Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Writing Humor for Kids by Amie Borst #ChaBooCha


Let’s face it. Life is hard. There’s all sorts of things to get us down. Bills. Medical issues. Work. You name it and somewhere in there you’ll find a trial.  We could cry. Get frustrated. Scream and shout. But those things tend to give me a headache, which is why I prefer to laugh.
There’s a reason they say laughter is the best medicine. It reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure and increases memory and learning.
So what better way to help ourselves and those around us, then to write funny books? 
I believe humor is a natural talent.  We’re either born funny or we’re not.  But, I also believe that with some guidance and practice, most writers are capable of including a laugh into their carefully-crafted tales.  Forced humor never, ever works, so try to relax and let the humor flow naturally.
Here are five basic tricks that could help you become a better writer of humor for children:
·         Wordplay – This technique can be used in so many different ways I could write several blog posts about it. 

One of my favorite uses of wordplay is creating new words from common ones.  In my upcoming book, Little Dead Riding Hood, the MC is a vampire.  Instead of saying something is fantastic, she says it’s fangtastic. Instead of using an iPod, she listens to music on a diepod. 

Wordplay can also use techniques such as rhetoric, hyperbole, and double entendre to name a few.  Another more common use of wordplay is the use of puns.

o   Puns  - These are one of the greatest sources of humor and can be broken down into multiple sub-categories:

§  Homophones: Words that sound alike but with different spellings and meanings. My favorite example of this is in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, when Flint exclaims, “There’s a leek in the boat!” The movie-goer is then shown a screaming animated vegetable. While having a leak in the boat would be cause for concern, the alternative creates quite a reaction from the audience.

§  Homographic: Words that have the same spelling but differ in meaning. Vampires would be great at baseball but they just haven’t found the perfect bat. A baseball bat? Or a winged creature? You decide.

§  Compound pun: Using two or more of any pun(s) in a sentence.  A good use is Douglas Adam’s famous example. "You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass."

o   Spoonerisms – An accidental transposition of the beginning parts of words. My dad uses spoonerisms all the time. Whenever I overslept and he had to wake me, he called me Beeping Sleauty (instead of Sleeping Beauty).

·         Figurative Language/Idioms – A classic example of humor using this technique is the Amelia Bedelia series. Who doesn’t remember Amelia Bedelia’s crazy antics because she misinterpreted the instructions? From “dressing a turkey” in a tuxedo or “dusting the furniture” with actual dust to “drawing the drapes” on a sketchpad, as a child I was “in stitches”…uh-oh! Better hope Amelia’s not around! 

·         Irony – I tend to keep my irony at a minimum when writing for children, though it makes for great humor when the reader (as well as the MC) encounters a situation which is the direct opposite of what they expected. Imagine your female character who has developed a huge zit in the middle of her forehead. In an attempt to save her already-at-stake popularity status and avoid being seen by the boy she likes, she takes an alternate route to the always-avoided-never-before-used-bathroom in the far recesses of the school to cover up the abomination with make-up.  On her way there, she bumps into three boys from the football team, the head cheerleader, and her major crush-o-rama…all of which undoubtedly see her zit.  Oh the irony! If she’d only taken her normal route to the regular bathroom, she would have avoided the embarrassment!

·         Pain and Humiliation– Sorry to say, but yes, inflicting pain on your MC or another character will cause your reader to laugh-out-loud. I’m not talking about torture devices, or having them suffer within an inch of their life, but rather a small slip.  I think of Jennifer Lawrence’s iconic trip up the Oscar stairs. Who didn’t laugh at that? Better yet was when she laughed at herself. 

