Tag Archives: Humor

11.35: Elemental Humor Q&A with Victoria Schwab

For our third Elemental Humor episode Victoria Schwab joins us as we field questions taken from our audience at Phoenix Comic-Con. Here are the questions:

  • How do you add humor to a serious story without breaking the tension?
  • How do I move beyond the “Dad jokes” and into properly funny writing?
  • When is humor necessary in horror?
  • Where is the line between a comedic book, and a book that uses humor as a subgenre.
  • How do you make dialog sound natural, while still sounding funny?

Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Write  a joke, and have each of your characters tell that joke. Find a way for them to tell that joke “in character,” in their style.

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

11.34: Humor as a Sub-Genre

Humor is present as an element, at least to some degree, in a substantial amount of the media we consume. In this episode we discuss some stylistic tools for applying humor  to our work, and how these tools can best be employed.

WX Trivia: Episode 11.34 represents a pair of firsts for us here at Writing Excuses.

  • It’s the first time we’ve had to resort to having Howard record a fresh intro to replace some missing minutes
  • It’s the first time we’ve had a graphic novel as the Book of the Week.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools and an audio-eating gremlin, then mastered by Alex Jackson and a crossfade brownie.

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Take some of the humor types, and rewrite a scene several times. Over-apply one type of humor with each rewrite, and take note of how the scene changes.

Force Multiplication: Schlock Mercenary Book 12, by Howard Tayler, Travis Walton, Sandra Tayler, and Natalie Barahona, with an introduction by Mary Robinette Kowal

11.32: The Element of Humor

“Talking about humor is the least funny thing you can do.” —Howard Tayler

You have been warned! and with that out of the way…

What is the driving force that gets readers to turn pages in a book that is primarily a work of humor? More importantly, how do we as writers get that driver into our books? We cover this, and provide some starting points for writers seeking to improve their humor writing, along with a bunch of neat techniques, and (as apparent from the liner notes) a long example for deconstruction.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

Liner Notes: here are the lyrics we cited from “Love is Strange” (Galavant). We’ve added superscript numbers from the Rule of Three exercise.

¹Love is strange,
And sometimes kind of gross¹
It’s embarrassingly gassy²
And it leaves its dirty underwear
In piles around the place³

²Love is rude, it has a sort of smell¹
And it thinks that you don’t notice²
And it blurts out things
That make you want to smack its stupid face³

³And it’s awkward and confusing¹
It annoys you half to death²
Then it grins that dopey grin
And you can’t catch your breath³

The full song is available here, for $1.29 (link provided out of courtesy to the original artists whose work we deconstructed for educational purposes.)

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Get a funny book, and highlight or underline appearances of the rule of three, and comic drops.

Death by Cliché, by Robert J. Defendi

 

Writing Excuses 10.6: The Worldbuilding Revolves Around Me (“The Magical 1%”)

Max Gladstone joins us to talk about worldbuilding, and how many genre settings seem to revolve around whatever gifted, magical, or otherwise special sort of people our heroes and villains happen to be. Jedi, for instance. Consider, then, the plight of the “regular” people, like Han Solo.

We talk about how to tell whether or not this is problematic for the story you are telling, and how one might work with the trope in ways that make stories better.

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Think about the last time you lost at a game. What was the process of thought that led to your loss? Now, replicate that moment in the dramatic structure of the story, except the story isn’t about games.

Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, narrated by Claudia Alick

Writing Excuses 10.1: Seriously, Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Season 10 begins!

We wanted to do something different this year. Something special. As we brainstormed we kept returning to something a listener said years ago: “Writing Excuses is like a master class in writing genre fiction.”

That’s a generous remark, as anyone who’s taken an actual master class can attest, but it inspired us to ask ourselves what Writing Excuses would look sound like if it were formatted like an actual master class.

The answer? It would sound like Season 10 is going to sound. This year we’re going to go to school! Each month will focus on a specific bit of the writing process, and each podcast will drill down on one of those bits. We’ll still have some “wildcard” episodes with guests, but for at least three weeks out of each month we’re going to stay on topic. If you’re new to the podcast, this is where to start! If you’re an old hand, don’t worry — this isn’t a return to the 101-level stuff.

