Adding Humor When You’re Not Funny

I am not naturally a funny person. I fully accept this aspect of my personality. Any time I try to be funny it comes out sarcastic, and can be taken the wrong way. The type of humor I appreciate is on the dry side. Plus, much of my humor is stuff only I get. Inside jokes with myself. Lol.

That said, I love to read books that have a dash of humor. As an author, I decided to challenge myself and add more humor to a recent WIP. I am currently in edits on a novella-length story for an upcoming holiday-themed contemporary romance anthology.  Heres the blurb:


Ashley Hughes would love to cancel Christmas this year. Her holiday plans involve a weddingher twin sister to her ex-boyfriend. To add to the holiday cheer, the big event is being held in the small Texas town where they all grew up together. Then rumor links her romantically with her high school tormentor, Ryan McAdamswhen what shed prefer to do is deck his hallsand things get complicated. But the more time they spend together, the more Ashley finds herself wishing Ryan was her present waiting under the tree Christmas morning.


As you can see by the blurb, the topic could easily lend itself to a very serious, dramatic romance. Her ex-boyfriend is marrying her sister after all. But, hopefully also obvious by the blurb, that wasnt the direction I wanted to go. I am aiming for more light-hearted and, yes, sarcastic (because thats my particular brand of humor).

While in the middle of this project, I also did a beta read for an author friend, Sharon Saracino. Her book is paranormal romance and 1st person, therefore quite different from my WIP. However, I LOVE Sharons brand of humor. Therefore, I paid attention. I took away several key examples of where/when/how an author can blend in humor. I then very deliberately searched for those opportunities in my own writing.

Here are the lessons I learned from Sharon and a few examples of how Ive incorporated them in my WIP.


Use Your Characters Voice

Your character has a voice. What they say, and particularly what they think, can be a huge source of humor for your readers. For me, I particularly find the juxtaposition of my characters thoughts and what she actual says the easiest place to incorporate.

Examples from Dont Open Until Christmas

“Don’t worry, my new job pays well.” Plus, it turned out when you had no life, you spent no money. Go figure.

He took her hand. The beer soaked one, so, great, now he’d think she had sweaty-palm-syndrome.

How could she forget what her mother signed her up for? If the military was looking for new forms of torture, they should talk to Linda Hughes.


Use Unique Cliches (Yes, I know thats an oxymoron.)

Cliches are used for a reasoneveryone understands them. They convey an image or message quickly and with no further explanation needed. However, cliches, if used too much, can be boring. A hallmark of lazy writing. There are still instances when I leave in the tried and true ones, but making up your own cliche is a great opportunity to add humor and voice.

Examples from Dont Open Until Christmas

Her shoes were pure Dallas, three-inch stilettos, crimson red, and sparkly enough to satisfy any wicked witches out there. Too bad she couldn’t click her heels and all this would be over.

Meanwhile, she didn’t need a mirror to know what she looked like—dark mascara smudges to highlight the bags under her eyes, sweat bedraggled hair, and smelling like yesterday’s garbage.


Set Up For Later Use

Something can happen, or your character thinks something at one point in the book, and it crops up again later in the book. Timing is important here. If the original set up is subtle (something the reader might forget) make sure the crop up moment happens sooner rather than later. You can even have something pop up more than once. General rule of thumb in that case, Ive been told, is 3 times is the charm.

Example from Dont Open Until Christmas

Early in the book, Ashley is accosted by a character named Mandy who offers lots of fake sympathy that Ashleys ex and sister are marrying. Mandy also shows off her huge diamond engagement ring. Later in the book

Ashley tilted her head to send him a wide, fake-as-Mandy-Walker’s-diamond-ring smile.


Add Inside Jokes Between the Character & Reader

Your reader is in the unique position of being in your characters head. This means that theyll get any internal inside jokes the character has with herself or himself. This is particularly hand for me, since inside my head humor is what most people dont get. Because theyre not inside my head.

Examples from Dont Open Until Christmas

I establish at the beginning of the book that Ashley is over her ex and happy for her sister. She is also not looking forward to all the fake sympathy heading her way from people who wont believe shes really over it. In one scene, shes already said as much to Mandy who isnt really listening.

Mandy patted her arm. “Of course, honey. Way to stay strong.”

Ashley idly wondered if a bull horn might get the message through. But, while the mental image of blowing back Mandy’s over-teased hairdo with the sound was a satisfying one, she decided against it. She doubted shed find a bullhorn in a bar anyway.


Of course, while Ive had humorous parts to my books, deliberately incorporating more humor in my writing is new for me. Im sure there are lots of other tricks and methods out there. I hope that my first attempt is successful. Youll have to tell me when you read it this fall. But I really enjoyed adding humor to my own voice and style. I definitely plan to continue to include it, hopefully learning and growing as I go. Who knows? Maybe Ill even become a funny person some day!

A huge thank you to Sharon for inspiring me as only other authors can. By fantastic example. 🙂

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