- An outstanding post! I know she’s always amazing, but today she really outdid herself.
- Not one…not two…but THREE commenters will win a seat in one of her classes or receive a lecture packet.
- Margie has agreed to answer questions and comments all week while I’m away in Texas. Can you believe it?? And I’ve got Captain Awesome (my hubby) approving comments while I’m traveling.
I had to look at the calendar, just to make sure it wasn’t Christmas or some other stupendous holiday sneaking up on me. Nope, it wasn’t. So I’m putting it down to the Random Act of Kindness BLITZ sweeping the bloggy-verse.
Note: In keeping with this RAOK BLITZ, I’m sending you over to Natalie Hartford’s place for some sparkling Undies fun when you’re done here. Three words: Oh. My. God!
Fasten your seatbelts, and get ready to show Margie some serious comment love! Good luck in advance to the winners!!
Big hugs to Jenny Hansen. I’m thrilled to be on MORE COWBELL again!
Humor Hits Hook Readers
By Margie Lawson
It doesn’t matter what genre you write, you can use humor to hook readers, keep readers turning pages, and entice them to buy your next book. Humor on the page can be in-your-face funny, make-your-belly-hurt hilarious, or so subtle you don’t realize you’re smiling. But you are smiling. And you are turning page after page after page.
Humor is as addictive as chocolate. And we all know too much chocolate can make you sick, sick, sick.
When writing humor, writers have to find that tricky teeter-totter balance. Only not keep the teeter-totter level. Imagine you-the-writer, sitting on one end of the teeter-totter, the reader on the other end.
You want to keep the teeter-totter moving, but you don’t want to lose control and have the reader hit the ground so hard they break their tailbone. Nor do you want to pop them up so fast, that they’re launched off the teeter-totter toward Pluto.
Here’s how some of my favorite writers use humor. Enjoy!
Cliché Play Humor:
Stephen White, THE SIEGE (4 examples)
Poe didn’t dig his heels in often, but when he did he set them in concrete.
With all due respect, you’re dead in the water without me. Miles from shore.
I’ll run over you and I will treasure the tire marks I leave on your neck.
Something to know about my friend: Alan has never once in his life come across a sleeping dog he has ever allowed to just frigging nap.
Margaret Carroll, RIPTIDE, Margie Grad, 2011 RITA Nominee. (2 examples)
But when a guy with that kind of money drowns in his own swimming pool, at the height of tourist season in the Hamptons, it’s bad for business. Which meant you could bet your E-ZPAss the Suffolk County DA was going to keep an eye on it.
Maurice didn’t just sling mud. He supplied the dirt.
Darynda Jones, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, Margie Grad, 2012 RITA Nominee. (4 examples)
I could almost see the wheels spinning in his head. After several moments more, I began to think those wheels needed a good oiling.
Hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but get a little hot under my seven-dollar thrift-store Gucci collar.
I just prayed neither of us was biting off more than we could chew. I did that once with bubble gum. It wasn’t pleasant.
Maybe my trip to the big house would shed some fluorescents on the situation.
Humor in Dialogue Cues:
Joan Swan, FEVER, Margie Grad, Golden Heart Nominee, 3 times
She didn’t attempt to quell the duh in her tone.
Jeri Smith-Ready, SHADE, Margie Grad
“I really have to go,” I whispered, like I’d hurt ex-Hazel less if I lowered the volume.
Jessa Slade, FORGED OF SHADOWS, Margie Grad
In her calmest pre-saloon-brawl voice, she said, “I don’t want any trouble.”
Tana French, THE LIKENESS (2 examples)
There was a different note in his voice, and not a good one.
I couldn’t read his voice; no one does neutral like Frank.
Humor in Body Language:
Stephen White, DEAD TIME
I thought I saw Alan nod as I was talking. Alan’s nods weren’t much. Sometimes you’d need a motion detector to be sure he’d actually shifted his head. I’d developed the right radar while we were together. I could tell.
Sam nodded in a way that was intended to be unconvincing.
She was fidgety. Not pathologically so, like Jonas’s Uncle Marty. But Stevie was taut, like an overstressed string on a violin. She carried the tension of someone who just realized she’d run out of nicotine gum.
Alan’s eyebrows floated when I said that. Just a few millimeters, but still.
I opened my hands, encouraging her to take in the scene around me. She reacted by opening her eyes wide. They flashed rage. If lightning had erupted from her nose at that moment, I wouldn’t have been completely surprised.
Brad Meltzer, THE INNER CIRCLE
He watches my face . . . studies my eyes as I look to Clementine . . .
No. I shouldn’t look at her.
All Around Humor:
Harlan Coben, CAUGHT
From the Prologue, page 1
My body displayed all the classic symptoms of impending menace: Chill down my spine? Check. Hairs standing up on my arms? Yep. Prickle at the base of the neck? Present. Tingle in the scalp? Right there.
From the Prologue, page 2
When Chynna called I had just finished coaching the inner-city fourth-grade Newark Biddy Basketball team. My team, all kids who, like me, were products of foster care (we call ourselves the NoRents, which is short for No Parents — gallows humor), had managed to blow a six-point lead with two minutes left. On the court as in life, the NoRents aren’t great under pressure.
