people were out of work. Many were homeless, and some turned to extremist politicians, Nazis on the right and communists on the left. Nothing funny about that at all.
The humor in The Yankee Club addresses these issues within the framework of a mystery based on historical events. The two main characters grew up in modest homes in Queens, but at the start of the novel, Jake Donovan is a successful mystery writer and Laura Wilson is a popular Broadway actress. Both deal with guilt over their successes which have isolated them from the poverty suffered by most.
Jake and Laura find themselves in danger often in The Yankee Club. Humor diffuses the suspense, enhancing the tension at the same time. Like I did in Goodbye Emily, I created humorous scenes and characters so the story would unfold while addressing the difficult issues of the times. My goal was to weave mystery and romance much like the movie series that inspired the story, The Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy.
I encourage authors to look for ways to utilize humor within their genre the same way they create drama; utilize conflict in a scene. Humor will enhance the drama and the work will stand out from the crowd.
******************************************************************************The Yankee Club http://www.amazon.com/Yankee-Club-Jake-Laura-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00IHMFANK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409068819&sr=1-1&keywords=the+yankee+club
A mystery writer returns to the bright lights and dark alleys of New York City—uncovering a criminal conspiracy of terrifying proportions.
In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.
Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.