So You Think You’re Funny? 3 Ways to Add Humour to Your Writing

Funny Girl

Image: Ryan McGuire via Gratisography

September is all about exploring genre on Aussie Owned and Read, so I stuck my hand up to look at humour. Okay, so technically humour isn’t a genre, rather more an element of style and voice which can be employed across any genre, but if you look at the genre categories in physical and online bookstores, there’s usually a humour section. So I’m sticking to my guns – or in this case, maybe water pistols.

I love reading fiction with a humorous voice, so it’s no surprise my own writing is sprinkled with good doses of humour (or so I’m told). Like most people, though, I can’t really pinpoint what makes someone else’s – or my own – writing funny. So I Googled! Don’t judge. You would have too! Why reinvent the wheel when somebody else’s wheels have come off so nicely for the sake of a laugh?

  1. Think Ks for Giggles

Words with sharp ‘k’ or ‘c’ sounds are apparently king when it comes to laughter mileage, and words with ‘g’ sounds aren’t far behind in the giggle stakes. Go figure. This phenomenon is widely known in comedy writer circles as the K Rule. Now you know why words like ‘discombobulated’ or ‘gargoyle’ and ‘goggles’ make you smile. Put them all together – a discombobulated gargoyle wearing goggles – and you’ll have readers rolling between the pages! Okay, moving on.

2. Go NUTS on the Metaphors and Similes!

Punchy metaphors and similes are a comedy writer’s best friend, which is a good thing because I love metaphors and similes like a newly washed Labrador loves rolling in garden fertilizer. A well crafted metaphor or simile can only add to the humour in your story. The trick is to keep it fresh and creative, and to avoid cliché. Apparently you can overuse this brilliant comedic tool in your writing, or so my editor tells me. We agreed to disagree – after he made me edit out a good chunk of my metaphor and simile brilliance. I’m okay bout it. Really.

3. The Rule of 3s

Patterns are generally a useful device for writers, but a pattern of three, where the first two items set up the reader to expect one thing only to be given something unexpected in item three, is a great tool when writing humour.

‘Meredith couldn’t understand why her friends didn’t want to come hang at her place on a stinking hot day like today. She had her own air conditioned teen retreat. The fridge was stacked with heaps of cold soft drink. And she had found twelve of her fifteen pet tarantulas that had escaped their terrarium that morning.’

You get the idea.

And because all good things come in threes, here are three of my favourite YA titles that do humour really well:

If you’re after more tips on writing funny, check out Four Commandments to Writing Funny by Joe Bunting and How to Mix Humor into Your Writing by Leigh Anne Jashway.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN and may or may not contain a few too many humorous metaphors and similes. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Elements of a Great Story: Editing

correcting-1870721_1280.jpg

Aussie Owned and Read has spent this month exploring the elements of a good story. Their awesome articles have explored ingredients such as the importance of authentic characters – by identifying their values, their beliefs, their reactions; the power of dialogue – by including conflict and subtext; the importance of pacing – how we can pick it up with action and dialogue and short, punchy sentences; and the power of setting – one that has been artfully woven through our scenes and characters. It really impresses on us the complexity and layers a good story needs to grasp readers. That’s a lot of balls to juggle…

How do you make sure the creation you’ve spent untold hours and sacrifices for has ticked all these boxes? You harness the power of editing.

Editing is the process of putting a new, very valuable and incredibly important, lens on your story. Stories are our babies. And just like our children or siblings, we tend to overlook (or plain old not see) their flaws. In our eyes, their strengths outshine any flaws they might have. With our family, that’s the way it should be. With a product that’s going out to for stranger’s consumption, we need to raise the bar. Editing creates the space you need to look at your story in a new way, find the weaknesses, and shore up the strengths. Luckily, there’s more than one way to do it, and it can be free.

  1. Self-Editing

There is a lot of information out there, blog, books and courses, about undertaking your own editing. If you want to hone the skills, then I suggest spending some time with Google. In the meantime the first step I recommend if you’re going to self-edit is to let your manuscript rest for a spell. And I’m talking at least a month. The first thing that will happen when you come back with fresh eyes is issues (that you hadn’t considered) will leap out so fast you’ll wonder how you missed them. Next, consider a lens that you’d like to elevate to next level; maybe dialogue, maybe pacing, maybe weaving setting through more seamlessly, and go through your manuscript with that filter in mind. Last, read your manuscript out loud, you’ll be surprised what you pick up.

