Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finding My Inner Comedian

I love to read books that are serious in matter yet manage to lighten the mood with an occasional humorous style, phrase, joke, wordplay, or quip. Ilona Andrews, f.e. does this really well in her Kate Daniels series and it makes me want to read the books even more, since I'm a sucker for a good laugh.

It always amazes me when I meet somebody who is naturally witty. As in hilarious-without-having-to-think-about-it witty. Like Lorelai Gilmore of Gilmore Girls; In one scene somewhere in the fifth season, her father is trying to get her to listen to him, so he says "focus, please", and she responds with "I am a camera". That's a kind of clever humor I really enjoy.

I realize of course, that Lorelai Gilmore is only a fictional character and that a lot of work, thought and probably revision went into the script before that phrase was fully formed. Then again, maybe not. I have met people who are that witty (not surprising, considering I'm a half-Brit who grew up in a family full of smart asses). They seem to understand intuitively what makes others laugh and they somehow grasp the humor in every situation and are able to deliver it without a stutter.

Sometimes I wish I could do that. I can be funny, but on occasions when I'm uproariously funny, it's more of an accident on my part. I'm a straighforward, pragmatic sort of person. When it comes to humor, I can do straightforward and obvious. But when it comes to sly wit, I can only marvel at the twists and turns in thinking some people are able to go through within seconds. I'm fine with that - except when it comes to my writing.

I want readers to enjoy my writing. I personally enjoy stories that show either funny situations or writing-style, so that's what I want to have in my own stories. This just proves difficult when I can't seem to wrap my brain around certain mental leaps.

I know it's best to be as natural as possible when writing - don't try to mold your style into something you're not intuitively capable of. I have no intention of becoming the next Carl Hiaason or Douglas Adams (more examples of great funny writing). Yet I would like to add just a tad more humor to my prose. And I believe I can accomplish that, with a little research and a lot of practice.

So, to start out, I'll try to answer the most important question: What is humor?

My trusty wikipedia states that "humour or humor is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement". Aha. Well, that didn't help me at all. Further down, it says that "humour occurs when the brain recognises a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition [...] is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter". Bingo! Now we're getting somewhere.

Next question: What Makes Us Laugh
1. Ambiguity: where information can be understood or interpreted in more than one way. "I promise I'll give you a ring tomorrow".
2. Contradiction: a logical incompatibility between two or more propositions. F.e.: calling the Pope an atheist.
3. Paradox: a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition. "I know that I know nothing."
4. Misdirection: a literary device most commonly employed in detective fiction, where the attention of the reader is deliberately focused on a red herring in order to conceal the identity of the murderer.
5. Being reflective or imitative of reality: based on the premise of "It's funny because it's true".

I'm cutting this post short for now, since it's already a mile long.
(Could that possibly be a contradiction?)

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