Last weekend I took a morning class with Sara Barron, comedian and author of People are Unappealing: Even Me. The moment she started to speak I knew this was the writing class for me. In my quest for a writing community, I’ve tried a few different genres of classes. None of the felt quite right until Sara’s class. I’ve wanted to bring more comedy into my essay writing for some time, but haven’t been sure how to do it.
Sara offered up a set of guidelines that helped me to begin to find my way in humor writing and they are certainly worthy of repeating:
1.) Comedy isn’t mysterious. It’s direct and snappy so set your reader up to laugh along with you by being crystal clear with every word. Tell them where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with.
2.) Circumstance is never as funny as character. The characters are the engine of humor writing.
3.) Cut the adverbs and adjectives. Sentences should be short and sharp. Leave lyrics to the song writers among us.
4.) Dialogue is funny.
5.) The key to the universal is through the specific. The more precisely we nail the details, the easier it will be for our audience to relate.
6.) “Seriously?” is not a funny response. To move you from observer to writer, you need a funny response to someone else’s actions and words or a funny analysis of a situation.
7.) Unlike fiction, more humor writing is done is the first person. You are the main object of your narrative.
8.) Open strong and remember that the most important word in your first sentence is the last one.
9.) Expand your definition of clichés, and then cut every single one of them.
10.) Comedy is tragedy plus distance. Most humor writing starts with some horrible experience and some horrible person. Something awesome happening is great, but it’s rarely funny.
Sara teaches many of the humor writing classes at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. I’m planning to take one in the not-so-distant future. I hope you’ll join me!