Using Humor In Writing
Actually, using humor in the genre of an action/adventure novel. A little humor injected into the story serves a wonderful purpose and raises the entertainment value if done right. I work in the action/adventure genre. My characters are constantly on the run and facing unspeakable evil. Any humor used will slow that action for a bit. So how to reconcile the two—fast-paced action and slower humor. Here’s how I do it.
First, characters—Jackson Schilling, the Pope and Sister Mary Pat for sure—are portrayed to be real people. Real people cannot run flat out without taking a breather. Same thing with the story that is God’s Banker. Same thing with my readers as well. As I writer, I want to give my readers that same breather every so often. I created an often-humorous relationship between the Pope and his good friend, Sister Mary Pat. How often in real life would you imagine a nun actually gets to tell the Pope:
“Oh wow,” said Mary Pat in a mocking tone. “Now that’s impressive. We’re up against four times the armed men, ground penetrating radar and—”
This would not happen in real life. Yet the banter between these two loyal friends gives a welcome break in the action and lets readers see the two characters, as we would like to imagine them.
Placement of the humor is another element. Again in God’s Banker there’s a scene where Schilling and his small band of men are fighting a force four times their size. Things aren’t going so well for Schilling & Co.—at least readers don’t think so at the time. Then in the middle of all this:
“We’d better put a stop to this before someone gets hurt,” said Schilling.
With that one line readers understand a few things: Schilling is in total control of the situation and he’s having fun that he’s reluctant to stop. It’s a funny line delivered on point and with precision timing.
The judicial use of humor gives everyone—characters as well as readers—a much-needed rest. It also adds to the richness of the tapestry I’ve created. I say judicial use because in the action/adventure genre a little humor goes a long way. You can’t let it diminish either your character’s credibility or your credibility as the author.
I work really hard at establishing credibility with my readers right from the beginning of the story. I do this by incorporating as many real facts as possible, and then allow the fictional aspects to revolve around them. Once I have the reader’s trust, I try never to lose it by making a silly mistake—such as using too much humor or blowing the timing of it.
There’s a scene where Schilling is shot and his partner, Smitty, needs to perform emergency surgery. I researched the medical journals and emergency manuals. I wrote the scene as best I could and had it reviewed by an ER doctor. Still, I received an email from a real physician complaining about the count of bandages Smitty used. To that reader I had lost credibility. Still, he kept on reading. Fortunately I didn’t make any other mistakes that he found. Because he did go on to say in his note that my error did not diminish his appreciation of the book. Here’s the point: We’re going to make mistakes. Try as I might, I’m not a professional sniper, nor am I a surgeon. I do the best job I can. If I retain the trust of a majority of my readers and still somehow manage to entertain the rest, I’ve done my job.