I love writing funny. I also love reading funny, my favorite contemporary funny gal writer being Janet Evanovich. Laughing out loud is not something I do easily, so, when an author can get me to let go with a guffaw, it’s got to be a real rib tickler such as Stephanie Plum not being able to grab a bail jumper because he’s nude and has covered himself in Vaseline. I’ll never be able to top that one.
But what’s funny to one person may not be to another. For example, I impulsively offered to share this blog with the resident ghost in my cottage. Well, it is Halloween, and Fred is awfully shy. I thought this might be a perfect opportunity for him to come out of his closet, or cellar, or the rafters, or wherever it is he lives, and try his hand (I don’t know if he has hands as I’ve never seen him) at interviewing me. And that’s the point I’m getting at. I’ve never set my eyes on Fred but I have experienced his version of funny, and it ain’t mine. His form of humor borders on slap stick. It’s quite physical and that’s probably no mistake, with his being being only spiritual. He’s tugging at me right now, so I’ll let him explain.
What? Oh, I’ve got to do the typing? I guess that answers my question about the hands. Okay, fine. Here’s Fred.
I’ll get right to it. I do not understand this living person’s sense of humor. She took offense when I started the truck in the middle of the night, then when she raced for the door to get a flashlight, the knob fell off in her hand. Now that was a hoot! Then I made the stove run out of propane in the middle of dinner, and I started the electric fireplace in the early morning hours. The cats were cold. Pranks are what I like. It’s my way of letting people know I exist.
Oh, fine. I’ll get to the questions.
How do you create humorous situations in your work? You obviously have no use for playing tricks, do you?
I think playing tricks on people can be mean spirited, Fred. Get it? Anyway, I do funny in a number of ways. First, I like to create quirky characters. In Dumpster Dying, the protagonist’s lawyer is her boss’ father, a white haired gentleman who has run through at least four wives by outliving them all, wears a white suit smelling as if he has just pulled it out of mothballs, and runs his law practice from a retirement home.
Another approach is to describe my characters in unusual ways such as the man managing the shooting range in Dumpster who wears a” mustache that covered an area of his face where his mouth must have been.” I also get a lot of mileage out of portraying one of the detectives in the book as never far from his spit bucket.
The situations that arise as part of the story may be what usually occur in life , but in an unusual way. In my Sleuthfest 2009 winning short story, when the elevator doesn’t work, my protagonist Eve takes the stairs instead of trying another elevator. Why? Because she’s with her close friend Madeleine, a woman prone to running into trouble wherever she goes. Eve cannot trust that being with Madeleine might not just jinx another elevator. Of course, it doesn’t, and Eve arrives at the room out of breath while Madeleine is already there enjoying the bubble bath.
I also like sarcasm. I think it’s funny. Not all people do, but I find sarcasm the penultimate way of working through some really difficult events and emotions. All my female protagonists are sarcastic, full of sass, and tender/tough. This makes for a laugh here and there as when the aunt in my Thanksgiving story “Murder with All the Trimmings” uses spam to fashion a special holiday tribute to her dead husband.
That’s it? You think that’s funny? Don’t you ever get physical?
Certainly, and you’d like this one. The protagonist has the opportunity to punch the murderer in the nose in Dumpster Dying. In another manuscript I have geese attack the village doctor, an unsavory guy. Those aren’t really pranks, however. They’re odd situations, a combination of quirky characters in weird interactions with each other.
I like both the cerebral and the physical, so understatement, overstatement, and an unusual simile or metaphor work for me as well as having a gator grab the bad guy off the riverbank for dinner. Here’s an example from Dumpster Dying, when the bullet from a revolver plows through teased hair. It left behind “a part, as if a tiny lawnmower had cut a swath through tall grass.” Or I had fun with my protagonist’s request to be rescued from an alligator. Her new friend, Donald offers an understated “shoo” to the gator.
I think your protagonist should have planted a stink bomb in the bad guy’s car. Now that’s funny.
Only to you, Fred.
So, okay, if a writer does all the things you suggested, then they have a funny book?
Maybe. Have you read Dumpster Dying?
Parts of it. I’m not very computer literate. Besides, if I started up your computer late at night, you’d hear it, so I read over your shoulder sometimes. In my insubstantial opinion, the book needs more pratfalls and physical humor.
As they say, to each his own. Go work on your Halloween costume. What are you dressing as?
A ghost would be good.
That’s funny. You are a ghost.
Okay, then. How about a human? Can I borrow your stilettos, black skirt, and sequin top?
Oh, shoo Fred, or should I say “boo”?
Dumpster Dying Cover Blurb
Ah, the golden years of retirement in the sunshine state. They’re more like pot metal to Emily Rhodes, who discovers the body of the county’s wealthiest rancher in the Big Lake Country Club dumpster. With her close friend accused of the murder, Emily sets aside her grief at her life partner’s death to find the real killer. She underestimates the obstacles rural Florida can set up for a winter visitor and runs afoul of a local judge with his own version of justice, hires a lawyer who works out of a retirement home, and flees wild fires, hand-in-hand with the man she believes to be the killer.
Dumpster Dying Log Line
Emily Rhodes came to rural Florida for the cowboys, the cattle, and to do a little country two-step, not to fall head first onto a dead body in a dumpster.