Humor, Heat, and Hooks Part 2

As promised, here is my second post from the Humor, Heat, and Hooks: The Building Blocks of a Page Turner workshop I attended at national. My apologies again to author Katy Madison, the presenter, as I am unable to access the link she provided and thus cannot transfer it on to all of you.

Humor is one of the quickest ways to endear a character and engage the reader’s attention.

Using self-depreciation can let the reader know that:
–  Your character is not a whiner
–  Your character has a sense of humor and is likable
–  Your character is optimistic and not beaten

Even if you don’t have a sense of humor, your characters can. But remember not everything is funny to everyone.

Ways to write humor:

Series of three
Running joke
The ridiculous
Dogs and children
Fish our of water
Banter —Not argument
Male vs. female differences
Slapstick —Can be easily overdone.

Caveat: Never, never have your characters laugh at another character’s jokes.

And tread lightly — this is a place where less is more.

I like to write humor. I think most of you have heard about my beloved cactus scene. In my WIP I had a scene, one of my favorites, where, at the hospital’s New Years Eve party, in the process of avoiding her ex and the hero, a nurse hides out in a dark office……and bumps into a cactus. Not just any cactus, a huge six footer that weighed several hundred pounds. I researched cacti. Learned about their spines and which ones were most likely to attach to clothing.

Did you know the San Pedro cactus is alleged to have aphrodisiac properties? But I digress.

The scene was funny…hysterical in my opinion. With lines like: The King Kong of Cacti and a cactus accoutrement.  My agent says it was so different, it’s one of the reasons she signed me. I entered the scene in two contests and finaled in each with very positive feedback. I won the Medical Romance Pitch with that scene. And yet the editor I’m working with said something to the effect….it’s a great scene, I just don’t think the cactus adds anything to it. Doesn’t add anything? It added humor. (My character: “Hello. Caught on a cactus here.” Now that’s something you don’t say every day.)

And that’s when I learned that humor, solely for the purpose of laughs, is not what my editor is looking for. In fact she mentioned the reader may be concerned for my character’s safety, worried about her being injured by the sharp spines. That’s not at all what I’d intended. So, after three attempts to get it past her and with much procrastination, I edited it out.

Do you write humor? Do you enjoy reading humor? Any humorous scenes that have taken root in your mind that you’d like to share?

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  • Joanne Stewart
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:09 PM | Permalink

    I can't say that I like to read strictly humorous stuff, but I do like well placed humor in my romances. I do like the cute little one liners, and characters who just have a funny way of looking at things sometimes. I love to add it in bits and pieces to my writing. I can't help it.

    BTW…I loved that scene. So sorry it had to go. But… think positive. Maybe letting it go will get you that sale!

  • JL Walters
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:29 PM | Permalink

    Actually, the cactus scene sounds delightful. I do like humor and have only written one book that was considered humorous. I do tongue in cheek sort of things. Sorry your editor wondered about the scene. I guess editors look at things differently than writers.

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 2:04 AM | Permalink

    Hi Joanne!
    I'm glad you liked the scene. I think you know I substituted a filing cabiinet for the cactus. Boring. But the ultimate GMC remained unchanged.

    Hi Janet!
    Editors do look at manuscripts differently than writers. Hopefully with an eye toward making it a huge hit with readers!!!

  • Taryn Kincaid
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    Sometimes you just need somehow with a distanced eye to rein you in! I'm the queen of that!

  • Jennifer Probst
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    That scene sounds so great, and I love putting humor in my scenes. In the Marraige Bargain, I have this scene where she hides all these dogs in the house and the hero hears something in the middle of the night and thinks its a burglar. He goes downstairs with a weapon, calls 911, and breaks open the door and is attacked by a roomful of dogs. Great way to get the hero/heroine to do battle and up the sexual tension. I laugh out loud but I guarantee an editor will be editing it out because it may not push the story forward. Sigh. I love humor in books – it's my favorite part sometimes. I think you need to use that scene in another book and make the cacti integral to the characters – LOL!!!!

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 2:10 AM | Permalink

    I'll have to remember that, Taryn!

    Thanks for stopping by, Jen. And for sharing a snippet of your story.

  • Regina Richards
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 4:06 AM | Permalink

    Wow! Great information. Thanks for sharing this with us. 🙂

  • Christine
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Yes I do write humor which then gets me into trouble whenever I have a "dark moment." But I am constantly having to bridle one side or the other. One day I'll get the right balance.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • abbi
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 2:02 PM | Permalink


    I love humor and I love your idea for the cactus scene! Must listen to Katy Madison on my CDs. . .

    Humor has its place in HQN Medicals. I just think they don't want new authors to start with it. And I think I might have said this to you already. Sorry.

    Abbi 🙂

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Permalink

    Hi Regina, Christine, and Abbi!
    Thanks for stopping by!

    And Abbi, I've heard the same thing from MR authors. Unfortunate. My book has some funny moments. We'll see what happens.

  • Shoshanna Evers
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Permalink

    My editor axed a joke that just didn't work as well on the page as it did in my head (something about how the heroine didn't want to go to prison, because while she liked a little bondage she wasn't *that* into it). Oh well, you win some, you lose some lol 🙂

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 11:19 PM | Permalink

    Hi Shoshanna!
    I thought it was cute! To each his (or her) own.

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