I listened to a zoom meeting where Catriona McPherson discussed using humor in your mystery novel. It was unusual in that she did such an organized presentation. Writing discussions can ramble all over the place.
I'm a retired teacher. I can ignore a lot in life. But I am a stickler for detail at times. Over the years I learned how to grade almost anything. They introduced teachers at one time to rubrics to evaluate student work. For most teachers, we had been using rubrics over the years.
One year, the grade level I worked on agreed to use a rubric to evaluate science fair projects. I was young and dumb. I took the rubric serious. One dad called me upset with the C his child received. Exasperated, he said, "But I worked so hard." Later I learned the other teacher had given all her students A's. I would like to say I was smart enough to change all my grades and be popular too. After all, a science fair is a PR event for the school where all the projects are wonderful and all the students are great. But, I didn't.
Sometimes I find myself grading inane things. And one is any presentation I watch. One thing I do know is that you can learn something from almost everyone. There are so many writers and so much to read that I have become a bit more realistic in acknowledging I can't read everyone's novel. I also have a tendency to read what my blogging friends over years write. Sometimes, it is someone I met at the few conferences I have attended. I'm a huge memoir reader.
I was really hung up on Catriona McPherson's mother's quote that "there is more to life than being happy". I got a phone call and had to walk away during the question period. But I don't know if I would have had the nerve to ask exactly what context her mother said that for. And even though McPherson did an excellent job describing why use humor in a serious story such as a mystery or suspense novel; I can't remember much of her rationale.
More than anything, she helped me build a character in a story I have been working on. He is the King of "dad" jokes.
These were the notes I took from the presentation. I thought they had a resonance. I highlighted the books she mentioned.
why be funny
there is more to life than being happy
humor is not comfort or whimsy
dark is not more real than light
James Robertson "The testament of Gideon Mack"
To write humor, you must be able to accept people may be offended. She likes what has a bit of bite.
Taking potshots makes you a bully or weak
"My sister the serial killer" Oyinkan Braithwaite
"Squeeze me" Carl Hiaasen offensive? set in country club of an ex President where the older women are being bumped off. . lampooning a country club of ex President will hurt no one.
google bad sex awards
punch yourself makes a safe joke
If there was a funny laugh in say a rape, it would have to be from the victim not the rapist. Terrible idea.
There are people with no sense of humor
Germans have a form of humor that is much different than that found in other European languages. (Catriona is a Scot. She doesn't know we Americans don't comprehend anyone speaking anything but English.)
do not say your characters laugh. Do not ever share your characters laugh no funny speech tag
Be funny throughout if you use humor
How to do humor
Surprise - laughter is response to a pleasurable surprise
search your writing for cliché and switch it out
Rule of threes
Add two more things to get something funny
Works with a running gag You need to time three good hits. First needs to happen in the beginning. The second needs to happen quickly. The third should be a surprise later in the book.
Three people in dialog helps boost the comedy
Mismatch between style and substance
Standard Joke set-up can be used.
Consider point of view. Absurdity is in the eye of the beholder.
Leave on the laugh.
Commit to detail. Detail can also hide a clue.
"Diary of a bookseller" which is a memoir by Shaun Bythelle
What is screwball comedy? I looked up the answer. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the movie would be a good answer.
Below is one of several paintings in a doctor's office interior. I would have liked to gone into the offices to see some better work. The frames and matting hid the artist signatures.
My next journey in life is to take an art appreciation class. I know if I understood the rationale, I would like the work more. But it may be like all things, what is good is subjective.