Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult.
Does this saying have the ring of truth? Hell yeah! But I haven’t died (yet), so it’s subjective.
I dabble in humor writing the way a minimalist dips their brush into paint. As a rule, less is more. A smattering works, but a heavy hand can overwhelm the artistic aesthetic.
My humor articles appear on my blog, The Snarkology, at infrequent intervals. Imagine Erma Bombeck Uncensored. (Yes, I talk about SEX.)
I try to bring The Funny to all of my books, but the potential for humor being lost in translation is vast. For instance, my current Work in Progress is an erotic space opera called Viking Love Slave.
The logline sums it up: Viking gods getting it on with nubile love slaves… In Space.
The story contains a lot of lighthearted elements, but I’m discovering those must be presented thoughtfully or I risk my true intention (getting laughs) of being lost in translation. This has been especially evident as the book entered its first developmental editing round. I’m working with a new editor who has identified a purposefully humorous scene as being too melodramatic.
One of the hardest things an author does in the pursuit of good storytelling is balancing their editor’s advice against gut instinct. Writers have big egos so accepting guidance can be difficult. This creates conflict, which is great between protagonists and their counterparts. Maybe not so much in a professional relationship that depends upon cooperation for productivity.
Allow me to divert into a cautionary tale to illustrate…
I have an editor-friend who is a reformed Langolier. (She has pointy teeth but only eats kittens on Thursdays.) When we talk, she sometimes brings up a problematic author at her job that consistently reduces the editorial staff to ripping their hair out at the roots. We shall call this special needs author “Debby Diva” for the sake of discretion.
Debby Diva has “a voice” which is utterly unique to her. She is a special snowflake in the literary blizzard. It doesn’t matter whether her editor says her prose sucks or can’t be understood. Obviously, it’s on the reader to invest the time and effort to decipher Debby’s intent. If they fail, they aren’t trying hard enough.
I don’t want to be Debby Diva, and neither do you.
So what am I to say to my VLS editor when I don’t agree with her assessment? Yes, the prose is purple but it’s deliberately purple. And no, the entire story isn’t written in that style, because that would be too much. The joke is only funny to a point, and then you’ve taken it too far.
My best defense, perhaps, is the Are Readers Laughing? Test. The assessment pivots upon whether I can show the scene to a reader and get a good laugh. A giggle allows me to justify the style to my editor as genuinely humorous. A groan sends me back to the drawing board.
So you tell me. Does the scene below make you giggle or groan?
I’ll provide a free ebook copy of any title from my backlist to a randomly chosen commenter. (Excluding the Alphas Gone Wild box set.)
Viking Love Slave
The day she planned to kill a man, she wore an underbust corset that lifted her full breasts so high her nipples threatened to burst from the neckline of her servant’s frock. Prior to assuming her assassin’s duties, she spent hours bathing, polishing, and preparing every square inch of her body in anticipation of her first murder, as nervous as a bride on her wedding night. Even having been warned not to do anything to attract undo attention, Tierwyn couldn’t stand the thought that she wouldn’t look spectacular.
Better to risk arrest and execution.
Hefting a platinum tray of raw oysters, Tierwyn edged closer to the table. King Methedon of Alfheim dined with his guests at a long, rectangular table that ran through the center of the grand room. Prime Minister Seniormost Fussi Pantaloons sat to the king’s left. Crown Prince Thor of the Asgard Star Empire occupied the place of honor to the king’s right, and to Thor’s right was his advisor, Loki.
Word of the Asgard space fleet’s arrival had spread like quicksilver through the capitol. Nobles bedecked in jewels and finery filled the great hall to capacity. They represented the wealthiest and most prestigious members of the peerage.
Nervous tremors ran through her slender frame as she lowered the platter, aiming for an empty area between the visiting dignitaries. As she extended her arms, black-haired Loki tilted his head toward her. He bestowed a flirtatious wink and a smile upon the elf maiden, followed by a sharp pinch upon her posterior.
“Oh!” An indignant cry escaped her startled lips. Tierwyn fumbled and the tray of shellfish tilted perilously toward the royal lap.
“I’ll take those before you wind up wearing them.” Loki smoothly reached across Thor and removed the tray before the oysters completed their journey. In the process of helping, Loki’s elbow just happened to collide with Tierwyn’s hip, destroying what remained of her balance.
“Oh no!” Flapping her arms, Tierwyn tilted off-balance so her face descended toward the Crown Prince’s crotch. Gasping in shock, her eyes widened and her breath exploded from her lungs in a gust as she caught her first glimpse of the epic protuberance. His skin-taut stretchy pants appeared prepared to burst.
Great Gonads! The crown jewels must be enormous! Could the Asgard prince be wearing an insert? Sweet Goddess, she quivered with ecstatic giddiness, torn between curiosity and terror of the truth.
Swooning eagerly toward her dire fate, Tierwyn uttered a groan of disappointment when strong hands caught her at the last moment. Her thighs quivered in primal reaction to the powerful fingers encircling her upper limbs. Sighing, she gazed with longing and disappointment after the destiny denied her. To her great sorrow, his bulge receded from proximity with her face as he lifted her.
Viking Love Slave will be released in Spring 2016. To receive notification of Melissa Snark’s new releases, subscribe to her newsletter at: http://www.melissasnark.com/mailing-list/ You’ll receive a free ebook just for joining.
Author Melissa Snark lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband, three children, and a glaring of litigious felines. She reads and writes fantasy and romance, and is published with The Wild Rose Press & Nordic Lights Press. She is a coffeeoholic, chocoholic, and a serious geek girl. Her Loki’s Wolves series stems from her fascination with wolves and mythology.
- She blogs about books and writing on http://www.thesnarkology.com/.
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There were no lol moments for me, but I found amusement in a) she wants to look good for her first murder; b) character names; c) her internal thoughts (Great Gonads!). Humor is subjective. Grrr.
Barb, So one groan? Humor is subjective. You’re totally right. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂
Thank you for having me on your blog this morning! 😀
I didn’t lol, but I did grin most of the way through it. I don’t feel it’s over done yet it wasn’t a guffaw for me either–but it definitely wasn’t a groan moment for me. Which for me says you may have the balance just right. Not sure if you were going for that embarrassing laugh out loud in the coffee shop reaction, but I think it is a fun passage that highlights her personality. Loved the Great gonads! line and that she wanted to look attractive for her first murder.
Maybe I should use a pseudonym before I confess, but I give it a three giggle rating minus one groaner.
I was sort of distracted by the characters names. Is the whole book based in Asgard? No lol moment but I think it was because I was caught off-guard by references to the Thor universe.
Giggle AND groan! But mostly Groan! I can pic the scene in my mind’s eye! The only thing missing is the “girls” falling out of her top! 😉
I did not giggle, but I did smile. Does that help?
I, too, use humor in my writing, when I can, but it is just here and there, enough to sometimes lighten the mood or make a difficult passage easier to swallow.