Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Getting Serious About Humor: A Humor Fail

This is the first in a planned series on learning about humor writing from reading it. I even have a logo, custom-made by my computer guy.

Today's book will remain nameless, because I couldn't finish it. I skipped to the end, thinking I would at least see what happened, but I couldn't bring myself to read even that. I feel very bad about this, because it was a Netgalley arc, and I hate not to be able to give those books and their authors some support. In this case, while I can't support it, I won't attack it, either.

However, I think there's a lot to be learned from books we don't like, and I did have some thoughts about this one.

This was a YA book involving two girls looking to get in with the popular crowd, the popular crowd being an unpleasant bunch of people. Not a new situation/setting by any means. It did make me think a little bit of women pairs in TV humor, such as Patsy and Edina of Absolutely Fabulous. But only a little. I kept wishing Georgia Nicholson from Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging was running things in the book.

Since I'm trying to learn something from my humor reading, here is my takeaway from what I was able to read of this book:

  • Characters should be well defined, anyway, but it really is a necessity for humor. Read anything by Louise Rennison, Georgia Nicholson's creator. The humor in Rennison's books comes out of her very strong characters.
  • Weak characters struggle to pull off hyperbole/outrageousness. That goes back to character. 
  • Don't rely on variations of the same shock joke for a big portion of your book. Shock has a place in humor. Shock can be funny. But once the shock is over, so is a lot of the humor. Have something else up your sleeve.
So while I didn't enjoy this book, I came away with something I hope to apply to my own work.


Ms. Yingling said...

Ah, Georgia. She had her day, didn't she? I find that for humor, I still love Jordan Sonnenblick's ability to make a sad story funny through his turns of phrase. That said, you'll be glad to know that Happy Kid just checked out yesterday! I know it doesn't mean sales, but at least all of your hard work is in someone's hands!

Gail Gauthier said...

Oh, my gosh! That's wonderful that someone is reading Happy Kid!

Regarding Georgia, while I was writing this post, I was looking for sites to link to regarding her. There used to be a publisher's website for that character and her books. Louise Rennison had a website. Everything is gone. I know Rennison is dead, but someone took down her website? The publisher is no longer interested in those books?

It's not just that Gail liked Georgia. In the years after she hit the publishing world, I saw other writers trying to imitate her (and failing). Those books are also part of the British journal humor genre--Adrian Mole...Bridget Jones...Georgia Nicholson. The character has some cultural significance.