Write Funny – Black Comedy

Dark Humour – A Joining of Comedy and Tragedy

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Black humour is finding the funny in the macabre or tragic. What’s funny about death and tragedy I hear you ask – a lot actually. When I look at the short stories I’ve written, it’s a little disturbing to discover how many of them involve dark, and quite frankly morbid, subjects.

Below is an extract from a story I wrote The Untimely Death of Jim the Pig It’s about farmer’s wife, Joan, who has just killed her gambler husband who wanted to sell their farm. Her friend Peggy has popped in for a visit.

 

...Jim’s mammoth body was lying in the thick sludge with his throat cut and a puddle of blood oozing from his wound.  A curious pig was snuffling around his head. Peggy turned to Joan, who had a look of calm acquiescence.

“I thought you said he hit his head?”

“He did.”

“But his throat’s been slashed.”

“Yes, well, the head wound didn’t kill him, he started to come round so I cut his throat.”

 

Part of what I love about this type of humour is the socially unacceptable giggling it produces. It adds that extra thrill when it feels wrong to laugh.

The other part of this comedy style that makes it successful when writing is when the character who has the funny lines doesn’t even know they’re being funny. Think Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.

The extracts below are from a monologue I wrote called Sorry Brian The main character is obviously a sociopath with no idea how her lack of empathy affects others. She’s in a mental institution writing a cathartic letter to her boyfriend; who she murdered.

 

…I am looking out my window to the garden below; it’s what you would call a smashing day. The sun’s beams are bouncing off the barbed wire above the wall. Glistening steel is really quite beautiful.

… I’m sorry I failed to notice the signs. Although I do recall asking you if you were happy; we were standing at the summit of the ‘Death Valley’ black run in Switzerland at the time and you said yes —  I’m sure you did.

Writing dark humour is difficult if you don’t find it funny yourself. It’s one of those Marmite things; you either love it or hate it.

The two extracts above show dark comedy in different ways; in The Untimely Death of Jim the Pig, the comedy derives mainly from the situation: Jim has been murdered and put in with the pigs. The two women then go on to discuss, quite calmly, whether or not the pigs would eat him.

The second example from Sorry Brian, it is the main character who provides the humour.

....Mother Theresa says:  I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. Well, that isn’t quite true is it? As I’m sure I loved you until it hurt but let’s face it, it must have been somewhat painful when I stabbed you in the head with that kitchen knife – It looked painful.

One of my favourite Dark comedies is Hot Fuzz; watch the trailer if you haven’t seen it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayTnvVpj9t4

The storyline is about multiple murders in a sleepy English village and newly-appointed Poice officer Nicholas Angel’s clueless colleagues. This is one of the funniest macabre comedies I have ever seen.

 

WRITING EXERCISE

Try taking one of the situations below and write a 500-word story adding humour. You can use the situation itself as the catalyst or add humour through your characters.

1 –  Two teenage boys find a body in the snow.

2 – A girl breaking up with her boyfriend because his he’s intellectually dull or has terrible dress sense.

Feel free to send your stories and I’ll post them on my blog. Have Fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES

I also love observational humour which is especially useful when writing in situations like a short story or novel.

 

notes: again it depends on whether you want your readers to smile or you  want snot to come out of there nose whilst reading it on their daily commute.

 

I like stupid jokes like the ones above and although I’m no nun, I rarely find humour in dirty jokes. Unless they’re the BBC-friendly naughty jokes told by those British comedians like Frankie Howerd or Bob Monkhouse.

 

No dark comedy list is complete without a little Stephen King. Though film adaptations of his work often don’t show it, King is especially skilled at black humor, and his books are almost always funny in an eerie way. Misery is one of the adaptations that captures that humor. Kathy Bates is terrifyingly funny as Annie Wilkes, a demented, obsessive fan who kidnaps her favorite author. It’s one of the best King adaptations ever, and it’s a particularly scary dark comedy.

 

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Write ‘Funny’.

wendy woo
‘Maureen…have you finished doing my lady’s roots?’

Let’s face it, we all love a giggle but can you make people laugh? Some people seem to be better at it than others, which poses the question CAN YOU LEARN TO WRITE HUMOUR?

Adding humour to features, fillers or your latest novel or non-fiction book can keep your readers riveted and has the ability to turn the most boring of subjects into something of a talking point.

If you find the thought of writing humour daunting; you’re probably not funny. Harsh but true.

Have you noticed that in life, anything we struggle with, is usually because we don’t have a natural affinity for it? I’m terrible at working with figures so I would never want to work for the Inland Revenue for example – I actually did work for the Revenue for 14 years, which sucked for them but I was only meant to be there for three weeks and my office got really fit as I taught fitness classes!

