Writing Comedy

There are a lot of reasons to try to do comedy in writing, or just in everyday life. Yes, comedy can be taught. This post is largely focused on writing it, but it should be fairly easy to distill into general advice.

The stakes in humor are usually low.
The difference between drama and comedy is exaggeration, and character reaction.
For example, the action scene gets funny fast when the guy gets kicked in the crotch.

It’s also funny when people get self-referential during uncomfortable situations.

Comedy is also often surprising; unexpected things are more likely to make people laugh. See Non-sequitors below.

Situational- out of their element and trying (and mostly failing) to cope.

Physical comedy- people doing ridiculous things. People even suffering. But really low stakes.

Linguistic Humor
Wordplays: puns work best when the one who tells it isn’t the one who set it up.
Accurate but unexpected descriptions: the ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.
Awesome, especially when they can be tied to a particular character because they describe things in ways nobody else does.

Here’s a brief example of wordplay: if something is really easy to figure out, you’d probably say it’s obvious. But if it’s about someone’s mother or father, try goig with ‘apparent’.

Character humor
Something about how the characters do things is inherently funny because of who they are.
This kind of contains and kind of leads into Running Gags, which is when one particular bit of character humor is repeatedly called back to.

Cognitive humor
You have three pieces of the puzzle, the fourth is the punchline, and the reader has to figure it out themselves.

Something that quite literally doesn’t follow in the expected sequence.
Often funniest when the reader can draw a connection between the non-sequitor and what came before, yet still doesn’t quite make sense.
Lists are great, when the last thing in the list is completely unexpected.

The Thieves’ Code

So, I’ve been working specifically on one of my novels, The Thieves’ Code. It involves a half-elf street thief; gambling; traveling; a very intricate world (or at least that’s what my friends say); magic; demons; bits of romance; mystery; and a lot more. I’m told it’s good so far, but I’m only at 68 pages. Well, that’s when printed on 8.5×11. When I make it novel-sized, I’ll have to shrink the text, but I probably have a little over 100 pages so far. And I’m not even half done!

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter. All you plagiarists out there, I do have dated previous versions. Although I doubt that I’ll have to worry about that… well, I hope so anyway.

Chapter the First:  The Best Mistake

            I’m good at what I do, really.  But sometimes, it’s better than I think.  And I had no idea what this simple grab would lead to.

The teenager skidded down the still-damp cobbled street, tossing his head to get his shaggy black hair out of his face.  His hand drifted up to tuck it behind a slightly pointed ear.  His gray-emerald eyes darted from side to side, making sure his pursuer did not have friends in the vicinity.  In his clenched left fist, he held the strings of a coin-pouch made of fine velvet.  “All this for a few crowns?” he muttered.  “You’d think I nicked some noble’s signet ring, the way that guy’s chasing me.”

            I thought for a moment, considering the embroidery on the pouch. 

“Ahh…maybe I did…” The half-elf dodged down a small side-alley and leapt up to the building’s tiled roof.  He nearly slipped on the roof, still slick from the rain of the previous night, but caught his footing in time.  He sat down and opened the pouch.  It was empty.  “What?” he cried, confused.

“Over there!” came a rough voice.


He jumped up and ran across the rooftops, evading the guards below.  Suddenly, a young human a few years older than the thief pulled himself up to the rooftop.  The man wore brown cloth breeches and a white linen shirt, and his brown hair was shoulder-length.  The half-elf skidded to a halt, almost falling on the wet tiles.

“Hold on!  I just want to talk to you!”

“What about?”  said the thief.

“Er…  can I have my pouch back?”

The teen looked into his hand, shrugged, and tossed the contents to him.

“Thanks,” he said, catching the thrown pouch.  He turned away.  “Be seeing you, Ailyn Karvare!”  he called as he jumped down.  The half-elf blinked.

            How did he know my name?

He heard the teen’s voice from below.

“We lost him.  But I got my pouch back, so it’s okay.”

“Yes, sir.”  replied a voice.  Having heard it yelling at him on numerous occasions, Ailyn recognized it as the voice of the captain of the city guard.

            Wait- who was this guy?  Some noble?  Nah…  Couldn’t be.  Bluebloods don’t come this close to the Maze.

Ailyn turned and darted off across the rooftops.  Down below, the young man opened the hand he had grabbed the pouch with, to see…  a plain linen bag.  He stared at it for a moment, then doubled over in laughter.