Nancy’s Notes: Inject A Little Humor

Nancy’s Notes: Inject A Little Humor
December 21, 2015 1 Comment For Authors, Writing Advice Nancy E Miller

Inject A Little Humor

I’ve noticed many writers tend to shy away from humor in their writing. It could be they feel it would lessen the drama of the story, or maybe they don’t feel as though they can pull it off. But I have found that a touch of humor allows the reader to take a break, exhale, and prime them for the next climb of suspense.

In my first book, Crystal Unicorns, Alexis and Zach stayed the night in the woods to avoid a serial killer. By morning, the need for relieving herself was insistent. To make it short…tree, squatting, lizard, leg, screaming…her attitude wasn’t the only thing pissy.   A reader wrote back to tell me she snorted coffee out her nose after reading that passage.

Humor breaks the tension. Holding a reader in suspense for too long at a time can lead them to become desensitized and bored. By providing a respite from the ongoing action, the reader not only gets a break but comes to know the characters as more realistic and human. People are always doing little quirky weird things that crack the rest of us up. Their foibles assure us that these characters are more like us in the real world. We identify with Alexis, her pants down around her ankles, ninja fighting an innocent little lizard.

Humor extends its range to include sarcasm, irony, the absurd, the profane, even the universal sign of ‘really?’ the raised Spock eyebrow. Now, I’m not saying to run hog wild with it. The humor should never overtake the suspense or you’ll end up writing a romantic comedy. Use it sparingly. Just a dash. Seasoning, if you will. Like in a great recipe, just take it up a notch.

Humor lets us, as writers, stretch our creative muscles. Too often, we fall into a rut, a format, if you will. We read all about the five phase format, the three phase format, snowflake method…all of these are based on getting the story out. But making the story entertaining, pulling the reader in and keeping them, making them feel as though they right there in the story with the character, that is something that an experienced writer learns by …well…experience.

Instead of a steady arc of predicted and properly placed plot points, you end up with a crazy zig-zag of suspense and release with the releases further apart as the story intensifies. Bring back a touch of humor at the end as a signal that all is now well and life moves on. After all, isn’t that what we all want–to be able to laugh off life’s harsher moments and be happy with ourselves and others.




Nancy E Miller Nancy E. Miller, romantic suspense author of Shark Bait and Crystal Unicorns, lives near St. Louis with her husband and three dogs, pygmy goats, chickens and a cranky rooster named Ketchup. Her degree is in Psychology and Sociology. She has worked in education and mental health as a case manager and crisis counselor.
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  1. one Comment

    Amanda Mabry

    I find that regardless of genre, some of my favorite characters are those with a snarky sense of humor. In one of my current, WIPs, my favorite character is Tiago. He is fluent in several languages, including sarcasm.


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