From the Prologue, page 9
She had woken up at six AM, early for Saturday morning, feeling pretty terrific. Ted, her husband of twenty years, slept in the bed next to her. He lay on his stomach, his arm around her waist. Ted liked to sleep with a shirt on and no pants. None. Nude from the waist down. “Gives my man down there room to roam,” he would say with a smirk. And Marcia, imitating her daughters’ teenage singsong tone, would say, “T-M-I” — Too Much Information.
Some writers have humor hits on every page, at least 99 pages out of 100.
Harlan Coben, Mario Acevedo, and Darynda Jones are Humor Hit Heroes.
(I couldn’t type Humor Hit Experts in that line. I had to go with the alliteration.)
You already got a taste of Harlan’s humor smorgasbord. Here are some gems from my friends Mario and Darynda.
Mario Acevedo, THE NYMPHOS OF ROCKY FLATS, Margie and Mario, long-time critique siblings
The titles of Mario’s books share more humor than some comedians.
He stood barefoot, his trouser cuffs rolled up to mid-shin, his crooked toes dusted with white powder, the source of the miconazole nitrate smell. He was a short man so I didn’t know why Tamara had called him Big Wong. If it involved the doctor dropping his pants, I didn’t want to find out.
“Where’d you get this?” he snapped, oblivious to the comb-over hanging from his head like an open pot lid.
“In my desk, out there.” I pointed to the cubicles beyond his door.
“Well, Mister Gomez, I mean, Felix,” he camouflaged his distress with a smile, “I wouldn’t be too concerned about this.”
“It looks serious to me. I’ve been in this business a while,” I lied. “British Nuclear Fuels. DoD. The EPA. Lawrence Livermore.”
Dr. Wong strained to keep his toothy grin while his eyes seemed ready to burst like the bulbs of over-heated thermometers. “This summary is nothing to worry about, believe me.”
Mario Acevedo, JAILBAIT ZOMBIE
Dagger thumbed the lighter. It sparked and the gas fumes went whoosh. His clothes on fire, Dagger screamed and tripped over the sprayer, tumbling him and the sprayer on top of the zombie. They tangled together, their flailing bodies sandwiching the sprayer. Flames jetted from the pile, followed by a roaring fireball that mushroomed into a column of black smoke.
The heat slapped Mel and me and we were surrounded by the stink of burning compost. We stepped back. He said, “Awesome. I would’ve paid good money to see this.”
Mario Acevedo, WEREWOLF SMACKDOWN (2 excerpts)
- I have seen werewolves before. As long as they stayed out of my way, I stayed out of theirs. I never bothered mentioning them for the same reason I never said anything about skunks or cockroaches.
- Gullah sat in an Aeron executive chair centered on a Persian rug with a border of that slate blue color.
I asked, “What’s with the blue cloth?”
“The color’s haint blue,” he replied. “Keeps the haints, the boo hags, our local ghosts away.”
“Haints confuse the cloth for water. They won’t cross it because they think they’ll drown.”
“Does it work?”
“You see any haints?”
FYI: Mario Acevedo is teaching an online course for Lawson Writer’s Academy in June: Fang It to Me: Writing Vampires, Fantasy, and the How-to’s of World-Building.
Darynda Jones, THIRD GRAVE ON THE LEFT, Margie Grad, 2012 RITA Nominee
FYI: Third Grave on the Left hit #26 on the NYT Bestseller list!
1. I was so dead. I was so amazingly, inarguably dead.
I called Cookie. “Hey, Cook,” I said, my voice light and airy.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Apparently I was a little too light and airy.
“Well, Reyes held me at knifepoint, but that was just a ruse to get Garrett’s gun away from him, which he did and then proceeded to hold the gun to Garrett’s head point- blank right before he kissed me, then jumped through a freaking window.”
After a long moment, Cookie said, “So, it went well?”
2. I steered Misery in the general direction of south until we came to a crumbling group of apartments behind another crumbling group of apartments behind an abandoned group of apartments that made the first two look like the Ritz.
3. Reyes hit me! He’d actually hit me! It didn’t matter that hitting me wasn’t really like hitting a regular girl and I’d be completely healed in a matter of hours. I was still a freaking girl, and he damned well knew it. I’d just have to hit him back. With a lead pipe. Or an eighteen-wheeler.
I hope you all enjoyed these examples. I did!
Think of Lake Superior as humor, and this blog as a flat rock. A rock that skips across the surface of humor and disappears into the depths of the lake.
I hope the blog leaves ripples in your mind. Ripples that motivate you to use humor as a tool to hook your readers, and keep your writing fresh.
This blog will be up the rest of the week while Jenny is at the DFW Writing Conference. Please post a comment so I’ll know you’ve been here.
Feel free to say Hi, or share a short humor hit from your work.
We’ll have THREE WINNERS this week! Three people who post comments will win a Lecture Packet , or one of my online courses from Lawson Writer’s Academy!
I’ll draw names on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, at 9PM Mountain Time.
THANK YOU FOR DROPPING BY!
Online Classes offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy in June:
1. Fang It to Me: Writing Vampires, Fantasy, and the How-to’s of World-Building ~ Instructor: Mario Acevedo
2. Write YOUR Way with Liquid Story Binder ~ Instructor: Lisa Norman
3. Fab 30 in 40 Days: Advanced Deep Editing, A Master Class ~
Instructor: Margie Lawson
4. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, Power Punch 1 ~
Instructor: Margie Lawson
Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.
Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last seven years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, full day master classes, and the 4-day Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit: www.MargieLawson.com.