As seriously as you might take your writing, you probably agree that good writing usually requires a splash of well-written humor. Whether it’s witty banter between characters, quirky relatable situations, or outrageous misadventures, we always crave a little laughter at some point in a novel—and even in shorter works.
But still, somehow, we can forget that from time to time when we caught up in the actual adventure of writing. It’s easy to get distracted by the profound impact of our themes or the dramatic arcs of character-change. I often lose sight of other goals when I’m engrossed in building up to what I hope to be a brilliant plot-twist.
Maybe there are great works of fiction and prose out there with no humor at all, but why deny yourself the obvious advantages it gives to your fiction?
· It gets the reader’s guard down. You really want to do whatever you can to get your reader warmed up to you. Nothing breaks the ice like a good joke. I know from observing my own reactions as a reader that humor momentarily turns off that raging hyper-critical part of my mind that tries to distract me from enjoying fiction at all.
· It’s a chance for characterization. Plus, it’s a surefire way to amp up a given character’s likability and humanity. Most people have some kind of a sense of humor way down inside. Think of the people you know. Try to pinpoint the different flavors of humor you have encountered. (And remember, it’s always okay to steal directly from real like.) Take humor as another chance to make a character unique.
· It connects with the reader. A character can make me laugh with (or at) them before they can get any other emotional reaction from me. I might never care about their sad predicament if they’ve never made me laugh. Everyone wants to laugh. When a writer can deliver humor that I appreciate, that establishes instant trust. This writer cares enough about me to give me what I want as an audience.
· It breaks up monotonous mood. Some books are sad, some are suspenseful, some are sweet, and some are scary. But if every paragraph has the same mood, at least for me, the overall impression in the end is that it was boring. Humor has a great way of breaking emotional tension and putting a surprise spin on situations. This can really liven up a story for me.
· It improves the reader’s overall perception of the writing. If a book made me laugh—even just a couple of times—chances are, I’m not going to put it down, and I’m not going to tear it up in a review. I know humor isn’t easy, and if a writer goes out of their way to add some in, they’ve got promise as far as I’m concerned.
If you’ve convinced yourself your message is just too important to joke about just remember that even Jesus used humor to get through. (Occasionally even sarcasm—just a little note for the sarcasm-hating crowd.) We’ve heard very serious pastors and Sunday-school teachers and Robert Powell repeat him so often in the most sanctimonious way possible that I don’t blame anybody for getting a little deaf to it. The point is if you have something important to say—something you want people to remember—make them laugh!