Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Ten Commandments of Adding Humor

 As my good friend Cheryl St.John is fond of saying, “A story is feeling.” One of the most overlooked emotions is laughter (joy). Humor is as much of a trigger as anger, sadness and fear. Authors tend to go for the sad punch to invoke a response in the reader, but don’t forget that joy can have an impact as well. Laughter engages the reader, brings your characters together and gives them a common bond. For non-fiction writers, studies have shown that humor enhances how well people enjoy what they’re reading and assists them in recalling what they’ve read. 
The Empire Strikes Back

Humor adds depth and dimension to your characters. What would Star Wars be without Han Solo? Or the Avengers without Iron Man?

First, let’s dispel a few myths about adding humor to your writing:

Myth #1: I’m just not funny. Nonsense. If you can laugh at a joke, you can tell a joke. 

Myth #2: Humor has no place in serious books. C’mon. Who saw Steel Magnolias? 

 Laughter through tears is a wonderful emotion. 

Myth #3: Nobody ever gets my jokes. Stop trying so hard. 

Myth #4: I don’t tell jokes. Of course you don’t – writers show, they don’t tell. 

With that out of the way, let’s get to Ten Commandments of Writing:

Thou Shalt Use the Rule of Threes
When in doubt, the ‘rule of threes’ is an easy way to add humor in writing. Pair two common inferences with one uncommon reference. For example:

Losing weight is simple: Eat less, exercise more and pay NASA to let you live in an anti-gravity chamber. (Leigh Anne Jasheway)

I have everything I need to write this article: my computer, my notes and my water bottle filled with vodka.

No! There’s no vodka in my water bottle. It’s simply the juxtaposition of a very un-business like example next to business-like examples.

Thou Shalt Use Sarcasm Strategically
Sarcasm is a great way to show your reader the personality of your character. With heroes and heroines, use sarcasm with great caution. Sarcasm can render a character unlikeable—which makes sarcasm a great tool when fleshing out a villain. As Dawn Ford pointed out to me, different genres (such as YA) may have a higher level of tolerance for sarcasm. 
Some characters are built around sarcasm (Stephanie Plum, for example). Generally, likeable, sarcastic characters are given a fair amount of self-deprecating humor for balance. Which makes self-inflicted sarcasm the exception. When in doubt, only use sarcasm strategically for effect. 

 Aside from your face, do you have any other jokes? 

Just kidding.

Let Your Character “Be” the Joke
This rule goes back to self-inflicted sarcasm. Self-deprecating humor is a sure-fire way to add humor to your writing. Joan Rivers was the queen of the self-put-down:

I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later; you have to start all over again. 

This quote gives us the rhythm of the ‘rule of threes’, along with self-deprecating humor. No character is perfect. If you’re making perfect characters, your readers will hate them. Your readers must be able to relate to your characters, and self-deprecating humor is a wonderful way to make you characters more approachable and ‘real’.

Thou Shalt Take Advantage of Similes and Metaphors
Turn the simile and the metaphor on its ear for humor:

“Arthur Dent was grappling with his consciousness the way one grapples with a lost bar of soap in the bath.” Douglas Adams

He was as happy as a slinky on an escalator.

He was as happy as a mosquito in a nudist colony.

Thou Shalt Use Humor Sparingly

Unless you’re going for all-out, slapstick, Janet Evanovich storytelling, use humor sparingly. Humor is the garlic in your sauce. Too much, and that’s all anyone can taste. 

Thou Shalt Embrace the Cliché

I know, I know…we’re always telling writers to avoid clichés. With humor, the writer turns the cliché on its ear. 

We’re always told to face our fears. But what if your greatest fear is whatever is behind you?

“Take life one day at a time,” sounds like the affirmation of a serial killer. 

No one ever wakes up and says, “I think I under drank last night.”

Turning a cliché inside out is a great way to add humor to your writing, whether you’re working on a fiction or a non-fiction project.

Thou Shalt Embrace the Mundane
Think “I Love Lucy.” That show was masterful at taking mundane situations, and making them hilarious. The more mundane the better. For the first “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, a guy made 10k from filming his wife with her head stuck in the dishwasher. She’d reached inside and caught her hair. I hope that guy took her on a great vacation with all that money before the divorce. Don’t think big, think small. The more regular and monotonous the task, (candy conveyor belt, anyone?) the bigger the laughs.
Thou Shalt Steal From Thy Own Life
The next time something funny happens to you, write down the incident. We laugh all the time. Take note. According to folklore, Mary Connealy based Petticoat Ranch on the stories told to her by her mother-in-law. Steal stories from your friends! If they don’t want to be in books, they should befriend accountants instead of writers.
Thou Shalt Use Humor as a Decoy
Steel Magnolias
Humor is a great way to diffuse tension and distract from plot points that shouldn’t be revealed too soon. Who doesn’t remember MayLynne’s outburst from Steel Magnolias? (If you don’t, look here.)

There was no way to get MayLynne out of her downward spiral. She was angry, and she had every right to be. The writer cleverly added humor to the situation, diffusing the tension. 