This stage is important and shouldn’t be skipped, but it depends on you knowing your strengths and weaknesses in the craft of writing, and I’m not sure I’ve found a writer who has that level of objectivity. I know I don’t. This is why I recommend the next step as a vital part of making your story ready for publishing.

  1. Critique Partners

The discovery of my critique partners took my writing from a level I didn’t know I’d settled into, to a level I couldn’t have predicted. Critique partners are fellow lovers of the written word that have some understanding of the anatomy of a good story. As a general rule, these are fellow writers, and you exchange your work to provide honest and encouraging feedback. Critique partners can find things you missed, plot threads you’ve left dangling, characters that are hard to connect with. What’s even more rewarding, is finding critique partners that share the writing journey with you – the highs, the lows, the unexpected turns. They provide a level of support and encouragement that is impossible to quantify.

The points you need to keep in mind is being selective in your critique partners – you want a critique partner you can trust; one that is insightful, knowledgeable, discerning, and kind. Sometimes that takes more than one try. The other point to consider is that critique partners are still invested in your writer’s ego (they don’t want to hurt your feelings), which can cloud judgement and complete honesty. They also don’t necessarily have the qualifications, knowledge and experience a professional editor can offer.

  1. Hire a Professional Editor

As a developmental editor, and a writer that has had my manuscripts professionally edited, I’m a firm believer in the power of hiring a professional editor. If you hire an editor, you get the experience and knowledge I just mentioned, but more importantly, you’re paying for objectivity that values the power your story over the protection of your ego. An editor will delve into your masterpiece, pull out the gems, and shine a light on the holes. Character inconsistencies, POV issues, story structure slumps will all be identified in a constructive way. Because you’ll be given a road map on how to make your story the best it can be. And you’ll learn from it. You’ll experience ‘aha’ moments that will open a whole new world of possibilities, which will shape your future writing endeavours. In my opinion, that’s money well spent.

What’s your experience of editing your book? How did you take your manuscript to the next level?


Tamar Profile PhotoTamar Sloan is a freelance developmental editor and the creator of the PsychWriter blog – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers. Come and explore it at www.psychwriter.com.au. Tamar is also a passionate writer of award-winning young adult romance. You can find out more about Tamar’s books at www.tamarsloan.com. You can connect with Tamar on Twitter or Facebook.

Characters

So I’m writing this up while sitting at my desk at work…. which is why this will start out so plain, but I’ll add pics when I get home. My life is madness, and writing for me has come to an abrupt halt. I do have snippets of time to write here and there, but it’s because of my characters that I can’t.

Characters are the heart and soul of any story. Whether they be a human, an animal, or a talking object, without characters, all your doing is compiling a list or non-fiction. Even then, non-fiction often has characters! Characters breath life and purpose into a story, giving it direction, emotion, and reaction.

Because characters provide the pivot point for works of fiction, I believe that their integrity is essential. I’ve always gone a bit crazy with my casts, building way too many characters to manage, which has forced me to write up family trees etc. Keeping track of characters appearance, backstories, and families is only the first part. For the Kiya Trilogy I had wrote a family tree with descriptions of each character beside. For my Fairytale Galaxy Chronicles I have a massive excel spreadsheet with several pages, one for each of the seven books.

But the most important part is getting to know the characters. It’s this step that has prevented me from writing much lately. I love to spend time with my characters, getting my head-space into theirs. Whether it’s while listening to music while going for a walk, or driving, putting myself into the character’s place to discover how they want their story told, how they would react to situations and people around them, makes a story authentic.

Stories need these authentic characters, flaws and all, without political agendas, because real people are that way. Think about the people you know, even yourself, and no one is perfect. No one does anything exactly how they should, our how you would. Take Kiya for example; she makes reckless decisions, but I took the time to get to know her and understood her drive and everything she did was out of love for her family to the point of being self-deprecating. But also, all characters come from a place of selfishness, just like all humans do. It’s that inward perspective that drives all of us, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but understanding that will help us to see the perspectives needed for the characters. What do they see, how do they perceive it, how do their values, the way they were raised, their beliefs, cultural customs and norms, affect how they react or even don’t react. It’s up to you, the writer, to get that head-space on, to take the time to get out of your bubble and into the character’s. It’s always clear when an author inserts themselves into a narrative, it happens when you suddenly feel forced out of the story. None of us want that. And sometimes, a character does something that makes us uncomfortable, and that’s okay, because that means you’re making them real.