So this brings me back to question CAN YOU LEARN TO WRITE HUMOUR? And the answer – NO.

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OK, that was a little funny,  but seriously, what does it take to inject humour into your writing? For the next few blogs, I will guide you through the different types of humour and how to use it in your writing. This week we are talking about humour in general, stupid jokes, timing and punchlines.

Not everyone finds the same jokes or situations funny, so have a think about what makes you laugh. How many times have you been the only one who is still laughing after someone told you a terrible joke twenty minutes ago? Think about what is was that made you laugh – has a similar situation happened to you? Was it a witty one-liner that whacked your funny bone?

I once read a joke book whilst in the waiting room of the Osteopath; the jokes were short and incredibly silly but I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading. The receptionist kept looking up from her paperwork to check I was still breathing. Here are a couple of examples:

What’s brown and sticky? – A stick

What do you call a greenfly with no legs? – A Bogie

What’s red and invisible? – No tomatoes!

What do you call a man with a spade in his head? – Doug

I know some of you are shaking your head and tutting right now but I jushorse-178093_640t had to step away from my laptop I was laughing so hard!  

Knowing what makes you laugh can help when you want to write something funny. The reason the above are funny is timing; they are short and punchy. This is an example of something I wrote to Grow Your Own magazine after my first year of growing vegetables.

I started growing my own fruit and vegetables last year and although I realise I will be learning for many years to come, here’s what I have learned so far:

  • You don’t need to plant every seed in the packet – there’s only so much you can do with courgettes!

  • Lovingly tending a blade of grass in a pot does not make it the celeriac you know you planted.

  • Spring onions are just leeks you were too impatient to wait for.

  • Bindweed, when staked and cosseted under a cloche tunnel, will thrive but will never produce green beans.

  • Green beans look a lot like bindweed.

I kept each point short to allow for maximum impact – unless, of course,  you are currently screwing up your nose wondering what I’m on about. This means it had no impact on you, which is fine, it means this type of humour is not for you – or you’re comically stunted.

PUNCHLINES
Maybe, you laugh more at the kind of humour which involves the telling of a story with a comical punchline. This can be effective in novels as you can adapt the story to the character. It doesn’t have to be in strict ‘joke’ form.

Here is an example from a story I wrote about Jen who is meeting her ‘friend’ in the work  canteen. Jen is the narrator. 

Carla has a great job in IT and my job sucks. Her boyfriend’s name is Zak – he’s a lawyer – my boyfriend’s name is Toby – he’s my dog! Carla calls him that as we do everything together.                                                                                                  

So consider how to incorporate your own sense of humour in your writing.

TRY THIS EXERCISE:

Think about a joke you thought was funny and ask yourself what it was that tickled you. Could you have heard the same joke from someone else and still thought it funny? Was there a story and a punchline or was it like my examples earlier…just stupid?

Feel free to leave your favourite joke below and I’ll let you know if snot came out of my nose or if I simply did an Elvis-style lip curl.

Next time I will be discussing black comedy and how to choose the right word for effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Productive Writing

Helpful techniques from another writer – who also likes hats!

doph writes

I’ve decided to take a break from poetry and prose, to talk about writing itself. This time last year I was enjoying Christmas as best I could whilst most-way through writing up my thesis. I follow a lot of academics on Twitter who ask or vent about writing. For this specific problem, I read Rowena Murray’s ‘How to Write a Thesis’ which suggests you first write then critique. During my PhD project I did just that, and had managed to publish two papers in a decent journal. So I was practiced in academic writing and had plenty of material to use for my thesis. However what I found when writing it all up was I felt an immense pressure of the deadline I set myself to submit on time, for two reasons.

  1. If I submitted late I would incur fees which I couldn’t afford; and

  2. I was fortunate enough to…

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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Kate Evans

This one is for all you crime and mind lovers out there!

Kate M. Colby

Our last (but certainly not least!) author on the 2016 2K Indie Book Tour is my co-host, Kate Evans. Check out Kate’s interview below, but be sure to come back tomorrow for a handy archive post with links to all our author interviews.

Kate EvansKate Evans is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her book, Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment, was published by Sense Publishers in 2013. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on degree level courses. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor, and is interested in the connection between creative writing and good mental health. Living in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, she loves walking by the sea and afternoon tea, and has an inexplicable drive to bring a new generation to the poetry of Edith Sitwell.