There’s a great scene in “The Firm” where the main character is coming perilously close to realizing he’s gotten tangled with some very shady characters. It’s too soon in the plot for our hero to find out this particular reveal, so the writer added a joke. The tension is diffused, and the characters shrug their shoulders and move on. 

If you need to distract your reader from a tense scene or a big reveal, use humor. 

Thou Shalt Get a Second Opinion
When in doubt, ask a trusted friend. If you’re worried a joke might be in the wrong place, or not funny, or doesn’t make sense – ask a beta reader you can trust. 

Last, but certainly not least, study from the greats. Read books and watch movies that make you laugh. Study the mechanisms, and learn from the masters. 

How about you?
Can you recall a scene from a book or a movie (not necessarily a comedy) that made you *actually* laugh out loud?


Sherri Shackelford is an award-winning author of inspirational, Christian romance novels for Harlequin/HarperCollins Publishers. 

A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. She doesn't live on the prairie, but she can see the plains from her house. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.

Special Delivery Baby, Book 2 in the Cowboy Creek series

An abandoned baby is the last thing town founder Will Canfield expects on his doorstep. He's not the father—and the mother's unknown. But the precious little girl needs a protector. And Will never backs down from a challenge, even if it means caring for a newborn…or dealing with spitfire cattle driver Tomasina Stone.

With her father gone, Tomasina's trail life has ended. Yet becoming a polished city lady feels far out of her reach. All she wants is a place where she'll be appreciated, respected…maybe loved. And the more time she spends helping Will care for the baby, the more she wonders if she's found it. She's never wanted to settle down…but Cowboy Creek—by Will's side—might finally give her heart a lasting home. 

     Cowboy Creek: Bringing mail-order brides, and new beginnings, to a Kansas boomtown.

Leave a comment today to get your name in the baby basket for a chance to win one of three copies of Special Delivery Baby. Thank you to Sherri, for this generous opportunity. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Congrats to Sherri for her NRCA final with The Rancher's Christmas Proposal. She's giving away a copy to celebrate.


  1. Sherri, welcome back! I LOVED this post! Such good tips! You gave me a lot of ideas for adding humor. What fun!

  2. Great tips, Sherri. Thanks.
    Coffee's brewing!

  3. There's been many a book I've read that had humor laced within the pages. I recently read Dana Mentink's "Sit, Stay, Love" & I'll include one line that made me laugh out loud. The two main characters (Cal and Gina) were talking about Tippy, Cal's mom's dog. She had just passed and he inherited the dog. Anyway, they were standing in the kitchen when Tippy flopped on her side and Gina told Cal she wanted him to scratch her tummy, the conversation goes like this:

    They both looked at the sprawled creature that had flopped over on her side, stubby legs twitching.
    "She wants a tummy scratch," Gina said.
    Cal looked at her like she was suggesting he swallow a live toad.

    Now if that don't tickle your funny bone, I don't know what will! There were many more places in the story where Dana infused humor and she did it with such skill. Erica Vetsch also laces humor in her book "The Cactus Creek Challenge", in fact there was a lot of laugh out loud moments for me! Our own Mary Connealy is an expert weaver of humor in her stories. Each of these ladies know how to have humor without losing the serious message within the story, it's a great balancing act that they can really pull off!

    There are a great many more authors who can really do some great humorous scenes and lines in their stories, but these were ones I could come up with off the top of my head.

    I like to think of myself as having a good sense of humor and I love stories with that in them as well. After all, laughter is the best medicine! :-)

    No need to throw my name in the baby basket, I already own "Special Delivery Baby".

  4. Well Trixi, you are just ahead of the curve this week. I ordered Dana's book on your recommendation too!! Thanks.

  5. Welcome back, Sherri!

    Such an excellent post.

    To this day I remember years (I mean years) ago reading Janet Evanovich, One for the Money in the library and I came to the Grandma Mazur scene where she shoots the turkey on the dining room table. I laughed out loud in the middle of the library.

    Best ever!

  6. Helen, thanks for the coffee. I brought along cheesecake muffins with struesel topping because if I'm going to dream...I'm going to dream big!

    I leave you with a knock-knock joke. (BTW try this one on Siri -iPhone. She hates knock-knock jokes.)

    Knock knock!

    Who's there?


    Dwayne who?

    Dwayne the bathtub, I'm drowning.

  7. I loved this post Sherri. I love humor in books, especially when it is unexpected. I think it adds another layer of depth. Thank you so much for sharing today. This is a keeper.

    Cindy W.

  8. Sometimes just a clever play on words will have me laughing out loud.

    Loved the post thank you.

  9. Welcome, Sherri! We all need more humor in our lives, so it's always a nice surprise when it's sprinkled in the books we read. Your example of Steel Magnolias is perfect. I've never laughed and cried so much while watching a movie. Thanks for a great post!

  10. I love Steel Magnolias. We make it a point to have a girl's day and watch it annually, along with Pride and Prejudice (not the same day, two distinctly different beds of emotion here!)

    And the cat meme is perfect!!!!! Laughing!

    Sherri, thank you for being here, you are always an absolute delight! I'm still grinning!

