5 Ways to Add Humor to Your Writing

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Humor is a life-giving stress reliever and ice breaker. I often sprinkle my talks, articles and books with funny word pictures and phrases, because laughter opens a reader/listener’s heart to the serious points I want to make. Thankfully, my home is full of crazy guys (including my husband, who’s the most hilarious person I’ve ever met) and I’m a ditzy, accident-prone bundle of midlife hormones. Thus, I’m never short on material.

It’s true that humor, like writing, is an innate gift, and some people have it in abundance. Others…well, not so much. However, certain aspects of both crafts can be taught. As a follow-up to this popular post, here are a few ways to humorously pump up your prose:

1. Wordplay.

Mae West said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” Classic!

Cultivate your LOL quotient by reading children’s books, which are full of 1362536802le12smarvelous wordplay. Humor writers and comedians are childlike spirits–playing constantly with sounds, alliteration, and rhyme. Let loose a little, and see what happens.

2. Exaggeration.

Never stop at one when fourteen will do. In humor, less is not more and more is better. Erma Bombeck, one of my all-time favorites, was a master at exaggeration: “I’ve exercised with women so thin that buzzards followed them to their cars.”

Remember George Burns? He often exaggerated about his age: “When I was a boy the Dead Sea was alive.”

3. Surprise.

When my nine-year-old saw that our local drive-in was up for sale, he said, “Mom, I’m sad about that. It’s such an iconic part of our town.” I laughed because I was surprised that he knew the word at all, let alone used it correctly.

Want your reader to laugh? Take a phrase and change the ending to something unexpected, like Jim Carrey did:  “Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.” Stephen Wright makes a living by crafting surprise endings to one-liners: “A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.”

4. Parody.

“Weird” Al Yankovich has been doing parody songs for years. More recently, Christian comedians Tim Hawkins (“Cletus, Take the Reel,” etc.) and Anita Renfroe (“All the Wrinkled Ladies”) have gotten into the act. There’s even a clever parody of the infamous song “Blurred Lines” called “Church Signs.” The writers make fun of Christians’ tendency to preach mini-sermons with little plastic letters.

A word of caution (especially for Christian writers): let’s be careful when poking fun at other people. Sarcasm can be soul-crushing, as can insult humor. Remember the Golden Rule.

5. Learn from the best.

Read funny writers, watch comedy videos on Netflix, take courses in humor writing, or read books about the craft. You can also hire professional humor writers to spice up your work (I did this with the first book proposal I sold, and learned a ton from the experience.)

While you’re learning, though, remember to be yourself and not a copy of someone else. Readers can tell when you’re trying to force a joke, and it will make them uncomfortable. Find a style of humor you like, and try it on for size. Ask for opinions from people you trust–if it doesn’t fit, simply try another.

Most of all, have fun!

How have you used humor in your writing?

I Have a Secret

Taken at the Denver Chalk Art Festival, June 2012

All good writers and creative-type people need a secret that drives them. The secret should push them to write more, write with superior quality, and write with a theme of hope in all of their WIPs, or even their journal. So far my secret allows me to accomplish all of the above and more.

  1. My secret wakes me up at 5:30 a.m.  Normally, I am an 8 a.m. riser or, more specifically, someone who rolls out of bed, texts something like “god mrning” to my hubby (who has already left for work), and sits on the couch, nursing my cup of coffee with the news on mute because I don’t like noise in the morning. Lately, I have been bright eyed and bushy tailed way before the hubby. So I poke him in the arm until he wakes up. Okay, so the 5:30 a.m. wake-up call isn’t good for everyone.
  2. My secret makes me go to bed at 8 p.m. I still need my 9 hours of sleep despite my early rising habits.
  3. My secret makes me eat healthier (or at least try to). I have consumed a lot more fruits and veggies because of my secret.
  4. My secret makes me more creative. I built a piece of furniture yesterday. Okay, I put together already assembled parts of a completely built piece of furniture. Oh, okay, I held the pieces while my hubby put together the piece of furniture.
  5. My secret makes me cry. Sometimes my secret is so overwhelming that all I can do is cry out to Jesus, asking him to hold me.
  6. My secret makes me laugh. I laugh even when no one else is around and I’m standing in the hamburger aisle at the grocery store, and then someone comes into the same aisle, and I laugh even harder.
  7. My secret makes me read my Bible more. Confession time: I am not a daily Bible reader. I never have been. I am not even a daily devotional reader. But my secret might turn me into one!
  8. My secret makes me love my husband even more. I made him a pan of homemade brownies the other day and called him at work “just because.” Seriously, I love that guy.
  9. My secret makes me exercise more. And not just because I would be the first person to die in The Hunger Games.
  10. My secret is my life, my light, and my joy!

Do you see now why every writer needs a secret? Your secret can be different than mine, but it needs to make you a better person. All good (or even bad) secrets do just that. So your challenge for this next week is to find yourself a secret―one that will push you harder toward your writing goals.

P.S. Some of you already know my secret. Please don’t say anything. 🙂 For the rest of you—guess away. The big secret reveal will take place on my Facebook fan page on Wednesday, June 13.

Q4U: Do you have any secrets that motivate you? If so, what are they? KIDDING! How have they made you a better person? A stronger writer?