5-18 Powell's City of Books, World's Largest Indie Bookstore by Judith Ashley and Sarah Raplee

Monday, April 23, 2018


by Courtney Pierce

A serious case of corny humor makes me laugh. A snappy retort or a play on words can take me down that path too.  My sense of humor is . . . well . . . a bit off from the norm.  It’s why I inject a dose of humor in all of books. Life is serious enough, so I like to think of my stories as an escape from the traffic, fake news, and the Bickerson's on social media. Forget that yahoo in the Lincoln Navigator who butts in at the merge every dang day. I wouldn’t dare flip the bird at that guy, though, but one of my fictional characters just might.

To my selfish delight, I save up snippets of funny stuff I hear in passing. They go into my reserve tank, and then I let them loose like spit balls from the mouths of my characters. Dialogue is an excellent vehicle for this sneaky, quite satisfying trick. Protagonists and antagonists alike get to say and do things that I, myself, wouldn’t dare to in real life.

Another great vehicle for making readers smile–and me toois to infuse something ridiculous into a dire situation. This lightens the mood and breaks the tension. I especially like to do this with an animal, because they’re so well-meaning and pure. It’s like an Art Linkletter moment on Kids Say the Darndest Things. In my latest book, Indigo Legacy (due out in late summer), I use a therapy dog to play out this type of craft. A standard poodle named Pogo picks up on my protagonist’s most hurtful, emotional moment after she learns something terrible about her dead husband. Among his effects is a police report. The dog snatches it and chomps on it like Popeye’s spinach. The vision is intended to be funny, but the emotion behind the dog's bad behavior is not. As a result, my character’s grief is completely re-calibrated.  In an instant, the mood of the scene changes.

Pain is so much easier to write than humor. Whether psychological or physical, pain is pain, but not everything is universally funny. A laugh is the result of the reader's taste and experiences. As an example, take the 2007 novel Sideways by Rex Pickett. Among the backdrop of the California wine country, a raucous boys-will-be-boys story unfolds. Two grown men take a last-hurrah trip before one of them gets married. The premise alone is a total set-up for fun. For me, the debauchery, bathroom humor, and sharp dialogue are hilarious and right on point.  And just when you think these guys couldn’t make one more bonehead move, they top themselves. Every page yanked me forward with one laugh-out-loud scene after another. Of course, some people thought the book (and also the movie) was stupid and immature. Duhhh . . . yeah, that was the whole point!

Unlike authors of thrillers or crime dramas, the recipe for tickling a reader’s funny bone requires their complete trust in the author. But as the author, I'm going to write what makes me laugh, not the reader. A prediction of that magnitude is destined to fall flat because it wouldn't be genuine. How the heck could I possibly know what makes others laugh unless I know them?

Some of the best chuckles are rooted in a character’s struggle. How I get her out of it usually sticks her deeper in fresh mud. It’s a crap shoot, for sure, but when you hit that F-bone just right, then everyone wins.

Go ahead and pick your smile poison: subtle, bathroom, corny, snarky, ironic, or caustic. All forms of humor are accepted here, even encouraged. We can all come up with the flash of something both tragic and funny that really has happened. You know, a real you-can't-make-this-stuff-up moment. How about a character whispering self-barbed dialogue in the women’s restroom after she's already wet her pants? That situation could be dumb or brilliant, depending on what the author does with the scene. 

In truth, it only takes the description of my character's expression in the mirror's reflection to make it funny. 

And on that note, I know a good exit line when I see one. 

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her new family. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and She Writes. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. 

Check out all of Courtney's books at: and Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including

The Dushane Sisters Trilogy concludes with Indigo Legacy, due out in summer, 2018. There's love in the air for Olivia and Woody, but will their family history get in the way? Ride along for the wild trip that starts in a New York auction house and peaks in a mansion on Boston's Beacon Hill. Will the Dushane sisters finally get the answers they've been seeking about their mother.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."


Judith Ashley said...

So true about humor. I never got the Three Stooges but rolled in the aisle, started laughing before the upcoming scene with Inspector Clouseau and The Pink Panther. Still smile just thinking of the scene with the parrot and vacuum.

CourtneyPDX said...

The one fact that I'll never let go of is that humans very rarely laugh out loud when they are by themselves. It's a social phenomenon. When a book makes me laugh, then I know it's truly funny.

Muhammad Asad said...
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Sarah Raplee said...

You are so right about writing what makes YOU laugh, Courtney. Your core audience 'gets' your humor and your voice. Honesty will touch them. You made ME laugh out loud!