    I brought coffee and coffee cake. We haven't had old-fashioned coffee cake in so long, but it's perfect for a Steel Magnolias morning until Patti Jo arrives with somethin' more fittin' to the occasion! :)

  11. This blog was a great read! I can't wait to read this book!

  12. Good morning, Sherri!

    Your post was perfectly timed. I was just telling my husband that my WIP needed humor. I sketched my character as funny, but the past few weeks have been anything but fun. So, today's goal is to lace in some humor.

    It's good to see you here at Seekerville. Now, where did Tina put the cheesecake muffins? Come on, Tina, did you hide them from me again? Don't make me slap you.

  13. Hi Sherri, awesome post!!!

    Several great lines in it. I love: "Myth #4: I don’t tell jokes. Of course you don’t – writers show, they don’t tell." yep- you definitely showed us.

    I'm printing this one out to help with my lack of conveying humor skills. I like the "use real life stuff" commandment. I remember my younger brother and his wife were disagreeing about something and she finally said- "I'm putting my foot down!" to which my brother replied- "Well Babe, it's just gonna get stepped on."

    Before anyone gets in a tither about him using Babe... that is his pet name for her and she's liked it always (high school sweethearts still going strong 20+ years later).

    Anyhow, I that always struck me as funny. Now to just figure out where to put it. At the rate I'm going, someone more prolific should use that line.

    Please, please, please put me in the draw for Special Delivery Baby. This is my FAVORITE type of book (I think it stems from being adopted myself...)

  14. Good morning, Sherri!

    Your post was perfectly timed. I was just telling my husband that my WIP needed humor. I sketched my character as funny, but the past few weeks have been anything but fun. So, today's goal is to lace in some humor.

    It's good to see you here at Seekerville. Now, where did Tina put the cheesecake muffins? Come on, Tina, did you hide them from me again? Don't make me slap you.

  15. Good morning, Missy & Helen! Trixi, I loved your examples. I've met both Erica and Mary C. in person, and they're just as funny as their characters!

  16. Tina,

    It appears I'm making more work for you this morning. For some reason my post shows up four times. It wasn't that funny, so I'm trying my best to delete them, but you'll have to give me some slack. I'm a little hangry at you for hid ing those muffins.

  17. Pawfect this morning, Sherri!
    Thank you.

    The cat telling the story reminds me of Sophia in Golden Girls. Take your pick. Any scene. Imagine it! ;)

    This is another keeper from Seekerville!

    1. KC! Glad to see you this morning! I figures you'd have the pawfect comment. I'll meet you later on the Facebook page.

  18. Tina - Janet's books are all wonderful, but you can't beat the experience of reading, "One for the Money" for the first time. I was blown away!

    Cindy W - I enjoy getting letters from readers who say they were reading my book in a public place, and everyone was staring at them for laughing! That's the best.

    Mary P - The best humor comes from really clever people. That's why I like to study the masters! My husband and I recently made the kids watch Arsenic and Old Lace. What clever dialogue :)

    1. I'll have to rent that one! My daughter happened upon an old Red Skelton DVD at a B&B we stayed at. She laughed out loud, which was a profound incident in itself, being a moody hormonal pre-teen at the time.

  19. Jill - I think one of the reasons Steele Magnolias worked because the characters all had such wonderful senses of humor! You felt like you knew those people - or you wanted to know them :)

    Ruth - That cat meme cracks me up!

    Becky & Renee - I wrote a book after a friend passed away that's due out in October, and I'm interested to see how well it's received. I definitely think there was less humor than usual because of how I was feeling. Although that doesn't have to be the case, sometimes it's the perfect escape. Cheryl St.John wrote one of her funniest books while dealing with a difficult time...

  20. DebH - I love stealing from people :) Keep jotting down those notes. (I always remember what Oprah said, "Biology is the least of what makes someone a parent.")

    May - Golden Girls was an amazing show! Sophia was hilarious, and I loved how Rose would always pop in with something you weren't expecting.

  21. THE FIRM

    Okay - here's the scene from the firm (I didn't want to make the blog too long) If you haven't watch The Firm in a while, it's a wonderful example of The Hero's Journey (Michael Hauge).

    The protagonist and his wife are returning from the funeral of two of his colleagues. Without giving too much away if you haven't seen the movie, the main character is starting to get suspicious about the company he's working for, and having two of his colleagues die under mysterious circumstances has him suspicious...He and his wife are both reeling from a funeral for one of the men when the wife says:

    "Did you know [he] had quarter horses?"
    "Really?" the protagonists asks.
    "Yes," she says, "Two"
    "Isn't that technically half a horse?" the protagonist replies.

    They laugh, and the tension is broken. The viewer is distracted along with the characters from the gravity of the situation, which makes the next big reveal all the more shocking.

    1. I love this example! Thanks for sharing it.

  22. SHERRI!!! GREAT POST, my friend -- I'll bet I laughed more this morning reading it than I've laughed some days, so THANK YOU!! And it was SO fun hosting the FHL FB Party with you, Robin, and Deb last night, wasn't it? FHL does such a great job!!

    I laughed out loud (a difficult thing to get me to do before coffee) when I read Joan Rivers' quote: "I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later; you have to start all over again."

