’m not a comedic writer but occasionally I’ll slip a joke into the book (if warranted). I don’t think I did for Fire and Bronze (since I burn the troubled Elisha alive by the end of it (actually, from the very first line)), it was hard to go ha-ha with that. Early ReTyrement had some humorous moments and some funny bits. But Don’t Jettison Medicine (my book for doctors to decide if they should be doctors) had short funny exercises.
And that’s the trick – it’s easy to write a witty character who says funny things over the long haul. But in the short sprint, you need to figure out a way to form a rapport with your readers, to give them something comical and meaningful, humor with a little depth. You can do it with back-referencing. (I don’t know if that’s what it’s really called – I’m just making that up)
Anyway, you’ll remember my piece I recently wrote about Glossaries, and how difficult they are to locate properly. It was a short piece, only 485 words or so. However, I made a comment about the crazy naming conventions we often find in fiction novels, specifically “…where the IIlianx are in desperate a Rossari-war to prevent the dark Valdiaks from destroying Upah4&%”.
Okay, this is kinda funny in itself. I’m throwing make-believe words about like any fantasy author and in the end, I share a private joke with the reader, that maybe these names are so random we’re even seeing numbers and special characters. Yeah, just what everyone suspects, that the author is just closing his eyes and rattling his fingers over the keyboard. So that’s the first joke.
But later, I back-reference my own joke in a line about character secrets in glossaries, specifically: “Fundamere: itinerant woodgatherer and secret King of Upah4&%”. And so there is that earlier joke with the rattle-key kingdom name. This time the joke isn’t about the special characters, it’s about the author and reader sharing a reference between them. It becomes a private joke, a personal thing. All comedy writers, from Art Buckwald to Dave Barry, have done this. It’s a little like a running gag, but one that ends quickly, before it gets tedious.
I also use another back-reference later, one that ties back to the earlier line, but I refrained from using the kingdom name this time. To me, if felt like it would be a little too obvious to do it again. So I went with a different back-reference, a little weaker than the first but still appropriate.
Usually in these blogs I’ll back-reference my early article in the link to my sales page, too. It’s a clever cool-down device, one that lets me put a final joke in, giving perhaps that last little smile as I close things down. It softens the fact that here is a desperate link, begging readers to click through a buy a book. Hey, it seems to work. I get some sales using it.
So keep your eyes open when reading humorous blogs and articles and see they rhythm and method of the thing. It can help if you find yourself needing to be funny in tight spaces and short order. Keep ‘em laughing.