Make them Laugh, Make them Cry: Part One

Was it something I said?

Making our readers laugh and cry, engaging a range of their emotions, making them care about our characters, these are all essential ingredients in successful novels. Firstly, let’s try making them laugh.

Humour is such a personal thing. What makes one person laugh out loud can leave another staring blankly in total bewilderment. For me, humour needs to be subtle, ironical and often self deprecating. Sometimes a bit of slap-stick works, but only if there is a real surprise for the reader embedded in it. Forced humour, like forced rhymes in poetry, is the absolute pits. Really there are no hard and fast rules about how to make someone laugh. Even face to face it is hit and miss. Sometimes during workshop presentations the audience laughs when you least expect them to. When that happens it’s like a gift from the gods. You grab that moment with both hands and try, later, to work out how you did it so that you can do it again. And if it’s difficult face to face, how much harder is it going to be translating that moment into writing on a page? Then there’s the task of making it come to life again to produce peels of laughter – or even just a giggle here and there.

I guess at the end of the day you can only be yourself. There is nothing more embarrassing  than watching someone trying too hard to make people laugh. Which, of course, is what makes it all the more satisfying when it does happen.

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