    Then I read it to my hubby, and he laughed, too -- right before making some disparaging remark about my own cleaning timelines. ;)

    I checked out your website and absolutely LOVE your header!! But being more than a little obtuse AND without much coffee, I don't understand the significance of the lone chair in the field. Just curious as to why you chose that? Unless it's to make people like me dig deeper into your website? In which case -- you're a genius!! ;)

    So many of your myths hit home with me, but especially the following:

    Myth #1: I’m just not funny. Nonsense. If you can laugh at a joke, you can tell a joke.

    I never, EVER thought I was funny until I reformed a villainous sister in my Daughters of Boston series, Charity O'Connor, who makes me laugh (in the later books, particularly) in almost every scene she is in, happy or sad. I first discovered this when I was proofing a galley and found myself laughing out loud every time she was on the page, thinking she was such a hoot. Then suddenly it struck me: "Uh, Julie, she's not real. She's in your head. Which means YOU are a "hoot" (or a "character" as my mom used to say) and don't know it." Believe it or not, that was SUCH a shock to me at the time, so this proves your Myth #1 undeniably to me.

    Sherri -- this was a WONDERFUL blog to start off a day, so THANK YOU!!


  23. Okay, just couldn't resist one more favorite of your myths -- Myth #2: Humor has no place in serious books.

    I couldn't agree more. In fact, I deal with some pretty serious subjects in my books, and without humor interspersed for comic relief, I would be sobbing on my keyboard all day, which isn't very productive.

    One of my favorite scenes I've written this way is with the above-mentioned character, Charity O'Connor, whose personality is so quirky, so pushy, so caring, that my lips automatically tip up when she's on the page.

    The scene I'm thinking of is when her brother (who is in love with Charity's best friend, Emma, a married woman with an abusive husband back in Ireland) receives a surprise visit from the ex. This jerk not only disfigured Emma's face with hot grease, but he beat her silly on a regular basis, causing her to miscarry at least three times. And now Charity's brother Sean is heartsick because the husband has come to Boston to take Emma back, but Sean promised Emma he wouldn't say anything to her prying best friend, Charity. So the scene is Charity trying to extract information from him, which for me, goes from laughter to moist eyes several times.

    Again, thank you for a very enjoyable (and enlightening!) blog!


  24. I'm adding this to my keeper file. I love a touch of humor in stories. Thanks so much for sharing!

  25. By the way, you better grab a tissue before you go to the Steele Magnolias link.

  26. Welcome, Sherri - - and thank you for making me laugh this morning! I love finding humor in most any situation (they say laughter is the best medicine, after all) ;) and enjoy sprinkling it into my writing. Your post has given me lots of insight and ideas, so thank you! Congrats on your newest release (Please toss my name in the baby basket). Also, that cover is PRECIOUS! :)
    Blessings on your day, Patti Jo

  27. Julie - You make a great point - just because the book is serious, doesn't mean your characters can't have senses of humor. They make the story!

    Also - I'm still working on the website! I just recently learned that the graphics don't line up well on smaller computer screens, so I have to find a smaller computer screen and work that out! As for the chair...I don't know...I just liked that picture. I thought it looked like a nice chair to curl up and read a book :)

    Jackie - you are so right! Sally Field really puts her heart in that scene, and you feel it all the way to your toes.

  28. Thanks for the great tips Sherri!

    I love humor in tense books/shows.
    How about the movie Ghost when Patrick Swayze is singing, "I'm Henry the 8th" to Whoopie Goldberg? I love that scene. Actually Whoopie and her sisters help make that movie.
    How about Pumba and his buddy (can't recall his name) after poor Simba's dad gets murdered?
    How about Sam Jarrod's sarcastic nature in the Fugitive.
    Oh, I could go on and on.
    I love movies that have a good balance of tension and humor. Sometimes you just need a break from all that stress for crying out loud.

    And TINA, that was probably the first joke I ever remember. Say over 40 years ago. That, and "What was Tarzan's last words?"
    "Who greased the grapevine?"
    I never got that joke as a child...

  29. I remember in one of my books trying to put a line of humor.
    My cp came back and destroyed it. She had no idea I was trying to be funny. I don't know if it was me or her...

  30. Sherri
    I LOVE Arsenic and Old Lace!
    Danny Kaye's The Court Jester is a fave of mine as well. The whole "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle. The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true." scene cracks me up, along with the sword fight scene where he goes from scared jester to arrogant swordsman with the snap of the fingers.

    They don't seem to have clever wordplay in films like they used to. Either that, or I'm watching the wrong films.

  31. Hi Sherri,
    I absolutely love romantic comedy, so reading Special Delivery Baby was a real treat! I had no idea an LIH could be so funny while telling such an unconventional and delightful story. I can totally see how you used your ten commandments of adding humor in your story, especially #3, let your character be the joke. Texas Tom's lack of domestic skills were hilarious.

    It was a pleasure to read and review your book. Thanks for the review copy. I've already got A Family for the Holidays, due out in Oct. on my automatic-buy list.

    Btw: I messaged you over at google hangouts where we had been communicating after I finished the book, not sure if you ever saw it.

  32. That's about the best advice on writing humor I've ever read! Not that I think I can be funny, but if I ever could be, this would get me there.

