Wicked Wednesday: What role (if any) does humor play in your books?

Wickeds, do you write funny? Do you have a character in your books who is funny?

Sherry: I don’t think I write funny but I have moments of humor in my books. Those moments of humor are never about the murder or the victim because I take those events seriously. And I don’t think any one character is particularly funny. In I Know What You Bid Last Summer I do have a subplot that provides more humor than in most of my books. Sarah has promised her good friend Angelo DiNapoli that she’ll go “undercover” and try to taste his competitor’s lasagna for a lasagna bake off he’s entering. As the competitors catch on Sarah’s attempts to outwit them become more desperate.

Liz: I don’t try to be funny because I feel like readers can tell when you’re making the conscious effort – it feels forced. I love when humor is just a natural part of books, like in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I let my characters be funny when it comes naturally to them – while I don’t think Stan is particularly funny on her own, the people surrounding her like Char and Jessie definitely lend themselves to humorous moments.

Jessie: I never mean to write anything funny but sometimes that is just the way the characters see the world. I try to tell the story the best way I can and let the tone come out as it will. My Jessie Crockett books lean towards the humorous and my Jessica Estevao books really do not. My Beryl and Edwina books, written as Jessica Ellicott, are somewhere in between the others. One of the fun things for me as a writer is getting to the end of a scene or even an entire book and then sitting back and realizing which way it all tilted. I never know until the first book in a series is done how it will play out.

Barb: I think of the Maine Clambake Mysteries as having a “gentle humor.” The books are written in first person and most of the humor comes from Julia’s particular take on events. I also enjoy showing Maine humor of the “Bert and I” variety through various folks around town. The first Jane Darrowfield book has more of what I think of as “funny situations,”– more slapstick and descriptions of visual humor. But in the end, I would also describe the humor as gentle, not can’t-catch-my-breathe-funny.

Julie: I can remember reading my first Stephanie Plum book, and having to stop reading so I could catch my breath. David Sedaris books have that same effect on me. I would love to be able to make people laugh like that. I don’t write funny, but I hope there is some humor in my books. And sometimes I make asides for folks who know the world I’m talking about. In With A Kiss I Die, for example, there are jokes that theater folks will understand.

Edith: Like Barb’s books, my Country Store series play on funny Southern-type sayings that come out of the mouths of the South Lick police lieutenant, Buck, and Robbie’s Aunt Adele. And the whole tone of those books tends to be funnier in a gentle way. I have no idea how – I didn’t do it on purpose! My Quaker Midwife mysteries have occasional humor, but I think they tend toward the more serious. And in the Cozy Capers Book Group series, Mac’s parrot Belle provides a lot of light moments.

Readers, do you like humor in your books? What are the funniest mysteries you’ve read?

20 Thoughts

  1. I like both funny mysteries and more serious mysteries. The funniest mysteries I’ve read are the Stephanie Plum series, the Poppy McAllister series by Libby Klein, and Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis.

  2. In the real world I tend to be a bit sarcastic (and not everybody understands my sense of humor, which I think I inherited from my father)), so most of my characters take after me and can be a bit snarky, especially when confronted with threats or dead bodies. The exception is my character Maura Donovan in the County Cork mysteries, who has no sense of humor at all. But she’s loosening up gradually.

  3. Janet Evanovich’s books crack me up, as well as Libby Klein’s. I made the mistake of reading one at work and people thought I was crying, I was laughing so hard (but trying to do it quietly). Anything with ghosts or spirits or animals tend to be funny.Stories that involve kids are just cute and giggly.

    1. I was reading David Sedaris on vacation with friends and someone thought i was sleepy because I couldn’t talk and was wiping my eyes. “People thought I was crying” is a good standard for funny.

  4. Like Liz, I don’t try to be funny because I’m sure it would come off forced and very unfunny. Readers have said (and I agree) most of my humor comes from deputy coroner Tom Burns. Although I did scale back his wisecracking at the beginning of HEAVEN HAS NO RAGE (my editor said it was extremely authentic, but might turn some readers off), he tends to be jokester. He works in death, so he has the typical wisecracking response to a lot of situations and says things that Jim and Sally just wouldn’t say.

    I try to keep him in line, though. Sometimes it’s a lot of work. He can get very inappropriate in rough drafts and I have to rein him in. 🙂

  5. It takes a lot to get me to laugh at a book. I’m not sure why that is, but something that people will say makes them laugh I find amusing at best.

    Having said that, anything by Laura Levine always makes me laugh. Donna Andrews usually makes me laugh at least once. OWLS WELL THAT ENDS WELL made me laugh the entire way through.

    Stuart Gibbs writes mysteries for middle graders, but his books are wonderful and always make me laugh.

    Finally, if you can track down COFFINS GOT THE DEAD GUY ON THE INSIDE by Keith Snyder, that book will make you laugh. I was reading it in public and people kept asking me what I was reading I was laughing so much.

  6. I like both serious & funny mysteries. I’m currently reading Maddy Hunter’s Passport to Peril Mysteries & there have been a number of moments that make me laugh out loud.

  7. I love humor in cozies. I can’t remember the title, but there was a spoof of cozies that I kept laughing so hard it was difficult to keep reading.

  8. Humorous cozies are my favorite kind.Joan Hess’s Maggody Mysteries & Anne George’s Southern Sisters are my favorite 2 series.

  9. I know there are classes on adding humor to a story, and they are probably excellent. But you can’t be someone else. I agree that humor must be natural, not forced.

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