I did promise my posts from now on would be gems of honesty and personal insight. No safely hiding under an umbrella while the heavens open around me. No pretending my closet is oh-so skeleton free. I'm going to let the rain fall where it may, and the skeletons walk free. It is almost Halloween, after all. So here goes.
Ever since my time as a teenager on the school debating team, I've been aware of the fact that some people have a natural knack for coming up with observations or comments which are downright funny and have people in stitches - and often off the cuff. Impromptu. With little if any time to pre-think, plan or prepare. They don't have to work hard at being funny, they simply are funny, because that's the way their mind works.
Not me. Oh, no. On the debating team, I was one of the serious ones. Give me a meaty argument and I'll sink my teeth into it, but attempt to get the audience laughing and I sink. That's not to say I'm completely and utterly serious all the time, or that I'm lacking a sense of humour. I don't take myself too seriously, and I'm more than capable of sarcasm, wry humour, and self deprecation. In certain areas, I'd even say I have a modest talent. (When it comes to innuendo and double entendre I'm pretty much unbeatable. Don't start me. Please.)
But slapstick, rolling in the aisles, ultra light-hearted stuff is not my thing. I appreciate how well others do it, but I just don't find it comes naturally to me. I'm more one for emotional entreaty, heartfelt conflict...and here I suppose I'm talking as much about my writing as about my long-dormant debating career. I may never successfully write chick-lit. And it's a safe bet that everything I write is likely to have a serious undertone, or at least try to present characters and situations with a little realistic depth and complexity. (Not that I mean to imply that humour and depth/complexity in writing are mutually exclusive. Many talented writers combine them beautifully.)
The truth is, though, it's taken me a while to accept that I write the way I write, because I am the way I am. And I am just a little bit serious. But, you see, I want to be funny. Or more funny. Just like the kid who has curly hair always wants straight, and vice versa.
I read something about writing recently, though, which put things in perspective for me. It centred around the idea of tension. Building tension between characters, maintaining that tension, and being aware of the things which can release it. The article I read was discussing this in the context of romance writing, but it applies equally to any genre or style which makes use of suspense and building tension to hook readers and keep them reading. And in this context, humour can be a tension deflater, which is certainly not always what you want.
It really depends what genre you're writing, and your aims. And it's important to recognise that there are plenty of writing styles for which an endless supply of humour is not a prerequisite. There are many many writing tools available to us, and humour is just one of them.
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|Kartoffelpuffer, aka latkes|
For the kind of stuff I write, having just a little touch of humour here and there as I tend to - some sexy banter and innuendo between two characters, some dramatic irony, and the occasional wry or sarcastic comment - is probably pretty much the perfect balance.
Talk about a silver lining. I've discovered it's actually lucky I'm not more funny.
By the way, for those who are applauding (or questioning) my use of metaphor in this post, the credit (or blame) should rightly be attributed here. Cos this is a Crusade, people, and the challenge is on...