What are you laughing at?

silly cheetah faceDo you know what kind of humor makes you laugh? I had a vague idea when I was writing my novel. Poppy Mackenzie is a quirky character, a 'fish out of water' kind of gal, who has a subtle skewed view of the world that some find amusing. I was almost shocked, in a pleasant way, at how many reviews mentioned how funny they found my book.

So I've been thinking about this for a while, like how different we are when it comes to our sense of humor. Growing up, I was not the funny one, I was the one who laughed at other's jokes. My brother was the clown who told stories and jokes and everyone laughed. I was the quiet one in the corner who either laughed or scowled in disapproval if his remarks were derogatory or hurtful.

As I became a teen I discovered that boys found me funny and attractive. I still couldn't remember a joke, but my off-track view of the world seemed to entertain them. It was a bit of a mystery, but I liked it. I think sharing a sense of humor is one of the important things that keeps a marriage alive and satisfying for decades. I found myself attracted to people who found me amusing and I gravitated to the authors who amused me. (I've listed a few below)

When I developed my character sketch of Poppy, she seemed like a whole person to me with some characteristics we shared. Like a subtle, slightly sarcastic way of amusing people that was a bit like me. Imagine my surprise when my mystery with dark undertones of the Orange County most don't see, became a book that reviewers claimed made them laugh. I discovered I'm funnier when writing than when talking. Can anyone relate? Since it takes me a few minutes to come up with a witty retort, that delay causes me to miss the moment for humor, but in writing and editing ad nauseum, I can take my time to get just the right response. That's one of the many reasons I love writing fiction.

You may not find my characters or scenes amusing. Because we all have our view of the world and backstory, some things tickle our funny bones and others cause us to recoil. Bullies think they're funny, but most of us who have been subjected to racist, sexist, or abusive humor have a strong negative response to it. I'm not a big fan of slapstick humor, but many people find it laugh-out-loud funny. But who doesn't laugh at the Lucy and Ethel scene when they're working at the candy factory? If you haven't seen it, I dare you to watch it on YouTube and not laugh. (link below)

It seems some things might be universally humorous. And you can tell a lot about a character by their sense of humor. When you're reading, do you grow fond of the character who makes you chuckle? What about the antagonist? Do you know he's the bad guy early by your response to his dialogue or treatment of others? What do you think? And if you're a writer, how intentional is it to insert humor into your story and characters?


  • My old school favorite novels: Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry (new book, Swamp Story), Carl Hiaasen, and Janet Evanovich. Newer stuff: Wendall Thomas, Dee MacDonald, Greta Boris (mortuary series)
  • YouTube: Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory
  • Movies: Forgetting Sarah Marshal, any Sandra Bullock comedy, Cary Grant movies (Bringing Up Baby!)

  • How do you include humor in your writing?
  • Do you use 'pet the dog' scenes to lighten the mood of a mystery or thriller?
  • Is adding humor part of your plan from the start or does it just happen?
I'd love your feedback and some of your favorites. Use the comment section on my Facebook page.