So, take your time to understand who you are writing about. Your readers will love the story more for it.

Katie Teller

Katie Teller aka Katie Hamstead is a writer of NA fiction. Her debut, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, has sold more than 100,000 copies. You can find out more about Katie, the Kiya trilogy, and her other books on twitterfacebook, instagram or at her own blog.

***Check out her Pitching comp here or on twitter under #SonofaPitch

 

 

Elements of a Great Story – Pacing

This month on Aussie Owned we’re looking at the elements of a great story. I chose pacing because it’s one of my favourite elements of story, and one I have struggled with from time to time — particularly when I was a wee baby writer working on my first novel. (I liked to overshare about the day-to-day of my characters’ lives, you guys. No, I loved it. I was still getting to know them, and that’s fine in a first draft — but some of those scenes had to go because, ye gods, they were boring.)

Pacing is, simply, how fast the story unfolds. The “right” pacing varies depending on the requirements of your story. Some stories take you along like you’re old friends going for a stroll along the beach, slowly immersing you in events until you’re invested (before probably sucking the sand out from under you or smashing you with a wave). Other stories are the equivalent of riding a runaway stallion, all thundering hooves and branches slapping you in the face and maybe, if you’re lucky, the chance to pause and eat some grass at some point.

Okay, I’ll stop with the terrible similes!

The tools for adjusting a story’s pacing are varied; action and dialogue speed the story up, while description slows it down. Short sentences and paragraphs speed it up; long sentences and paragraphs slow it down. I think it’s best expressed by one of my favourite writers (who writes fast-paced speculative fiction and gives the best writing advice I’ve found on the internet), Chuck Wendig.

Further reading … but not, like, in a boring way

I love to give book recommendations, and, happily, I can readily bring to mind two five-star favourites with very different levels of pacing. (Both are speculative fiction, because that’s how I roll.)

The first is Aussie urban fantasy Shadows by Paula Weston (and in fact the whole Rephaim series). The four books of this series are set over the course of a couple of weeks. Sure, there are flashbacks, particularly in the last one, but still. It really gives you a sense for how exhausted the characters must be, the urgency of the storyline. When they had a chance to pause for food or a sleep I was relieved on their behalf! I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

 

The second book I’m recommending is one I just finished, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. This man is a world-building, story-crafting genius. I strongly recommend his works if you like your fantasy on the EPIC side of epic — Goodreads tells me the hardcover of The Way of Kings is over 1000 pages. (I listened to this on audiobook and it was 45+ hours long.) Because Sanderson spends so much time building his worlds and layering them with backstory and foreshadowing, the books are immersive and the build of tension is slower than in some other stories, but the stakes just keep getting higher and higher. And there are flashes of action that keep you gripped.

 


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer whose latest urban fantasy, False Awakening, hits the shelves at the end of August. Preorders are now available from your favourite ebook retailers.

Advice, originality and vampires

You think I’d know better than to take the last post slot of the month when we’re doing an advice theme. By this point, dear reader, you’ve seen all sorts of excellent “what I wish I knew” advice posts — and my main messages to my younger self would be very similar to those already described:

So I considered my main advice to younger reader me, and decided it would be “one format of books is not better than another — and, BTW, audiobooks are awesome so get onto that”. But I’ve blogged about the audiobook thing here too.

Given the situation, I lamented to a friend that “being original at this point is impossible”. His reply? “Sounds like a good point in itself.”

Thank you, sir. *doffs hat*

Originality and vampires

One of the things I struggled with when I first started seriously trying to write was that I wanted to write urban fantasy, and I loved vampire stories — but, by this point Twilight was a huge hit, and everyone was writing vampire stories. How on earth could I tell a new story in a market so saturated? (I actually found my plot notes for my vampire novel the other day. It’s still tempting, not gonna lie.)

