Writer’s Craft #129 Best Humour Arises from Character
Your host, Lynda Williams, is the author of the Okal Rel Saga (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing) and editor of the Okal Rel Legacies series (Absolute Xpress). She also works as Learning Technology Manager for Simon Fraser University and teaches an introductory web development course at BCIT. For a list of Okal Rel titles see: Lynda Williams on Amazon.com.
The best humour is based on knowing the character and watching that particular character respond to a bizarre challenge – to paraphrase well-loved comedian Betty White, in her Labour Day Special, Betty White’s Funniest of the Funniest.
Watching her chosen vignettes proved the hypothesis. For example, Mary’s character from the Mary Tyler Moore Show struggling not to laugh at a funeral is funny because she’s Mary, the proper, respectful one. It wouldn’t work if Mary was just anyone.
Okal Rel humour of the same sort sprang to mind, immediately.
A disoriented Ranar awarding a failing grade to what he takes to be a simulation of a Gelack bedroom, in Part 1: The Courtesan Prince, is funny because Rire’s Gelack expert hasn’t yet remembered he is actually on Gelion. And because he is usually so disgustingly correct in all his suppositions.
Eler winding up Ranar’s beleaguered substitute, Josune, in Part 5: Far Arena, is funny because we know Eler is far from the intellectual lightweight Josune presumes him to be. And we just know Eler is going to out-anthropology the anthropologist.
Ilse holding out the urine sampling kit, to Horth, in Part 7: Healer’s Sword, is giggle-worthy because he’s Horth Nersal. And she’s Ilse. He doesn’t expect his own rules about empowering medics to apply to him. And, despite a bad case of the hots for him, she’s a reputation-conscious Demish woman.
The challenge, in this age of attention-bombardment-fatigue-syndrome (ABFS), is coaxing readers into the story far enough to get the best jokes. But that’s another story.
Share an example from your own work when the humour relies on knowing the unique traits of the characters.