Finding Your Character’s Sense of Humor by Anna Staniszewski
As I dive into writing my third “funny tween” series, I’m starting to realize that each character needs a distinct sense of humor to make him/her feel unique. One way to achieve this is by paying close attention to the humor techniques that you use with your characters.
Jenny from my UnFairy Tale series, for example, uses a lot of wordplay and exaggeration (“This was the worst day ever.”) in her narration, and she also points out the absurdity in the events going on around her. Rachel in the Dirt Diary series, on the other hand, is more focused on self-deprecating humor (“Of course this would happen to me.”) and sarcasm, and she also weaves in a bit of nonsense with her funny sayings (“Oh my goldfish!”).
Giving these two characters different ways of using humor helps make their voices distinct and it also helps to convey their personalities. It makes sense that Rachel’s sense of humor would be at her own expense sometimes because she’s a pretty insecure character. Jenny, who’s much braver than Rachel is, has a more aggressive sense of humor that goes with her persona.
Once you have a sense of what techniques you’re using, then you can make sure they’re consistent throughout the story. Iif you there are parts that need more humor, you can see if there are techniques you’ve been underutilizing. And finally, in order to highlight the emotional changes in your character, you might want to show your character’s sense of humor evolving. For example, maybe she stops making jokes at her own expense when she gains more self-confidence.
Breaking down humor in this way might sound like a very technical approach to something that many of us do by instinct. I wouldn’t recommend starting with these techniques in mind because that might stilt your sense of humor, but using this approach during revisions might help punch up the humor overall. And, most importantly, have fun with your character and don’t be afraid to get a little wacky!
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, released on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.