7 Quick-fire Questions & 3 Tips: How to Make Readers Laugh Out Loud, with Kathy Lynn Harris
The fabulous Kathy Lynn Harris, author of Blue Straggler is stopping by today on her blog tour to answer 7 quick-fire questions, & share her top 3 tips on how to write the funny stuff. And she should know, her book Blue Straggler is HILARIOUS!! (& only $2.99).
Take it away Kathy!
7 Quick-Fire Questions
1. Red wine or white wine? Depends. White if I’m eating Cheetos. Red with Fritos.
2. Dogs or Cats? Dogs. Cats hold grudges.
3. Favorite month of the year? July in the mountains; March back home in Texas.
4. Contemporary author you’d most like to have dinner with? Barbara Kingsolver.
5. What is the last film you saw? Crazy, Stupid, Love
6. Top New Year’s Resolution for 2012? Train my two untrainable Golden Retrievers not to gang up on my son in order to steal whatever food he’s eating.
7. What’s your dream vacation? Can I do a combo? Italy and Greece, please.
3 Expert Tips!
My novel, Blue Straggler, contains quite a bit of humor; the characters and their musings, I’ve been told, have made people laugh out loud (so much so that their dogs gave them strange looks). This makes me happy, not only because we need to keep our furry friends guessing or they will take over the world, but because I love the idea that my writing can produce a chuckle or two, especially if someone’s day has, to that point, been horribly chuckle-free.
Through the years, other writers have asked me for some insights into how to write humor well. I typically direct them to anything written by Erma Bombeck. (Here’s just one line from If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? … “I noted some women tucked the second ball just inside the elastic leg of their tennis panties. I tried, but found the space was already occupied by a leg.”) I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.
I also give them these three tips that have helped me in my writing:
1. Listen and record real-life dialogue around you. Let’s face it. Most people are pretty funny, even if they don’t even know they are. Think about it: A guy checks his iPhone constantly while on a date, and his girlfriend basically tells him he’s going to need an “app for that” if he hopes to get lucky later on. Now that’s funny. Or at least has some potential to be funny. That’s why I enjoy going to coffee shops or restaurants, even bars, with my laptop or a pen and paper, and basically eavesdrop on others’ conversations. (Not once have I been arrested for this.)
Because when friends or family members get together in those types of environments, there’s almost always something humorous in the air. Taking the time to really listen to that kind of dialogue and write it down helps me hone my comedic timing in my fiction.
2. Read what you write out loud — to yourself and to others. So you’ve written a paragraph or a bit of dialogue between two characters and you think it’s pretty darn hilarious. You smile just thinking of your cleverness! Now it’s time to read it aloud and see how it sounds. Note any stiffness that doesn’t sound natural. Note extra words that slow down the pace. When you get the lines exactly how you want them, test them again by reading them aloud to another person or two. Watch their reaction and listen for a chuckle. If you don’t hear one, revise. Or simply try again after your listener has had at minimum two beers.
3. Keep a notebook handy. You never know when something funny will strike you. Humor in your characters and their actions can come from a wide, wide range of places — a radio commercial, something your friend tells you about her mother, a roadside sign on a rural church. Jotting those things down gives you a plethora of material to work with when you sit down to write next. And yes, I used the word plethora. My work here is done.
Being a 30-something, fairly directionless single female in South Texas is a world all its own. Kathy Lynn Harris’s Blue Straggler is a laugh-out-loud, yet poignant exploration of that experience — from the quirky, memorable characters who make up Bailey Miller’s circle of family and friends to that feeling of your makeup sliding right off in the humidity.
Readers will easily identify with Bailey’s sometimes humorous, often semi-tragic, choices that eventually lead her out of Texas, to a small mountain town in Colorado, and back. Along the way, she searches for not only herself but also answers to long-held secrets from her “legitimately unbalanced” great-grandmother’s past.
Bonus: She may even find love with a moody mountain man along the way.
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