In the end, I decided on fae instead, as something a little fresher, and Isla’s Inheritance was the ultimate result. But Isla’s ability to see and manipulate emotions was originally born out of the idea of a psychic vampire. Her ability to create a supernatural human servant is evocative of Dracula’s ability to create human slaves (though her cousin gets a better deal than poor Renfield). In other words, I took existing ideas, jumbled them around and came up with something new.

 

Source: Goodreads

Obviously, the state of the market is a factor if your ultimate goal is to publish traditionally. If a publisher already has a vampire story on the books, they don’t need another one competing with the first. But that doesn’t mean that two books about vampires are fungible (I love that word; so fun to say). They aren’t interchangeable. Just because Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire, that doesn’t mean that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is unoriginal. (Anything but.)

Originality and major movie franchises

I found a great example of the way that one idea can give rise to two very different, and wildly successful, stories. Here is a synopsis for your consideration:

I read that and immediately thought of Harry Potter. But it is, of course, also a description of Luke Skywalker’s journey in Star Wars.

Originality and advice

So, coming back to our post theme this month, what’s the take-home message for my younger self?

Whether you’re sitting down to write your first book or struggling to write your seventh, it is important to write something you are passionate about. At the very least, those other books on the same subject as yours don’t have the thing that your book has: your voice.

Stop looking for excuses.

Just write the book.


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer whose fifth book, False Awakening, is scheduled for release at the end of August. 

From Query to Publication – Six Stages of Emotion

Are you a writer? Have you been busily squirreling away words in secret while the rest of your household sleeps? Maybe you’re at that uncertain point where you’re thinking of writing a novel, of taking the leap into a pool of words powerful enough to build new kingdoms and birth new people. Yes? YES? Do it! Take the plunge! It’s completely and utterly magical. It will ensnare you, captivate you. And it will catapult you down a raging river of unchecked emotion.

photo-by-carl-cerstrand-on-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Carl Cerstrand on Unsplash

I’m new to this publishing gig. My first novel is due for release in just a few weeks (Yay! Yikes! Gulp!), but I’m already well familiar with the emotional ups and downs that come with bringing a book baby into the world. So strap on your floaties (or maybe a life vest) and hold on tight as I take you through the six stages of the traditional publication journey’s Raging River of Emotions. First comes …

1. The Calm on the River Bank (Emotions = sense of achievement / satisfaction)

After months, maybe years, of self doubt, procrastination, and cleaning dirt from under your fingernails after all the times you’ve had to dig yourself out of a plot hole, you’ve finished your novel! Big pat on the back. You should be proud. This is a great achievement. Writing an entire novel is no small feat. But now what? How do you release it into the big wide world? Well, you must dip your toes into …

2. The Churning Channel of Submissions (Emotions = confusion / doubt)

Whether you’re querying agents or submitting your manuscript directly to editors and publishers, you’ll need to decide WHO to send it to. Which agent is a good fit for you as a writer? Which editors or publishers are looking for your kind of story? Confusion abounds as you sift through agent and editor databases, and your eyes glaze over as you try to read yet another set of submission guidelines. But, with perseverance – and copious cups of triple shot coffee – you’ll eventually have a list of suitable agents, editors, and publishers. You then dutifully send out your query in small batches like all the query gurus have advised you to do. And you float down river into …

3. The Query Rapids

photo-by-jecc81rocc82me-prax-on-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Jérôme Prax on Unsplash

This treacherous three-stage stretch of water will take you through a looping cycle of emotions, starting with …

  • The Waiting Wetlands (Emotions = frustration / impatience)

This is a long, dull, and trying section of the river as you wait to hear back from agents and publishers. Response times vary hugely. You might luck in and hear within a couple of weeks. Or you might still be waiting eight months down the track. It might be wise to take up yoga or Pilates. I’ve heard it’s good for managing stress levels. It’ll come in handy when you hit …

  • The Falls of Rejection (Emotions = disappointment / doubt)

This is possibly the worst part of the Raging River of Emotions. No matter how prepared you think you are, this huge dip will wind you every time you drop down it (and you’re bound to drop down it a few times at least!). But you must hang on and push through. The publishing business is hugely subjective. What is a pass for one agent / editor might well excite another. If you’re lucky to get feedback, read it with a critical eye and apply accordingly. Oh, and maybe book an extra yoga class. It’ll help you paddle into …