·         Base it on truth – There is humor in the everyday truth of life.  That family vacation where everyone got sunburned, the car broke down and the dog ran off. You laughed during that trip (probably with an empty wallet and Aloe Vera gel smeared on your face, but you still laughed). The day your son turned four and he sneezed on his birthday cake. After scraping off the frosting and realizing the remaining mess once identified as cake was unsalvageable, you laughed the whole way to the store to buy a new one. Or how about the time your daughter used maxi-pads as band-aids? She came downstairs covered from head-to-toe with those large, white, absorbent strips.  Right in the middle of your dinner party. With your boss. After your flushed cheeks resumed their natural color and the party ended, you undoubtedly had a good laugh.
That’s what makes humor so great. Keeping it real.  

The best tip to writing humor—be yourself! If you’re faking it, everyone’s gonna know. You are. And more important, your reader is.  So don’t try to fool them with a phony, half-hearted attempt. Just write the truth and time it perfectly. Your reader will thank you for it.
For more great posts about writing humor for kids, check out these links:
*****

Amie Borst and her daughter Bethany are a mother daughter team, writing humorous middle grade fairy tales with a twist, such as "Cinderskella" and the upcoming "Little Dead Riding Hood." When not writing middle grade books with her daughter, Amie is busy crafting her own words in YA stories.

 *****
 Give-away!

Amie Borst has generously offered a copy of her book "Cinderskella" for one lucky ChaBooCha member. Just enter through the Rafflecopter link below. (Residents of the US or Canada, if a winner, may choose either Kindle or paperback formats. All residents of other countries may only enter to win the Kindle format.)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

28 comments:

  1. Thanks for the analysis. It is tremendously helpful to those of us born without a funny bone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you've got a funny bone! Just bang your elbow on something and you'll feel it :) All kidding aside, so glad it helped!

      Delete
  2. I love funny stories....not only for myself but there is nothing like the laughter of a child (especially my Grandson's of course lol) I love to hear them laugh out loud at a story...that infamous Belly Laugh! Thank you for sharing such a humorous post! Cinderskella and Little Dead Riding Hood sound like fun...Congrats on your Books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kelly! As much as I love writing dark stories, it's so nice to have a story that just lifts my spirits with laughter.

      Delete
  3. I love writing funny. Your tips are great for writers to incorporate into their own stories. Kids LOVE funny. Tummy tickling funny. Great post. I'll have to get your books. Cinderskella looks really good. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And funny doesn't always have to be bathroom humor (although you can't go wrong with poop jokes!). Thanks for the support!

      Delete
  4. I am actually a very serious person, so writing with humour doesn't come naturally to me. So when people suggest it, I often wonder how? This post has some great suggestions and links. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found it helpful, Linda! My co-author is really the heart and humor of our stories.

      Delete
  5. These tips will give me a structure for humor instead of the random way I pepper it in. Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Awesome article, really enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for a great blog will certainly be looking back over this as I begin editing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on having something to edit! I hope to be there soon myself!

      Delete
  8. thank you Amie Borst :) Lots of good suggestions for word play

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Cecilia! Here's to the punny!

      Delete
  9. Amie, there's nothing better than a book that can make me laugh (preferably out loud). Thanks for providing the info on humor writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha Tim! You're the last person that needs help with humor!

      Delete
  10. I love writing humor. I love reading with my son and we both end up laughing out loud.

    Thank you for this blog. I always seem to forget about using wordplay like your diepod for iPod, even though I find humor when I read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember reading Sariah McDuff to my kids and laughing out loud so hard I could barely keep reading. Best feeling ever!

      Delete
  11. Great post! There is nothing better than a book that can make kids laugh. I am working on a couple of humorous picture books and you have given me some great ideas on how to amp up the wordplay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad the ideas helped. Wordplay is the best! Good luck with your picture books!

      Delete
  12. No, no, not puns. Puns are evil and I will not let you poison future generations with lies that they are good. My husband got to you, didn't he? *sigh* Oh well, so much for saving the little ones. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  13. Okay, I commented, but it didn't show up. Trying again, hope I doesn't end up a double post. I love writing humor, but need a little help sometimes. Thanks for the tips.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Janet even after it gave you trouble. Glad the tips helped!

      Delete
  14. I love reading humor, haven't tried writing it before. Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete