It’s important to put humor in your books. Don’t you laugh about things during the day…month…year?? I hope so! Well, so do our characters.
I love humor. Don’t get me wrong – there was a time when I didn’t find anything to laugh or smile about. Really? Yep. As a young unhappy, sad, and unloved child – nothing was funny. If someone made a joke around or at me . . . I cried for days. I didn’t understand why they were making fun of me. Really? Yep. I took everything so personal – I lost friends – the one thing I truly needed.
My cousin once said to me, “Why are you smiling and showing off those ugly, yellow, crooked teeth?” I was eleven – and guess what? I still remember the scene as if he said it just yesterday. Hurt. Devastated. Insecure. Feeling ugly. To be honest it took years to get over that one – and maybe I’m not completely over it yet.
You see – what we say ‘trying’ to be funny might not be so humorous to others. We have to think first – then go for that batta-batta-boom! Are your characters funny or sensitive? Does your character ‘care’ whether he/she hurts someone with their stab at being funny? Or give this some thought – are they trying to be hurtful under the guise of being funny?
So real life humor should be interjected into your story. Your characters will either love humor or maybe be ‘defensive’ . . . but either way, you are sharing the personality of your characters.
When I was writing Destiny’s Shadow a scene developed as I was describing the muddy 1800s main street . . . slimy mud mixed with horse and cattle dung. The stench alone would send one running for the hills. Now picture . . . oh heck . . . let’s take a peek into the scene.
White Feather reached over and swept her off her feet before she landed on the walk. A response he regretted immediately. It might have been extremely humorous to have seen her land backside. He took pause staring into pale blue eyes … that resembled those of Puh-po-kan Ni-tun.’
“Put me down you … heathen. Unhand me, now.”
She squirmed in his arms. “A simple thank you would do,” he said in the best English he knew. “I’d think you’d prefer me to that sloppy boardwalk.”
“I’d prefer the mud in the streets as to having your filthy, Indian hands on me. Put me down immediately.”
“As you wish.” He took several steps, leaned forward, and dropped Lilly into the street. Mud gave a gushing sound as her derriere plopped down with force, splattering her face, hair and dress. A startled gasp was her immediate response.
White Feather turned on his heels and walked down the street. He held his head high and carried his chest and shoulders proud. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t wipe the smirk off his face as he strolled past the mercantile. It had been worth waiting all those years for this moment. He wondered how long it would take her to realize who he really was.
“You! You vile heathen. How dare you? You’re despicable.”
He wasn’t surprised he could hear her as clearly as if she stood, or in this case sat, in front of him.
“You’ll be sorry you ever set eyes on me. Do you hear me?”
Of no doubt, that was true. And the whole town could hear her. He stopped and turned around just in time to spot Andy running toward her.
“Miss Lilly. How’d you get down here? Let me help you up.” Andy grabbed her tiny waist between his large hands. He gave a firm pull. The mud had soaked into the silken layers of her dress and held her fast in the mud. He pulled again, harder with more determination, sending him sprawling across Lilly, flattening her body to the ground.
“Get off me, you imbecile. Now!”
White Feather chuckled under his breath when Andy pressed himself up, pushing her brown curls deeper into the slimy mixture. Andy managed to grab her arms and pull her into a sitting position.
“You idiot. How could you?” she screamed. Lifting her hands from the muck, a green, soupy substance fell from her slender fingertips. She wretched to her side.
The crowd’s laughter exploded on both sides of the street. Satisfaction coagulated into a huge knot inside his chest. He attempted to hide it behind his palm.
“Get me up and out of here,” she screamed at Andy.
“I’m so sorry, Miss Lilly. I never dreamed you’d be so heavy.”
His words struck a chord with those watching and laughter erupted once again. As Lilly looked around, he recognized her expression was one of loathing for the uncivilized, so beneath her people of Helena. White Feather crossed his arms and continued enjoying the show.
“Where are your manners? Someone help me get out of this mud hole,” she demanded.
As if summoned, two somewhat drunken cowboys appeared before her. His lopsided smile exposed missing teeth as his gaze settled on her full, white breasts. White Feather shook his head in disbelief.
“We’d be most happy to help you little lady. Wudn’t we, Marty?”
“Sure shootin,’ Matt. Want me to get Miles and Morris ta help too?”
“Naw. Maw’s gonna be mad ‘nough with us two covered in mud. ‘Sides, it’s only one little lady.” He stepped into the deep mud with worn boots.
“Shucks, don’t mind step’n in mud. Don’t smell too great with all that dung mixed in though,” Matt slurred his words and clumsily stepped off the boardwalk. “Pretty miss like you got yerself in a terrible fix.”
“Well, don’t just stand there,” she shouted, then extended a hand to each of them.
Along with a growing crowd, White Feather watched with amusement as the brothers gave an unsynchronized hearty pull. Both wavered on unsteady feet before they landed with a splash on their backs, Lilly on top of them. There was an incredible peal of laughter from the onlookers.
She looked up, an expression of disdain spread across her face as she pressed against the men. Finally it appeared she found solid ground beneath her slippers. Andy rushed to her side, grabbed her by the arm and assisted her up on the boardwalk.
The observing crowd clapped, yelled and several cried out, “Hurray. Bravo. He sure saved the little lady.”
White Feather didn’t think he could take much more without joining the on-lookers’ verbal reaction. Lilly squared her shoulders, lifted her head high and stomped the short distance to the ranch buggy. She gripped the carriage with her hand and took one step up, then realized the sodden dress was too heavy for her to pull up onto the seat.
“Grab my dress and push it after me.”
“I beg your pardon, Miss Lilly?”
She rolled her eyes to the sky and grabbed the buggy frame tighter. “Don’t just stand there, push.”
White Feather chuckled as Andy grabbed a handful of mud-drenched material and lifted the mass with all his might. With great relief, Lilly finally sat perched on the carriage seat. Again the crowd offered a round of applause.
I’ll be honest . . . I was actually laughing as I wrote the scene. It flashed before me like a movie scene and all I needed to do was type it as it happened. It seemed I couldn’t type fast enough! This happens to be one of my favorite scenes to date. In this same book there is another involving rain . . . I’ll leave that one to surprise and humor you. J
You can see from this excerpt that using humor can share a lot with your reader. Instead of just describing the scene of dung infested slippery mud, with onlookers on the wooden walk . . . they (and your reader) became a part of it . . . laughing at the situation. This is the crux of the comment, “show –don’t tell.”
I strive to put some humor in every book I write. Why? Because I strive to put humor in my life every single day. People ask me, “How can you be in such a good mood all the time?” I have to smile. You and I know that that hasn’t always been the case. I’m touched they noticed and respond, “I choose to be in a good mood. Attitude is a choice.” I had to teach myself how to see the ‘funny side of life.’ I love my humor and smile. It took me years to be confident, independent, and happy with me.
When you develop your characters – give them an in-depth . . . a profound . . . even an exhaustive analysis. Are they funny or do they have a dry sense of humor. Perhaps they are a joke teller. Or maybe your character loves puns or jabbing –annoying humor. Whatever personality your character reveals to you – get to know them. Use this humor, whether dark or funny, in your story. It will add a depth of honesty that your reader will relate to.