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.

Non-sequitors
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.

Writing and Worldbuilding- thoughts on heroes, magic, and fantasy races.

So. I feel like I should give my readers (if there are any of you; I wouldn’t know, nobody ever comments) more than just glimpses of my everyday life.

So here are some writing tips and such-like.

WRITING

Keeping Characters Active

1. Does the hero ever do anything the other characters couldn’t, simply because s/he is the hero?

Or, in other words, do you ever write a scene purely for the hero to do something that they didn’t even need to be there for? Something that gave the hero themselves no character development at all?

If the answer is yes, you might want to try writing the scene without the hero. Both the scene and your hero will likely be better off for it.

2. Can you write [pick a character] out of the book?

In other words, how hard would it be for you to write out that person- do they ever actually do anything, or do they stand on the sidelines and watch others act?

If it’s fairly simple to erase the character from the story, then- while this may sound harsh- you might want to do just that.

If you prefer to keep the character, you might consider rewriting other scenes you’ve already written, in order to keep the character doing things.

WORLDBUILDING

Magic Systems

Magic can be a bit of a tricky subject, and there are people who’ve written far better essays on this topic than I could. Brandon Sanderson comes to mind.

However, one thing I can say is that Magic needs to be believable. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean it has to be believable in our world; just that it needs to follow its’ own laws and have predictable effects.

A given magic system might function off the principles of chaos, but it should comply to its’ internal laws just as well as a system that is based on order. Even if a character can’t predict the effect of a spell by the words or gestures or plants or glyphs or whatever used to cast it, it should at least be possible for them to do so.

Now, you don’t need to write out the rules in your story- in fact, it often works better if you let the reader (and, sometimes, the characters) figure the rules out for themselves. However, if you do write out the rules… keep a few back. That will let you do unexpected things with your magic system when necessary, but things that nonetheless follow the laws. It willmake your magic systems more believable, and a lot more fun to read.

Races/Species/Peoples

Whatever you call them, your world might include a multitude of sentients beyond humans. Whether the setting is sci-fi or fantasy- either way, you want some believability, right?

In fantasy, there are a few ‘stock’ peoples- Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Half-elves, Orks. Some people add subraces (night elves, bright elves, light elves, wood elves, blood elves, etcetera etcetera ad nauseum). And, while there are still a lot of avenues that can be explored with these ‘traditional’ races… I’m going to leave them alone for a bit and dig farther back.

Landvaettir. Ever hear of them? They’re Old Norse nature spirits, protectors of the land. Their territory could range from as small as a certain boulder, to a chunk of the country. Try looking them up- you might get some ideas.

The Faeries? Think of Victorian-era tales, with a dash of older legends. Are your Fae the Elvish type? Perhaps amoral, aloof beings, who have little understanding of mortals? Or perhaps you go the Eastern route, and your Fai are Kitsune, Tengu, and Kappas.

And then, of course, you can make up your own.

Catfolk? Maybe a bit overdone, but there’s potential- it’s all in the depiction. Perhaos their ears are at the sides of the head, instead of the top?

How about a race that seems like humans, but has small antlers, like branches jutting from their foreheads? What might you do with them?

A dark-skinned race with golden eyes and feathers for hair?

A small, gnomelike people… with four arms?

Whatever your races are, be certain to think about their place in the world. They don’t just exist; they have a history, and their interactions, among themselves and other peoples, have shaped the path of their world.

Phew. A little longer than I’d planned… anyway, I hope I gave you some good ideas.

Aramarian Old Tongue

I’ve been working on a language for a world I’m creating. I’m still not sure whether the world will be for roleplay, writing, or both. The language is sort of their equivalent (as far as importance goes) of Latin and Quenya.

I’m not going to go into the linguistic rules yet (because they’re overly detaile and I don’t have a lot of time right now), but here are a few words and phrases.

 

One who is gifted with luck (a lucky person): na’ärukhyebha’el

Luck of Heroes (essentially, a mix of ‘Good luck’ and ‘Fare thee well’): aeho ë ärukhyebha

Blade: tebha

Moon: sukyö

Child: rhäned

Hello/Goodbya: sielan (say shell-awn)

Die (the item): pelel

Dice: peleli

Wood/forest: yudar

Town: anie

Red Barchetta

I’ve been walking around, wearing a pair of steampunk goggles I got for my birthday and a leather duster, with the Rush song ‘Red barchetta’ stuck in my head. I’ve had this idea for a thing of some sort involving a world where combustion engines were outlawed fifty years ago due to pollution concerns- one of those -seems-like-utopia-but-really-isn’t-anywhere-near sort of things. Anyway, this kid lives on his uncles farm, and one day he finds an old muscle car under a tarp and some hay in the garage. There’s a gas pump beside and a thousand-gallon tank below ground. So he ends up taking the car out for a spin and beating up roving horse-riding bandits and government agents using a bunch of clockwork devices.

