Thursday, April 22, 2021

Finding the funny... by Peggy Jaeger

 You would think as someone who loves screwball comedies, romcoms, and who watched endless sitcoms growing up, that I would easily be able to come up with funny scenarios for my characters in my books.

Yeah...I'd totally think that too, but I'd be wrong.

So wrong.

Writing funny is hard. Wicked hard.

And comedy can be so subjective. What I laugh out loud at something so hard I wet my pants, my husband doesn't even crack a smile for. Drawing the line at farcical is something I have to consider, too. You want your characters involved in situations that lead the reader to laugh and relate, but you don't want them thinking, "never in a gazillion years would something like that happen."

The book will close in a heartbeat when that thought occurs.

Now, I’m considered a wise-ass by most people who know me, and I won’t deny that descriptor at all. I can be bitingly sarcastic – but never cruel – and I’ve been known to make grown women leave a dinner table and head for the ladies' room just so they won’t pee in their pants from laughing.

I can be quick, biting, snarky, and sometimes guffaw-able, in real life.

But on the page? I die to find the funny.

Most humor is based on tragedy, or the saying goes. Most of my humor is found in dumbass situations that happen every day in my life. The Lucille Ball moments we all have at one time or another.

But when I’ve got characters I want to invest a little humor in, oftentimes I’m lost.

Most of us know at least one person, an uncle, a friend, even a co-worker, who can take any situation and see the humor in it enough to make everyone around them laugh. These people are usually the “best friends” in novels, like the Rosie O’Donnell character in Sleepless in Seattle. Always ready with a witticism – usually spot on and deadly – about whatever is occurring in the scene at hand. These characters lighten the mood, add realism to the situations in the book, and generally are well-liked by readers.

I think it was famed actor Edmund Kean who said, “Dying (Tragedy) is easy; comedy is hard.”

Yup. Truth.

So, just how do I find the funny? Well, being a die-hard people watcher is one way. I've been to Panera's a time or two and watched the most ridiculous things happen to people while they are waiting in line for their food. I'll be honest and tell you I've used one or two ( or more!) of those events I've witnessed in my RomCom novels.

Not only am I a people watcher, but I will also talk to a rock! And I've got the kind of face that just screams TALK TO ME from everyone I meet, so many times I'm told stories that resonate with me and which I can use for my own characters.

And I want my characters to sound like real people - the witty neighbor down the street, the aunt who's always got a funny anecdote to share, the uncle who loves a good slapstick move. These are the people I think of when I write my RomComs.

I have a friend who says it's the situation a person is caught up in and their response to it that can make the scene funny. I a point. You see, I believe PEOPLE are inherently either funny or they're not. Some people can tell a joke and you'll smile. Someone else will tell the same joke and you'll be holding your sides because the pain caused by laughing is great. These are the people I strive for when I write my RomComs. These are the people I want as my hero and/or heroine, and these are the people that give me the most agita to create!

As a huge fan of the 1930s and 40s slapstick RomComs starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Claudette Colbert, I strive to live up to their wonderful examples. The writing of Prestin Sturgiss, Billy Wilder, and later, Nora Ephron and the Cohen brothers are my yardsticks. Their characters were relatable, lovable, and regular people who were, and are also, hysterically funny.

So, finding the funny isn't the easiest thing to accomplish when you're a writer. It's hard, sometimes soul-sucking work. But the first time you see a reader hold a book you've penned and they laugh at the right -funny - parts, the rewards are immeasurable!

Here are a few of the books I've penned that I consider funny reads: The Match Made in Heaven series ( 3 books) 

It's a Trust thing

3 Wishes

Christmas & Cannolis

Mistletoe, Mobsters, and Mozzarella

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Until next month, peeps ~ Peg



Oh my gosh, yes! Funny is hard work and I struggle with it too!

Marcia King-Gamble said...

Funny is a gift and I have to admit I am not very good at it. Kudos to you for writing romcoms.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Writing funny is hard, but worthwhile when it works! You've got the touch. Best wishes for continued success!

Paty Jager said...

Peggy, I agree, funny is hard to write! I took a workshop on writing humor and realized I can't do it. I try to add mirth in my books with events or comments by characters but all out funny... I'm terrible at. Great post!

Judith Ashley said...

Great post with true insights into what it takes to write RomComs. I admire anyone who can write humor in such a way that it resonates with people who are not family and friends.

Deb N said...

Peggy - I start out every book I write intending to write a Rom Com - and it never happens. You are so right - it is hard. But you, my friend, are a master at rom com. Every book I read of yours, I find myself saying - many times, out loud in the middle of the night - where does she come up with this stuff?!?!? Mistletoe, Mobsters, and Mozzarella - a perfect example - and yet you also add the pathos of life - and the combination is what makes your characters real (at least to me :-) ) So carry on... even though I know it is hard work.

MJ Schiller said...

So true! Especially when you pointed out that one person’s funny is not the same as the other person’s. That’s why people seem to either love or hate my chick lit series. Some readers don’t appreciate the main characters’ “immaturity.” And these characters in question would be the first to tell you their behavior is juvenile, but maturity is overrated! They like getting silly together. It can be a release for stress, and they’ve both been through hell. They often say that some people don’t get them but they amuse themselves and they’re fine with that. We’re all such different people and that’s what keeps life interesting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

peggy jaeger said...

Jennifer - it's a daily and every book struggle for me!

peggy jaeger said...

Marcia - thanks for the kind words. Funny is def. hard to write!!!! my anxiety level proves it, hahah!

peggy jaeger said...

Caroline, thank you!!

peggy jaeger said...

Paty - I would love to take a workshop on writing funny that actually taught me how to write funny!!! hahah. I took one at RWA once with a panel that was comprised of Jill Shalvis, Lauren Layne and Jennifer Probst about writing funny. We all laughed but I didnt really LEARN snything! hee hee

peggy jaeger said...

Judith - oh that is so true!!! our family will laugh because they get the joke. Strangers? You can only hope they do.

peggy jaeger said...

Deb- you made my week/month/decade! Thankyou for saying those kind words. Every book is a struggle, for sure, esp. when you want to balance the funny with the romance. So thanks for saying that!

peggy jaeger said...

MJ there are so manay times i"m laughing like a hyena at a fb meme or something funny on tv and hubby barely cracks a smile. then he'll laugh at the stupidest thing and I think, okay, that's why we're different people!!! Thanks for your kind word and insights.

Jay Artale said...

The best travel writing pieces I've read, have always had an element of humour in them. Writing funny shouldn't be such hard work - it should be spontaneous and free, so why is it so agonisingly difficult!

peggy jaeger said...

Jay- the question of the ages!