  • The Upstream of Persistence (Emotions = cautious optimism / determination)

Once you’ve climbed back into your boat and wrung out your sopping T-shirt, as well as your badly bruised pride, you send out the next batch of queries and submissions. Because you are made of stern stuff and the world needs your story. Rinse and repeat step 3 until you develop RSI in your index finger from hitting the refresh button on your email inbox while waiting for …

4. THE Mouth of the River CALL! (Emotions = euphoria / excitement)

This! This is what you’ve been waiting for! Finally, you can see the vast, open publishing ocean ahead. And someone has offered to help you set sail across it. Someone who loves your story as much as you do and wants to take it to the far ends of the earth. They love your voice, your characters, your unusual style of punctuation. But first you’ll need to navigate through …

5. The Editing Tributaries (Emotions = confusion / self doubt / impatience)

You’ve signed the contract, sucked the last drop from your bottle of bubbly, and now the hard work begins. You’re asked to kill off a character, add an extra chapter, and get rid of that unusual punctuation style. It’s not uncommon to be a little confused at some editorial suggestions that come your way. Self doubt can often creep in here, but a sound collaborative editorial relationship is crucial to your book’s success. Ask questions and learn from the reasoning behind editorial suggestions, because it won’t be long before your book’s …

6. Release into the Big Book Ocean (Emotions = excitement / anxiety)

photo-by-nathan-hulsey-on-unsplash1.jpg

Photo by Nathan Hulsey on Unsplash

At last! Your book’s birthday has arrived. You can’t stop staring at the cover, and your friends and family can name every character in your book. Even Guido, the one-legged postman who makes a brief appearance in chapter six. It’s likely a time of mixed emotions. Excitement, anxiety, sense of pride, fear of failure. Revel in ALL of them, feel them in every corner of your writerly being, because they are proof you’ve breathed life into a new story and dared to share it with the world. And that’s something worth braving the query to publication Raging River of Emotions.

Tell us about your writing / publishing river of emotions. Does it look similar or have you had a different experience?


Kat Colmer Author

Kat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author, and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Chill, connect, cool it — advice for emerging authors

 

This month we’re talking about things we wish we knew when we first started out on our authoring journey. Some might see it as us dishing out advice for new writers. Whichever way you spin July’s topic here’s my top three things I’d tell younger me, you know if I had a time machine:

 

Chill, it’s just a first draft.

Spewing words onto the screen is perfect even if those words aren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter how well a story is written when we first write it. That initial draft is all about getting the story out. About telling it to ourself as the author, so we know who the characters are, what the plot is, and how everything comes together. No first draft is perfect and that’s okay! You can spend years going over that opening chapter trying to perfect it, but you know what? All that time is wasted because you’ll be so hung up on crafting wonderful words that you’re likely to never write the two most magical words ever, THE END.

Connect, it’s not a one man show.

Writing can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to, nor should it be that way. Books are a bit like children and that age old saying which goes with them; it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe it takes more than just one person to write a good book.

Go, grab your favourite book written by a big-5 best-selling author and turn to the acknowledgements. I can guarantee in the list of people that author thanks are other authors. These are usually the people who have supported him/her during the writing process. Many of us here at AO&R are critique partners, beta readers, and plotting soundboards for each other. Reach out, because finding the right writing mates is important.

Cool it, there’s no rush to submit.

Most writers think they have the best story, the best concept, a totally unique idea. And many do!! But rushing off to submit can do more harm than good. You see, most agents and publishers will only look at your work once, so don’t waste that opportunity on work that isn’t your best. There’s no need be concerned that you need to sub before X conference or Y date or Z holiday, or that you have to get in before someone else sells a similar story. Make sure that you submit the best possible product you can. That it’s been through multiple rounds of edits, it’s been read and critiqued by someone who knows about writing and is brutally honest, and that’s it’s been proofread. Of course the opposite can be said too, don’t over think it. You don’t want to hold onto that thing forever.

 

What about you, fellow writers, is there one burning piece of advice you’d give to your former self?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Stacey Nash writes Aussie YA / NA. Her Oxley College Saga is a series of romances based in the fictional Oxley College on a university campus. Her Collective Series is YA trilogy about a girl who discovers secret sci-fi technology and the organisation who suppress it. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save