Let’s NOT Kill the Frog

No frogs were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Something funny happened on my way to write this post… I found that I didn’t want to write it. Because it wasn’t going to be funny. Unlike a post about the time I locked my toddler in the car WITH MY KEYS and the fire department got lost on their way to rescue us. That was FuuuuN-NY (after the police came and unlocked the doors).

Once we try to analyze humor and discuss it seriously, it changes. Most often, it becomes unfunny. Mark Twain said, “The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.” Or, even worse: life threatening. EB White said, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”

But, I’m going to give it a try anyway. And, hopefully, kill no frogs. Humor has a place in all types of writing. Because I’m a fiction writer, I’ll focus there. Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen all used humor. And let’s not forget our great American Twain. Think about the works of each of those distinguished writers. Huge variety in styles and stories. They all used humor. Differently. And, deftly. Humor can benefit your characters, your case and your career. {Alliteration is one useful literary device to bring levity into your fiction.}

CHARACTERS— No one loves a bore. {Inversion is to take what people know– “everyone loves a clown”–and turn it upside down.} In our fiction, we want characters who seem real. We want our readers to connect. A quality we love in real life? Sense of humor. So be sure to give your characters one. Humor can provide respite from your main character’s drama. As your characters show their full range of emotions and traits- inclusive of laughter and humor- they become more real to the reader. They become more important to the reader.

CASE– Okay, this word is really supposed to be theme, but I was going for alliteration up there and so “case” it is! {Breaking the 4th wall is a technique to try and bring your readers in, like a shared joke among good friends.} Humor can help make your case. If you’re funny, it can penetrate people’s natural defenses and reach in to the deep places. Twain said, “Nothing can stand against the assault of laughter.” Someone else said we laugh when we hear the truth at a velocity that exceeds our normal standards of insight. The classic authors I mentioned earlier wrote about slavery, poverty, murder, heartbreak and greed. And used humor.

CAREER– As writers, we all know we might need to market just a little.{Understatement is another literary device to try.} We need to do interviews, guest posts and meet our readers. Some of us will add speaking engagements as part of our efforts. Most speakers start with something funny and, of course, “leave ‘em laughing” too. Funny is good. Funny is fun. My bookshelves are full and my reading time limited. But if I see a funny interview or meet a funny writer, I follow up to learn more. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, you can work on it. But don’t work on it too hard. Trying too hard is not funny. But humor is bi-directional: if you can laugh, you can make others laugh.

One last thing…

CONSIDER– The most important thing is your humor has to work. Because if people don’t get it—or worse, like it– you will be shunned and have to wear dirty burlap sacks and listen to bad knock-knock jokes for the rest of your life and BEYOND. {Hyperbole can be a way to add some funny.} Before you use humor, consider if it is appropriate. Consider the maturity, culture and location of your humor and your audience. That joke about the frogs may not go over at the PETA convention. Or it might be just the thing.

A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack. So he says, “Ms. Whack, I’d like to get a loan to buy a boat and go on a long vacation”. Patricia looks at the frog in disbelief and asks how much he wants to borrow. The frog says $30,000. The teller asks his name and the frog says that his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger and that it’s okay, he knows the bank manager.

Patti explains that $30,000 is a substantial amount of money and that there will need to be some collateral against the loan. She asks if he has anything he can use. The frog says, “Sure, I have this”, and produces a tiny pink porcelain elephant, about half an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed. Very confused, Patti explains that she’ll have to consult with the manager and disappears into a back office.

She finds the manager and says, “There’s a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you, and wants to borrow $30,000. And he wants to use this as collateral”. She holds up the tiny pink elephant and says, “I mean, what the heck is this?” The bank manager looks back at her and says…

 “It’s a knick knack, Patti Whack, give the frog a loan. His old man’s a Rolling Stone!”

Post Author: Charise Olson

Charise Olson writes contemporary women’s fiction. She likes to say she writes California Fiction. It’s like Southern Fiction, but without all that humidity. Her characters face serious life situations and cope with humor. Someone always has a smart mouth and Charise claims IM-plausibile deniability as to their origin. Charise is a mom to anyone needing mothering (whether they think they need it or not!) and owns two alpacas. Why alpacas? Because they were cheaper than a lawn mower. The menagerie also includes two dogs and two cats. In addition to her fiction writing and family, Charise has a paycheck career in social services and education.


18 Replies to “Let’s NOT Kill the Frog”

  1. Love this post, Charise! I shared your joke with my family this morning. Many blessings to you.

    1. Glenda, Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you got something out of it. Best to you and your writing efforts.

    1. Sherri; That joke is a good one. AND it worked with my frog theme. Hope you have a good day at work!

    1. Hi, Cheryl;
      Frog legs are yummy but soooo small. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading!

      1. We could keep the alliteration going with cute cure… ‘Course I need some coffee and then I could think of a few more. Thanks for reading!

  2. I honestly thought Joe meant to type “Cure!”, meaning your post was the cure for workday doldrums or something …
    Great post on humor. Nice alliteration. And bravo on the joke. I love to use humor when I write and speak, but I rarely tell jokes because I can’t remember the punch line for a joke, Ever. And sometimes the beginning and the middle elude me too.

    1. Jokes are HARD. Especially in a presentation because you usually have to change your rhythm. It’s like dancing to jazz and then suddenly the music switches to disco. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Beth!

  3. Great post!!! Okay, this made me laugh because on a book I wrote, my first scene has a frog. I lovingly call it the “frog” scene. It was funny. Everyone laughed when the read it. But I had a contest judge tell me it didn’t work because I was practicing animal cruelty. (My heroine was afraid of said frog and threw a glass of milk at it then finally trapped it under a cup and asked her brother to dispose of it…) Anyhow, this became our running joke. I finally scratched the scene (for reasons OTHER than animal cruelty) but your title just made me laugh pretty hard. I was like, “Crap, was she the animal cruelty judge?!?” I was totally anticipating a post about being nice to animals in books!!!!

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