Monday, August 5, 2013

Pushing Humor Too Far

The mystery series was a cozy with a light tone and humorous moments, but the third book in the series started with the murder of one of the heroine’s closest friends and moved through the next days with sleuthing as well as the process of grieving for and burying someone you love.

I imagine most would agree that this situation is not a comedy waiting to happen.  Unfortunately, the writer was so desperate to bring the light tone in that she proceeded to add slapstick moments.  

At the family visitation, the heroine’s best friend pretends to knee the heroine’s boyfriend, her heel breaks, and she really kicks him in the jewels.  

The heroine receives a threatening phone call, then her bedroom door knob jiggles.  She slips as she reaches for a Taser and bangs her head, then, before she realizes it’s a cop friend, she shoots him as he enters her room and he slips banging his head.  They end up concussed together on the bed where her best friend discovers them the next morning and has a fun time wondering what went on between the not-a-couple.

I could only shake my head during these scenes that so desperately tried to add humor to a situation that wasn’t funny.  Not only was the over-the-top-to-the-point-of-ridiculous humor displaced, it tried so hard that the book fell apart.  

Moments like this are what trusted critique partners, beta readers, and good editors are all about.  They should have told the writer that sometimes a light tone just doesn’t fit the situation, and that poor taste and slapstick have no place in certain situations.  

How can you judge this with your own writing?  Think of your novel as a movie.  If you are writing a mystery movie full of dark atmosphere and duplicitous suspects, a scene from DUMB AND DUMBER just won’t  fit, will it?  A light moment of character revelation or a funny story about a victim would.  

Stay true to the tone that’s needed and listen to your early readers.  That’s more important than trying to maintain the tone of the series.  If not staying true bothers you, then find another plot will fit that tone.  

MARILYNN’S MOVIE RULE:  If a movie trailer has some guy hit in the groin for comic effect, it’s probably not a movie I’d enjoy.  If the same guy or more guys get hit in the groin more than once, it’s a movie no one wants to see because the material and humor are so thin.  

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