Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Balancing Humor

One of the things I did during my mini-vacation was read Joan Hess' Damsels in Distress, the latest in her Claire Malloy series. What impressed me the most was her ability to balance the humor inherent with human nature with murder, that most evil of crimes.

People are funny, killing is not. As a writer of mysteries, I work on this concept all the time. How to give a good experience where the reader will fall into my created world and not be bumped out by too much humor in the wrong place? Or too little in the right place?

Readers and fellow writers, any ideas?


Nancy P said...

Of course, Joan's a master of the comic mystery, in a league of her own, but my theory has always been that if characters have a sense of humor they just have to express it in whatever way and place is natural to them. So the author doesn't have to worry about it. :) That means that a funny but crude or tactless character will crack a joke at the wrong time and offend some people, but the writer can defuse that offense by having other characters express it. And it means that a funny but thoughtful character will hold her tongue when it's wise to do so.

Conda Douglas said...

Good point, Nancy. If the humor comes from the characters and not situations, the pitfall of "killing isn't funny" is avoided. And Hess' is the master of drawing the reader in so that we're even sympathetic to her offensive characters--and I, for one, enjoy those the most!