Monday, September 27, 2010

Humor: Don't Force the Issue

"When I say humor is a great addition to most any piece, I mean humor that's actually, well...funny."  Robert Masello from Robert's Rules of Writing (Rule 78. Make 'Em Laugh)

Humor is a good way to lighten the mood of a narrative during scenes filled with darkness and intensity, and a nice dose of it is a great addition to any story.  As Masello says, "'s the leavening agent that can lighten up even the heaviest material."  But not everyone is born with a sense of humor.  So, if humor lacks from the individual, it shouldn't be forced into print.  Whatever is trying to be written as funny by the humorless writer, might come off as sounding stiff and unnatural to the reading, or viewing audience.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was hired as one of many writers to transform Gone With the Wind into a screenplay.  What I just learned recently, from the GWTW But Not Forgotten Facebook Page, was that he was let go because he couldn't make Aunt Pittypat sound funny!  Who can ever forget Aunt Pittypat riding off during the explosions, as the Yankees are approaching to attack Atlanta?  Flabbergasted and flustered she yells, "Uncle Peter, my smelling salts..."

Some people are naturally funny.  Those that are tend to be laid back and don't take themselves too seriously.  They can see the humor even in serious situations, and are usually optimistic.

But it takes more than funny people to make the world go around. Those who aren't funny sometimes tend to be more serious, tense, critical and pessimistic.  If you've ever said to someone (or someone has said to you), "You have no sense of humor," and you've gotten a reaction like this (or you've reacted this way, after angrily slamming down a fist), "I DO SO have a sense of humor,"chances are, that person (or you) may very well not.  But that's okay, not everyone is born with the humor gene.

Now, if you're a funny person and a writer, and you have a humorless friend who's a writer, too, let him know you'd be happy to help infuse a little humor into his narrative, if he's at all interested.  Even if he claims there's plenty of funny stuff he's already written, offer to read it and see if it sounds funny to you.  If someone has to stretch and strain to be funny, and what's written is beyond their "comfort zone," that can be some pretty painful  reading.

Do you or don't you have a sense of humor?

Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie.  Thanks for stopping by!  



William Kendall said...

I have an overly developed sense of humor....

I didn't know that about Fitzgerald coming in to fix up one of history's most overblown films.

*takes to the bomb shelter to avoid incoming flak from GWTW fans*

Maria McKenzie said...

Hey, William, that's one of my favorite movies!

William Kendall said...

I once wrote a blog about it, among other classic films, that I'm not fond of.

Please don't say you like the Wizard of Oz...

Anyway, for classic films, I'll go more for the Philadelphia Story, the Thin Man series, the Marx Brothers, or Bringing Up Baby.

Maria McKenzie said...

I looove The Wizard of Oz! (My kids hate it.)
And I enjoy all the other classics you mentioned, with the exception of the Marx Brothers. Can't say I've ever seen one of their films in its entirety.

Anonymous said...

I've been publishing a humor column for 20 years, so I'd *better* be funny! However, humor doesn't always translate from non-fiction to fiction, so we'll see what the reaction is when my novel comes out.

I also love the Wizard of Oz, but the book was better. (Actually, the book was just very different.)

Maria McKenzie said...

ozma914, I think publishing a humor column for 20 years guarantees that you're funny! What's the name of your novel, and when is it coming out? Glad to know I'm not alone in loving the Wizard of OZ, although I've never read the book. GWTW the book is very different (and better) than the movie, but I love it just as much!