  33. Connie - Those are wonderful examples! I have to agree - Whoopi and her sisters made Ghost. They were the perfect foil against the heavy subject matter. As for putting humor in your work, I'd get a second opinion! I find that sometimes people have a preconceived notion of what they're expecting, and they can't see past that.

    DebH - they just don't make movies like they used to! Remember the rapid-fire dialogue in His Girl Friday? You have to watch the movie over and over again to catch all the lines!

  34. Hi Sherri Welcome to Seekerville. What a great post. We all love and need humor in our lives and when they are in a book, double bonus. Thanks for the great hints on how to accomplish that.

    We appreciate your visit with us. Have fun today.

  35. Welcome, Sherri, and thanks for the advice and all the fun examples!

    I don't consider myself a humor writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I love it when a scene I'm writing just naturally invokes a humorous touch. Usually it's my characters surprising me with a wisecrack or silly bit of action. If I intentionally tried to be funny, it would never, ever work!

  36. Tracey - I just went and checked google hangouts - and I DID miss a message from you! Thank you for the awesome review :) I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. I had such a great time writing Tomasina. She was a real spitfire. (My favorite scene was with the furniture salesman at the hotel!)

    You can be funny, Linda! I think your characters have great senses of humor :) You're too hard on yourself...

  37. You asked us to share humorous scenes. Mary Connealy always makes me laugh in her books. I think the funniest scene is when the book starts out under the husband tree where the heroine is burying another husband. The way she wrote it just made me laugh. Maybe I was annoyed with my hubby at the time. Who knows. LOL

    btw don't get me wrong. I love my hubby. We've been married over 49 years. Its just that sometimes....

  38. This is a timely post in the life of my WIP!! Thanks! Hubs and I saw Captain America: Civil War. I'm notorious in my family for laughing LOUDLY in the quietest parts of movies and this was no different. No spoilers but Spiderman and Antman offer hysterically quotable lines in the tensed part of the movie!

    Have a great day!


  39. I'm not sure if I'm a serious person, or if I'm this way because the religious sect (cult) I belonged to rejected feelings, but I know I need to laugh more! And though I didn't laugh out loud reading the post and comments my heart was lifted up and the corners of my lips turned up! Thanks for a great post! Love the cat!

  40. What a great post, Sherri! I'm printing this one out and will be referring to it often.

    Apparently there's some humor in my stories. I don't set out to add it, but it has a way of sneaking in there when I'm not looking. (I blame my characters for that.) When my debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California came out, the RT reviewer said the story was a "laugh-out-loud historical." I scratched my head and wondered if she'd gotten my book mixed up with another author's.

    I was privileged to endorse The Cactus Creek Challenge by Erica Vetsch. I laughed out loud many times while reading that story. Actually, I chortled and outright guffawed, too, but I hesitate to mention that since those actions aren't considered ladylike, a fact I'm all too aware of as the author of Victorian-era stories.

  41. Renee, you and other two clones have also been here commenting. I blame them for stealing all the muffins. Your sort of our Seekerville Orphan Black aren't you?? (Okay, you have to have seen that show to get it).

  42. I did mention to Sherri that I had just finished watching The Firm again when she mentioned that quarter horse joke.

    The Firm is one of the best examples of Michael Hauge's Six Stage Structure there is and it's so darn serious and actually tense that that one joke in there really throws you.

    The other comic relief in an otherwise tense movie is the brother Ray. He has this unexpected dry wit.

  43. Sandra - Mary's book are great study in adding humor! Learn from the masters...

    S. Trietsch - I love the Marvel movies! They do a great job. Then you think of other blockbusters - That was a big complaint when Batman vs Superman came out - there wasn't enough humor, which (I think) made the characters less engaging.

    Marianne - If I can make someone smile, that makes my day!

    Keli - Aren't those characters sneaky? They can surprise us at every turn!


  44. So, Sherri, did you remember that line from The Firm because you are a Hauge plotter or you are a Tom Cruise fan?

    Obviously humor comes natural for you. What about angst. With the exception of your last book when you had other issues to deal with, do you find angst difficult?

    Because I know I really do. I recently rewrote the last two chapters of my January book for my editor. It took me five days to get into my inner angst and then only two days to rewrite it. But getting in touch with my inner angst was painful. Once I did, I hit paydirt and my editor sure was spot on.

  45. I agree with Sherri, Linda Goodnight. Your heroes in ythe LI books of yours I have read, all have a dry self deprecating sense of humor

  46. Sherri what a great book cover! That precious baby in a basket!
    I have some adorable grandchildren, maybe I can get a side income out of them.

  47. One of my favorite lines ever, one I think is so funny is such a quiet way, is from The Invitation by Jude Devereaux.

    The heroine opens a chapter by thinking, "I have always fantasized about being likeable."


  48. and of course no better humor than the way Julie Garwood used to jump chapters, hooking the end of one to the beginning of the next.

    My favorite, the Scottish Laird highlander, just married to the English Lady. Ends Chapter Three by saying to his second in command with great confidence, "Don't worry. She'll settle in."

    Chapter Four

    She started four wars the first week.