…It actually sounds really cool now that I’ve gotten it out of my head and typed up.

Archaeofuture

So, one of my current projects is a story set fifty million years from now, after the pretty-much-total extinction of humanity. I’ve also got two stories set later- one 200 years after, one 1200 years after. Bonus points if you can figure out the original words to this ‘ancient chant’:

So shisiz etale asar castuays,
Shere earsor alongong time.
Shale aph tmake she bes tus shinks,
It sona pill clime.

Zephyrst madanis Skipper u
Wildu sherseri best,
Tmake sheu sherscoms terble
Inshirtro picai lanest.

Nophone, nolites, nomoderkar,
Nodis inkleukh zhury
Ly Crobinson Caruso
Itsprim idise azkanbi.

Sojone usere ichwi kmyphrens,
Yoreshur toket asmile,
Fromses enstran dedcas taways
Hiron killkan zisle!

Seriously, if I hadn’t (re)written it I might not understand it. Hint: It’s a theme song from an old TV show.

Useful things adventurers forget

I was thinking about the more realistic side of adventuring, whether in fantasy or otherwise, and came up with this:

A List of Items that Adventurers Need but Oft Forget, in no particular order.

 

1. Wax plugs, to protect against harpies, sirens, and your companion’s snoring.

2. Small rocks, to cause distractions.

3. A deck of cards, because some unscrupulous gamblers mark their decks. You may wish to follow suit. Pun intended.

4. Map/scroll case- many an adventurer has lost his way when his map fell apart.

5. Comb and hair pins: useful when you have long hair. Also, many hair pins can function as lockpicks in a pinch.

6. Sewing needle and thread- those sword cuts in your cloak won’t heal like you do. Also useful for stitching large wounds when you’re out of healing.

7. Bowl and utensils- eating with your hands isn’t all it’s romanticized to be. Besides, ever try eating stew with your fingers?

8. Soap. Seriously. Monsters tend to have good senses of smell, and you don’t want the dragon to scent you before you even start.

9. Two sets of clothes, for similar reasons to the above.

10. Writing kit. This way, you can sketch a map of a dungeon or a picture of a puzzle for further reference.

11. Crowbar. Club, Door-opener… the fighter’s lockpick.

 

If you have any more, feel free to comment.

An excerpt from my Science Fiction novel.

This is a scene from the first chapter. There’s a prologue that tells what caused the crash.

The eighteen-year-old stood once more at the crash site. He hadn’t been here since the crash, six years earlier. He hadn’t changed much since then. He was still wiry, and wore his shaggy red hair at medium length. He’d grown a little bit taller, and slightly more muscled due to his practice of a self-formulated style of martial arts. Otherwise, Keneth was basically the same as he had been that day, six years earlier.

All that remained of the crash was the plowed-up bit of ancient stone, the wrecked speeder itself now covered with the faintly luminescent blue-gray moss that was found all over the underlevels. As Keneth stood there, he heard a faint scratching noise. Whirling around, he saw a caped and hooded figure behind him. The figure threw something at him. Catching it, Keneth looked. It was a laserfoil.

“Wha-?” Keneth began, but just then his opponent activated a laserfoil of his own. Fft-zzzz! A grayish-silver blade sprang from the black hilt. Keneth, eyes widening, activated his brown-hilted laserfoil, and marveled at the turquoise blade. But he didn’t have much time to do so, for his opponent came rushing at him. It was only by sheer luck that the still-startled teen blocked his enemy’s blade, but he soon managed to stand on his own in the fight- barely. He managed to translate some of his martial arts style into blade movements, as well as getting in a few kicks here and there. Still, he was mostly holding on by luck alone. But he had a few tricks up his sleeve.

The silent opponent jerked thrice in quick succession. Three metal spikes had struck home. As Keneth’s left hand swung left and completed the swing, he knocked the opponent off his feet by swinging his left leg into the backs of his opponent’s knees. Meanwhile, Keneth had been defending himself, but now he took the laserfoil- and sliced. He then fell to the ground, retching. When he had recovered, he stood and took his new blade with him as he returned shakily to his speeder and flew away.

I’m currently trying to work out a title for the story. Any ideas are appreciated; just put them in a comment.