Writing comedy in novels: It’s no laughing matter

Comedic master Graham Hey tells us his secrets to writing 5 star one liners AND is offering free copies of his latest book exclusively to crazy About writing subscribers!! Read below to find out how to get your copy...

'When I first sent off a few sample chapters of my first novel to a publisher, I was surprised by the response.

I had been a comedy writer for twenty years and so when I decided to do a novel, I knew it had to be based around comedy – so I decided to write a rom-com. I loved watching those Richard Curtis rom-coms (Four Weddings, Notting Hill etc) and I also thought that

my style of comedy would fit perfectly into this genre.

Luckily, the publishers (Chronos Publishing) seemed to like my efforts, although they were also not afraid to tell me where I was going wrong – which is what publishers are there for, I think.

Their number one criticism was that I was purposely writing situations where I could insert a specific joke. And they were right, I just didn’t think that they’d see through me! And they told me in no uncertain terms to “cut it out!” and that’s the edited version.

The lesson I have learned is that no matter how funny a joke may be, it’s not more important than the flow of your novel. Humour has to be natural, and has to fit in with how each character is shaped. You mustn’t put a joke in just because it’s a great joke – however great that joke is. And by a joke, I don’t mean the sort of longer joke a comedian might tell, I mean a snappy one liner. These are great, but how many people in real life keep coming out with great one-liners? None. And that’s because great one-liners have to be written and considered. They take time to create. In real life, people come out

with snappy replies to a situation – but they’re not jokes with a punchline, they’re funny things people say in a particular situation. There’s a big, big difference.

So, lesson number one: Never just use a great joke because it’s a great joke. Lesson number two: Make characters say things how they would say things, not you.

Another important thing when using comedy within a novel, is to make it impactful. It’s no good using several comedy lines together, as not only is this unrealistic, but the impact is lessened too. When something becomes unrealistic, people lose interest – even in a sci-fi

or fantasy novel.

Here’s a great example of that, (and several of my friends said exactly the same thing…). In the Peter Jackson movie King Kong, it’s easy to believe that Kong exists as that is the story – you have to accept that. But midway through the movie there’s a scene with dinosaurs running down a hill with several humans trying to get out of their way. Instead of simply moving to one side and letting the dinosaurs run past, they continue to run just in front of them for half a mile, and some get trampled etc etc. We can believe King Kong exists, it’s not real, but we accept that as true and therefore believable within the movie. But, we can’t believe that people would run in front of dinosaurs, putting their lives at risk when there is a simple ‘out’. The same applies to humour in novels. No matter what the plot is, whether it be fantasy, sci-fi, horror or rom-com, we know how people are – and if they do something which is ‘not believable’ then as an author you’ve pretty much lost the reader.

Humour is vital (in my opinion) to every novel. And that’s because humour is always there, in some form or another, it’s human nature. Every undertaker will tell you that!

Another important thing to consider when adding humour to your novel is that comedy highs need dramatic lows. A hilarious moment is always more effective if it’s followed by a moment of drama or pathos. This surprises the reader and makes situations more

emotional and believable. The TV equivalent would be ‘After Life’ by Ricky Gervais. Love him or hate him, the humour is regularly tinged with sadness, but it makes you connect with the character, because that’s just how life is. Happiness and sadness go together. It’s just

something to bear in mind. Of course, there are no real rules to writing novels. All you have to do is create an entertaining story, with likeable (if possible) characters, where the reader is left satisfied at the end. But if you’ve managed to include some humour along the way, then these positive moments will make the reader remember your work in a positive way - and hopefully will make them want to read more of your work. And that’s what it’s all about, so the publishers tell me!'

We are lucky enough to have a dozen copies of Hey's latest novel Confessions of an Invisible Man to give away!

Cooper McRae is going to be completely invisible for seven days. He plans to woo Lucy Pendleton – the girl at work who acts like he’s invisible ALL the time, get himself one million pounds and meet his hero, Elton John. However, things don’t go to plan. A drugs cartel, an ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy and a neighbour with an unhealthy interest in Lego all conspire to make his week of invisibility more complicated. This is his confession. Will Lucy fall for his charms, or will she see right through him?

All you have to do to receive a free e-copy is leave an honest review on Goodsread or Amazon once you've finished reading :) Just let us know below in the comments if you want a copy, and make sure you get in quick before they're all gone...

Graham Hey is the author of Let’s hear it for the Boy (An 80’s set

rom-com) and Confessions of an Invisible Man (a rom-com released in

February 2021 through Chronos Publishing.

Graham’s blog: funny-writer.com

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