Humor in Books

Anne here, apologetically running in late. Sorry, I forgot what date it was. Today I'm pulling a question from the list of reader questions we've received over the years. And while I'm talking about that, I'll remind you all — if you submit a question for the wenches and one of us chooses it as a blog topic a blog, that person will win a book.

Today's topic is from Constance, who said… "It would also be very interesting to know how important humor is to each of you when creating characters. I’ve always found heroes with a self-deprecating sense of humor almost irresistible, and heroines who can match them in witty retort make it even better. But it can’t be easy to create that — or is it for the extremely talented writers you all are?"

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Constance, I also love a hero who can make me laugh. But writing humor is never easy, especially if I set out trying to be funny. Forced humor can be horribly un-funny and usually gets deleted. Even when I think the story I'm writing is going to be a funny one, it doesn't always happen. 

People have very different senses of humor, so what is funny to one person completely passes another. I remember so often when I was a kid, my brother and I would be cracking up laughing at some TV show, and one of my older sisters would say crossly, "I don't know why you're laughing. That isn't funny at all." Which made my brother and me laugh even harder. And of course, if you have to explain why something is funny, it immediately kills the humor stone dead.

So all I can go on is what's funny to me. My funniest scenes usually come spontaneously in the writing. I'm 'in the zone' busily writing, a character says something unexpected and another one responds, and then . . . we're off. And when it happens, it's a joy. 

Most of my books have some funny moments, but some books are funnier than others. It's something to do with character chemistry. Some character combinations bring out humor better than others — a light-hearted, flippant hero and an earnest worrier of a heroine, for instance, sparked some funny scenes in my book, The Perfect Rake.

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So You Want to be a Writer?

Pat here:

I’ve been following a thread in a writer’s group about people who come into writing classes wanting to learn how to be a bestseller. They seem to think all they have to do is take the books Writer typewriterthat are out there, learn the formula, turn them around a little, polish them up, market them, and whammo, they’re millionaires.

Or they could buy a lottery ticket. The odds would be better.

To anyone out there who thinks writing a book is a ticket to fortune—I’ll tell you the secret formula.

 

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What We’re Reading in August

Joanna here:  Season of Mists and Yellow Fruitfulness it may be, but I'm not getting ANY reading done.  You will have heard this excuse before many times. I think I may be the least readingest of all the Wenches. I'm rereading the Lymond Chronicles of Dorothy Dunnett. I'm embarked on the Game of Kings just at the moment. Rereading it is very different from reading it for the first time which was full of "Wow. I want to write that," but also a good bit of "What?" "Huh?" Also beginning and not yet very far into The Natural History of Dragons, of which you have heard other Wenches speak. I'm enjoying it.

 

Here's what Nicola has to say:

Www here's to usI came back from the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference buzzing with ideas and weighed down with a pile of fabulous books I am now reading my way through. First was Here’s To Us by Elin Hilderbrand. I hadn’t come across her books before; here in the UK they aren’t as well-known as in the US but I am so glad I have found her because I didn’t want to put the book down. I loved the exploration of complicated family relationships, the twists, the tensions and the resolutions. I loved the characters and the way that they interacted and found the writing style so crisp and clear. Even more I loved her descriptions of Nantucket which were so rich and vivid that I felt as though I was there! I’m on the hunt for her otWww2 midsummerher books now.

Next I picked up Midsummer Dreams by Alison May. It’s a clever re-imagining of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a contemporary setting. I’m only part of the way through but I am really enjoying the way that Alison has created characters who feel real and warm and alive. It’s funny and poignant and she really pins down the emotional conflicts. As it’s one of a series inspired by Shakespeare I can see myself reading the whole lot!

 

 

 

Anne says:Www3 paris

MY LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP, by Nina George

The story is about a man, Jean Perdu, who runs a bookshop— or what he calls 'a literary apothecary' in a lovely old restored barge on the Seine River in Paris. Jean has a gift for finding just the right book for each customer, a balm for what ails you. He can heal anyone except himself—he's locked in a frozen past (Perdu is French for 'lost')—until a new person arrives in his apartment complex and Jean's frozen present begins to develop cracks. What follows is an adventure of the heart — but be aware, this not genre romance. 

I savored it and, having read a lot of books, enjoyed recognizing the various titles Jean offered his customers. I loved the setting and the layered intrigue of the characters. It's an international best-seller.  I bought it as an e-book, but I'm buying the paper version, as it's a keeper. As Library Journal (who gave it one of their coveted starred reviews) said "if ever a book was meant to be read over and over, this gem is it.

 

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You get two covers for the price of one, because different

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 TRUST by Kylie Scott

Kylie Scott is famous for her gritty rock star series, but this is a new area for her — YA (Young Adult.) TRUST has only been out for a week or two, but it already has several hundred reviews. I devoured it in a night.

Kylie Scott has a gift for putting two fairly ordinary young people in an extraordinary situation, and then showing them learn to cope, and grow stronger from the experience. She has a deep understanding of the pressures and conflict that young people today have to deal with. TRUST is a coming-of-age story, and also a romance. Highly recommended.

  

THE CHILBURY LADIES' CHOIR by Jennifer Ryan

I think I picked this up from a wenchly recommendation. Life in a small English village during WW2, when normal village life is challenged and disrupted and people discover new talents and strengths in themselves. I enjoyed it very much.

 

Andrea/Cara has two books for us, one by a fellow Wench:

I was so happy to receive my copy of Nicola’s The Phantom Tree from Book Depository recently. (It’s not yet out in the U.S. but Book Www5 phantomDepository has free shipping worldwide so you to can snatch it up—which I highly recommend!) It’s a riveting time slip story, with the action moving back and forth between Elizabethan England and the present day. The plot revolves around the heroine seeing a small portrait in a modern-day antique shop that's just created a news buzz by being identified as a lost-lost painting of Anne Boleyn. But the heroine knows that’s wrong . . .
 
I’m not all that familiar with Tudor times, so I loved learning about the intricate politics and family connections as well as aspects of everyday life. The writing is beautifully evocative—the manor homes like Wolf Hall and the surrounding countryside come brilliantly alive. And the characterizations are richly nuanced, both with the actual historical figures and how they entwine with the fictional ones. Nicola creates a wonderfully provocative “what-if” story for Mary Seymour, who in real life was presumed to have died in childhood. I don’t want to give away too much of the mystery twists . . . But add to the plot the heroine’s former flame, a dishy modern historian who has his own hit TV show, and things heat up as they delve deeper into the mystery of the portrait—which brings about some other surprising revelations! It’s a wonderfully layered and engaging story, and I was up until the wee hours of the morning finishing it because I just couldn’t put it down!
 
Www6 bobOn a very different note, I also enjoyed My Life With Bob, whose subtitle is: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. It’s part memoir, part musing on books by by Pamela Paul, the editor of the New York Times Book Review. As a shy, introverted high school student, she started to keep a notebook of every book she read, and over the last 28 years, she's kept it up, hauling the tattered volume around the world with her as she goes on life’s journeys, both physically and metaphorically. I like the way the official blurb describes it: "It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader . . . It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.” There are times when she gets a little too self-consciously precious, but on the whole, it’s a fun, provocative read about how books shape our lives, providing solace, inspiration, escape, and often a prod to be better than we think we can be. And really, who among our Wench family here can resist a book about books!

 

So, what are you reading lately that delights, surprises, moves or intrigues you?