Here, Kate tells us about her crime/LGBT novel, The Art of Survival (Hannal Poole…

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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Wendy Ogilvie

Hi guys, check out my interview on The Indie Book Tour. Thanks to Kate Colby and all the other authors on the tour. 🙂

Kate M. Colby

Up next on my and Kate Evans’s 206 2K Indie Book Tour is women’s fiction author Wendy Ogilvie.

wendyogilvie_1441640180_4Wendy Ogilvie lives in Essex with her boyfriend Carl and their two dogs; Chinook and Storm. She has been a Personal Trainer for twenty years and has been writing training books and short stories in her spare time. The office in her new house is her favourite place to write as she can see the fish swimming in the pond and her two huskies digging up the garden! She is currently working on the next novel in the Wanda series called Wandering Among the Stars.

Here’s the synopsis of her novel, Wandering on the Treadmill:

WANDA MIKOS lives in Briford, England but has a dream to live in Los Angeles and become a Personal Trainer to the stars. She finds a way to make her ambition a reality by entering The Main Event…

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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Z.N. Willett

On with the book tour and some Hollywood romance. Who doesn’t need that girls?

Kate M. Colby

Up next on the 2016 2K Indie Book Tour (co-hosted by author Kate Evans and me) is contemporary romance author, Z.N. Willett.

IMG_7242Z.N. Willett is the girl who has seen more than she has ever wanted; yet decided to add to that world by writing Hollywood romances. A northern girl, but a southerner at heart, loving anything and everything about love and romance. So much that once upon a time she had a career as a wedding and events coordinator. When Z.N. decided to do something she was passionate about, she added her love for travel to the mix. An avid shoeaholic, deep down she’s a sappy romantic who happens to believe that love can truly conquer all.

Here, she introduces her novel, The Trouble with being a Movie Star’s Wife:

How do you share the love of your life with the world?

Alexandria Moore’s fantasy became her reality when…

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The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Samantha Bryant

Having turned 50 last year, this one is for me. Although not in menopause, I can’t wait to find out what superpower I will be gain!

Kate M. Colby

Hello, everyone! Thanks for following the 2016 2K Indie Book Tour so far. For the second half, I’ll be your host. If you missed the first set of interviews, make sure to check them out on Kate Evans’s website, www.writingourselveswell.co.uk.

authorshot-BRYANTFirst up on my half of the blog tour is Samantha Bryant. Samantha is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her secret superpower is finding the things her family members have misplaced—and the ability to operate on very little sleep. When she’s not writing or working, Samantha watches old movies, reads, listens to audiobooks, bakes, walks in the woods, and wishes she was writing.

Here, she introduces her superhero/women’s fiction novel Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel:

In this lighthearted, nontraditional superhero novel, four menopausal women in the same town start to…

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Indie Author: Kate M Colby

Kate Colby – Author and awesome blogger.

Scarborough Mysteries

Kate C photo Oct15Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome Kate M Colby who is co-hosting this indie blog tour with me. Since I first ‘met’ Kate on Facebook (was it? Or Twitter) last year, I have enjoyed her company, her good sense, her encouragement, and good advice on my own indie publishing journey. She is an author of science-fiction/fantasy novels and informative nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk dystopian novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) In a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, one king rules with absolute power and unquenchable lust, until the cogsmith’s daughter risks everything for vengeance.
Two-hundred years ago, the steam-powered world experienced an apocalyptic flood. When the waters dried up, the survivors settled around their steamship in a wasteland they named Desertera. Believing the flood…

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Indie author of the day: Jackie Phillips

I love a good mystery. This is an interview with the author of ‘A Case of Deceit’.

Scarborough Mysteries

Jackie 2009We’ve gone through the first week of our indie book blog tour, which I am co-hosting with the talented Kate M Colby, http://katemcolby.com, and haven’t we had fun! Today is a writer who likes a mystery as much as I do, Jackie Phillips. JL Phillips is a dreamer. Now she is a writer of stories. Being a dreamer is nice but it’s not perfect until you put those dreams in writing and let other people see them. Here she introduces her book, A Case of Deceit:

Private investigator DeeDee Watson receives a desperate phone call from an old college roommate. Dee can’t turn down a plea for help from a friend, so, along with Tee, her trusty sidekick, she agrees to help. It doesn’t take long for Dee to find herself in the middle of something sinister. The more clues she finds the more she realizes all is not what…

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Author interview: Kara Jorgensen

One for you Sci Fi fantasy lovers. I love to read outside my usual genre and will put this on my Kindle Wish List.

Scarborough Mysteries

It is time to kick off our 2K international indie book blog tour 2016 (hosted by Kate M Colby http://katemcolby.com http://katemcolby.com & me, Kate Evans). I am delighted to welcome our first indie author for interview, Kara Jorgensen.

KaraK picKara Jorgensen is an author of fiction and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs.

Here she introduces her book,  The Earl and the Artificer (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #3), a historical fantasy novel.

What mysteries…

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