  49. Tina - Have I found a fellow Orphan Black fan?????!!!! Be still my heart...

    I forgot about Brother Ray - he was good, and the secretary was an excellent foil for him. To be hones, the movie had just come up on Amazon as 'free', and I remembered liking the film, so I watched it again. I'm not as big of a fan of The Hero's Journey for the books I write, although I definitely use some of the elements! I'm a Story Magic gal :)

    Mary C. - Those adorable grandchildren need to be your side hustle!

  50. When I read Tina's The Rosetti Curse, I wanted to take notes on the many perfect, sassy lines in that book.

    I loved every word!

  51. There you go, Sherri. I'll offer to 'babysit' and then once the mom is gone, the money starts rolling in! LOL

  52. Mary C - Saving Grace is one of my favorite Garwood books! That's the one where they keep trying to kill the whiskey sniffer, and she keeps talking them out of murder..very funny...doesn't sound funny, but it's funny :)

  53. Sandra, when My Cowboy husband read that opening, well, he's heard that authors draw from their own life to write their books. He looked up from the book and said, "Am I the hero that comes riding to the rescue? Or am I one of the dead husbands?"

  54. Sherri the noser. LOL The (good grief I can't begin to spell it) the ouzbretha noser.
    And the men tell her she's mean.

    So funny

  55. Why Mary you silver tongued author you. Thanks for the nice words on Rosetti.

    Book of my heart that no one knew what to do with. I want you to know that two editors at Harlequin toyed with me over that book and then the lines closed just so they could not publish it.

  56. I am a walk through the room watcher of Orphan Black. I pretend I am not interested as I try not to watch TV. Then I stop and stand behind the couch watching for a half hour.

    How does this actress NOT get every award out there for her performance/SSSSS? She's simply amazing.

  57. My personal favorite comedy scene in my own books...right now what comes to mind it the wedding scene between Matt Tucker and Shannon Wilde in the second Wild at Heart Series book. Now and Forever.
    They 'have to' get married.
    She's horrified.
    He's all for it.
    The other mountain men are making up tall tales.
    The brides sister thinking killing the groom would solve all their problems.

    There's a big difference between running sass between characters and a true comedy scene. One kind of flows naturally for me, the sass. The other takes a lot of work and timing and re-writing.

  58. I've heard in really dramatic movies or intense action movies, adding beats of humor is almost required for the audience to stay involved. Unending intensity is too exhausting and people tune out.

    That's why Hans Solo and his wit help keep us all hooked into Star Wars.

  59. You need to write more books of your heart, Tina. Keep at it!
    Although I do anxiously await your bionic man.

  60. Which is why I like Jennifer Crusie. I'll read any genre if it's funny. I can skip over the unsavory parts.

    "Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of a loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men. She looked into the handsome face of the man she'd planned on taking to her sister's wedding and thought, Those days are gone.

    "This relationship is not working for me," David said.

    I could shove this swizzle stick through his heart, Min thought. She wouldn't do it of course. The stick was plastic and not nearly pointed enough on the end. " Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie.

  61. Okay, well, thanks, Tina. I just spent fifteen minutes looking at Orphan Black trailers and summaries.

  62. LOL. Did you find them Connealy?

    Awesomely strange and funny and scary show.

  63. Tina - Tatiana is AMAZING! And when one of the clones dresses up as another clone, and you can TELL which is's insane. I'm with you - many of the scenes I've only seen through my fingers, but the story is compelling. Allison is my favorite! I love her craft room...

  64. I don't like watching things through my fingers.
    I'll probably skip this.

  65. Allison is my favorite too. She's the funny one.

  66. Do I laugh at books, movies, blogs...all the time! Do I have funnies in my own writing...I hope so.

    One thing I find hilarious, that many folks often miss, are odd references to something or someone else. For example in Space Balls (okay, it's a funny movie but there are parts that really make me happy) when Dark Helmet calls for the metamorphoses of the ship he calls, "Ready Kafka?" Cracks me up every time. Even just writing this makes me chuckle. Then I explain the reference when I have to. Mel Brooks is the king. I can't think of a specific similar time in a book, but I know I've enjoyed them greatly.

    Thanks for the myth busters and commandments, Sherri!

  67. This comment has been removed by the author.

  68. Okay lizzie...I would not have ever gotten this.

    When initiating the metamorphosis of Spaceball-1 into the giant maid, Dark Helmet leans towards Colonel Sandurz and asks "Ready, Kafka?" This is a reference to the novella "Die Verwandlung" by Austrian-Hungarian author Franz Kafka, a story about a man who transforms into a giant insect. The most common English translations of said piece are titled "Metamorphosis". The same novel is quoted in Mel Brooks' The Producers (1967).

  69. MARY C., The Husband Tree was the first book of yours I ever read. Hysterical! Especially planting another husband in the ground.

  70. Hi Sherri! Having met Sherri in person, I can attest to her being funny and incredibly nice! :)

    I loved this line: Steal stories from your friends! If they don’t want to be in books, they should befriend accountants instead of writers.

    I especially appreciated the sarcasm section since my second language is sarcasm and one of my characters is SUPER sarcastic.

    I've been out of the Seekerville loop surviving my eldest daughter's high school graduation. But before I spent time digging myself out of the aftermath of cupcakes and party leftovers, I had to swing by and say 'HI' to all of you :)


  71. okay, now I have to google Orphan Black when I get home from work. (no UTube or video play at work)

    I agree with MARY: I LOVE Tina's The Rosetti Curse.