In January we’ll cover the very beginning — coming up with cool ideas, and wrapping them up into something that we can turn into a story. And for this first episode we’ll answer the dreaded “where do you get your ideas” question quite seriously. We’re not going to tell you about the Idea Factory in Schenectady (Harlan Ellison’s stock answer,) nor are we going to eye-roll. Nope. We’re going to tell you how we get our brains to think stuff up, and then we’re going to give you homework in the writing prompt.

We’ve talked about ideas before, of course, so here are some links:

 

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Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:

  1. From an interview or conversation you’ve had
  2. From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
  3. From observation (go for a walk!)
  4. From a piece of media (watch a movie)
  5. From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)

This exercise might not generate the very best ideas you’ve ever had, but it will definitely flex your idea muscles in new ways.

Lock In, by John Scalzi, narrated by Amber Benson OR Wil Wheaton (there are two versions of this audiobook.)

Writing Excuses 7.14: Writing Excuses

Today’s episode of Writing Excuses is about writing excuses — all those handy tricks that the great authors use to prevent themselves from finishing any book before its time  (let alone its deadline.)

Get out the vacuum, grab some Q-tips and a bottle of alcohol, and make today the day that you fill your life with the sense of wonder that will permeate  your book forty years from now.

“Here, kitty kitty…”

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Write a series of 16 numerals. This is probably Jordo’s credit card number, or at least one of them (in one of the many universes where he is still allowed to use credit cards.) Go shopping! Oh, you’ll need the expiration date! It’s April 1st, 2012.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies,  by Rob Wilson and Rhena Branch, narrated by Simon Slater

Writing Excuses 7.6: Behind the Marshmallow

Poor Mary. Even after recording an entire season with Brandon, Dan, and Howard, she still scratches her head sometimes and asks herself “why?”

“Why does Dan say ‘these marshmallows are delicious’ in a funny voice? And why do Brandon and Howard think it’s funny?”

“Why” indeed.

In this particularly self-indulgent episode of Writing Excuses we take you behind the marshmallow. We explain the origins of the ‘cast, and offer you rare insight into what makes this show what it is. We talk about how the show evolved, how our equipment came to be “borrowed,” and how Mary came to be involved.

And throughout the discussion we abandon our typically tight style and talk all over the place (and each other.) Will this help you with your writing? Maybe. If the knowledge that we are silly allows you to relax a little bit concerning your own secret goofiness, then maybe this episode has instructional merit.

It may be, however, that it’s just a warning.

Liner Notes of Dubious Pedigree: As promised, here are the class projects from Producer Jordo which served as proof (to Jordo, anyway) that we could actually do this: Cecil Episode 4, and Cecil Episode 5. Also, here’s a link the mixer we currently use: Zoom R16 (this is the one we own, not the one we totally need to return to its rightful owner.)

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Give us a story with an old, colonial British type eating marshmallows. For extra points, set it in the Schlockiverse. (Note: no actual points will be awarded.)

Our stuff! Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, (and lots of things narrated by Mary), and Dan Wells’ John Cleaver trilogy.

Writing Excuses 6.4: Microcasting

Microcasting! It’s our high-speed Q&A! Here are the Q’s, listen to the ‘cast for the A’s.

  • Is it still safe to go the commercial publishing route?
  • How do you find the balance when writing serious stories with silliness in them?
  • What are the alternatives to three-act structure?
  • Do you ever lose your drive, and what re-inspires you when you do?
  • How does your writing life affect your non-writing life?
  • What was the defining moment in your life where you decided to become a writer?
  • How effective are book trailers?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 1421: The Year China Discovered America, by Gavin Menzies, narrated by Simon Vance

Writing Prompt: Give us a story in which writers are using actual fantastic creatures in the process of writing fantasy — ink from unicorn horns, elf-skin parchment, etc.

Promised Liner Note Links: Dan’s 7-point Story Structure,

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