    I also love the wedding scene between Tucker and Shannon. Tucker's friends were sooooooo funny. I did feel pretty sad for Shannon, well, except for the fact that Tucker is such a great hero.

    Mel Brooks is definitely a clever writer.

  72. SHERRI SAID: Also - I'm still working on the website! I just recently learned that the graphics don't line up well on smaller computer screens, so I have to find a smaller computer screen and work that out! As for the chair...I don't know...I just liked that picture. I thought it looked like a nice chair to curl up and read a book :)

    Agreed, that is a VERY nice chair to curl up in. It actually reminds me of the chair my son-in-law put in a similar field with a string leading to it for when he proposed to my daughter. Except he had a Bible on the chair, which I thought was a really nice touch. And I had another thought when I was on your website as well, so I hope you don't mind my comments. I had an inkling you were funny, Sherri, but didn't reallllly KNOW it till this blog, which immediately made me go to your website, expecting to see a tagline that indicated as such. I didn't see one, so I guess I'm wondering if you're planning on eventually including one?

    BARBARA!!! Thank you SO much for the sweet comment about humor for Mary, Ruthy, and me -- MUCH appreciated!! And I have to tell you, I squealed -- yes, literally squealed -- when I heard you were the editor on our Christmas anthology!! I am sooooo excited and honored to work with you, my friend, that I just might squeal again!! :)

    And your clip from the anthology?? LOVE IT!!! Cannot wait to read Sophie and Weatherly's love story!!!


  73. Sharee! Did you bring leftover cupcakes???? DIDJA???

  74. Hello, *lizzie! You most definitely have funnies in your writing :)

    Barbara, I love the banter between your characters!

    Sharee, Thank you for stopping by! I loved meeting you :) High school graduation?! How is that possible?! Where does the time go...

  75. (I just had to click on the pictures of ice cream to prove I'm not a robot. Thanks a lot, blogger! Now I want ice cream...)

    Julie brought up something important..I've been working on a tagline. I'm supposed to gather five or six words I think describe my writing, and form them into a tagline. But that's harder than it sounds!

    Funny, heartfelt, light historical romance, touches of humor...Any suggestions are welcome!

  76. Hi Sherri:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It was serious, enlightening, and nothing to laugh at.

    (A lot of comedy involves using words with multiple meanings.)

    I do love writing humor. I've posted many times here on Seekerville that one of the greatest lacks in romance is heroes who do not have a sense of humor.

    I believe heroes can be given a sense of humor without the author having to have joke telling skills.

    I'd love to see you come back to give us: "The Ten Commandments of Giving Your Hero a Sense of Humor".

    Over the years I've read three national surveys that listed 'having a sense of humor' as the fourth sexiest characteristic women find in a man!

    I never laugh out loud more than when I am writing my own comedy. But this is what one should expect. Humor has a language all its own -- a language which has many dialects. If the listener does not share that same language, the humor will not work. As such: humor depends on others 'getting it'.

    There are a few famous comedians who will no longer play college campuses because the students have moved so far radical left that they don't get the jokes any longer. They actually boo some jokes most would find humorous.

    Humor has to find the right audience.

    I think the key to easily writing comedy, for non comedians, is to create an inherently funny situation. This is the heart and soul of long running situation comedies on television. If you create a very humor-rich environment, then it is very hard to not be funny. In a way, the comedy writes itself -- inspite of the author.

    Mary in her "Petticoat Ranch" created such a funny situation, it would be hard not to write humor. I remember reading a scene in bed and laughing out load so much I woke up my wife who wanted to know what was so funny. When I read her the passage that made me laugh, she did not think it was funny. That's because she was not apprised of the context for the total situation.

    Here's what was so funny. The hero is just new on the scene when he marries the heroine who had just saved his life. She is a widow with four young daughters (who need 'protecting') hiding out from bad guys who may be trying to kill them.

    The hero, a real western man, believes that girls need ranching skills just as much as boys. He seems to be an early feminist. So he tries to teach the girls these skills, like using a rope. However, the girls already know how to do all these things -- some even better than him. So they pretend to be learning how to do these things, by doing them poorly at the start, so as not to hurt his male ego. This situation is so ridiculous, but still possible, I found it impossible not to laugh out loud.

    Note: none of this humor depends on jokes. The situation was funny pre se.

    This situational humor, when laced with satire and some social commentary, especially when delivered from the mouths of children, is what Mark Twain did best.

    I also think this is what Mary does best as well. To point: I wrote this in a past review:

    “Mary Connealy reminds me a lot of Mark Twain. Like Twain, Connealy is a prolific writer, she writes with an insightful sense of humor, she often uses children to demonstrate the foibles of adults, her books can be read by adults and children alike, her stories show a keen understanding of what it is like to be a child, plus the time periods and locations are very similar. To top it off, both Twain and Connealy like to write the occasional mystery.”

    Remember: "The Ten Commandments of Giving Your Hero a Sense of Humor".

    Don't be a stranger.


  77. Ahhh, Vince! That's an amazing tribute to Mary :) Well said and well deserved.

  78. Hey - if the Seekers will let me come back, I'd absolutely do "The Ten Commandments of Giving Your Hero a Sense of Humor."

    I have to say, that was one of the things that attracted me to my husband. He has a killer sense of humor! He's also a genius with an analogy. HE should have been the writer in the family!

    1. My husband is way Witter than me! I love him for it and am so glad he gets me. He also makes up corny jokes for me.

  79. Hi Sherri:

    Just for fun I have some addition thoughts on humor which might prove insightful.

    The rule of the unexpected:

    "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a democrat."
    Will Rogers

    The rule of nothing:

    A robber confronts Jack Benny with a gun and says:

    "Your money or your life."

    Jack Benny, who was famous for being extremely tightfisted with his money, says...

    As he says nothing and spends time thinking it over, the audience, little by little, 'gets it' and the laughter grows louder!

    The rule of when 'not funny' is funny"

    From Wikipedia:

    There is a famous anecdote featuring Winston Churchill and the British politician Bessie Braddock that I think is fictional. Supposedly Braddock encountered an intoxicated Churchill and said “Sir, you are drunk.” He replied:

    "And you, Bessie, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning, and you will still be ugly."

    Some witticisms are not funny but we laugh anyway.

    Then there's the classic joke:

    Man: "Ask me what the secret of comedy is?"
    Woman: "What is the ...
    Man: "Timing."

    The funny thing about humor is that it does not have to be funny to be funny. That fact, in itself, may be humor's way of playing a joke on us.


  80. Writer joke alert:

    So this writer walks into a bar. No, make that a writer walks into a dark, smoky bar. No, let’s try a writer, looking furtively around the bar, walks into it. That doesn’t work, how about a lanky, tanned writer with a prominent chin walks into . . . nope. The bar beckoned to the writer and finally he . . . not that either. OK, the writer, a blank look on his gaunt face, stumbles into . . .

    Let me get back to you, this may take a while.

  81. Sherri's tagline. How about: Funny, heartfelt, light historical romance, touches of humor

  82. Or Funny, forgetful, felicitous, and feisty.

  83. Vince, those examples are awesome! Now I have to give you credit in the next blog :)

    Those are awesome tag words, Tina....

  84. I'm going to a do a little shameless bragging here..the list for the National Readers' Choice Award finalists is out..and I'm on it! I think I better giveaway a copy of The Rancher's Christmas Proposal along with Special Delivery Baby to celebrate.

    Check out the finalists at OKRWA NRCA :)

  85. Oh, congratulations. I will go look!!!!

  86. The Rancher's Christmas Proposal -Will add this to the post!!

  87. Sherri, thanks for sharing your insights on humor. All great stuff today.

    I honed in on your mention of THE FIRM. Loved the book and the movie. I'm taking note of that humorous moment, you mentioned, which Grisham used to deflect tension and make the reader/viewer relax before the real danger strikes.

    Remember the movie, "Pretty Woman?" Julia Roberts accompanies Richard Gere to a business dinner. The two gentlemen discuss the company takeover, or whatever it was, as she tries to eat escargot, I believe. We're laughing at her, but also taking in the rather dry information needed for the story.

  88. Debby, That scene from Pretty Woman is a PERFECT example!! Good eye.

    P.S., Thank you, Vince! I scored an October date for "The Ten Commandments of Giving Your Hero a Sense of Humor". I'm gonna have to put you on the payroll...

    I'm soaking in all the great examples from the comments for future reference :)

  89. Sherri's tagline...

    I keep thinking of "Seriously funny!"

  90. Sherri, this is one of the best posts on adding humor to writing that I've ever read. I am not good at this, but I love your suggestions! And, now I want to watch Steel Magnolias again. ;)

    Your rule of threes made so much sense to me. And what a great way to add a twist to things. That's the first one I want to begin incorporating in my writing. :) this is a cut-and-paste post for me. Thank you!

  91. Jeanne, Thanks for the tweet! I bet like Keli Gwyn, you're funnier than you think. I'm a big fan of the rule of three. Vince had some great suggestions in the comments above, as well! You gotta check 'em out.

    Debby, "Seriously Funny" is awesome! Don't tell anyone, but I love being on Seekerville because I always learn a ton from the comments :)

  92. Jeanne, I'm agreeing with you on this post! Excellent material!

    Sherri, you need to teach this at conferences.

    As Jeanne mentioned, the rule of three--with a humorous or satirical twist--makes sense. Hope to give it a try in my current WIP.

    Has anyone read PLUM ISLAND by DeMille? It was one of my favorites, and I'm a big fan. He added a lot of humor and sarcasm, which I don't remember in his other tales. Must relook that story.

  93. Two things:
    One-Count me in for the drawing on The Ranchers Christmas Proposal, it's on my TBR list.

    Two-Even though Tomasina was, as you said, a spitfire, got herself in lots of fixes and totally exasperated Will, he had some wonderfully witty comebacks to her. AND when he lays out what he's willing to do for love, swoon-worthy! So in my estimation, you've got "The ten commandments of giving your hero a sense of humor" down pat!

  94. Dear Sherri, Thank you for your post. I've also enjoyed reading the comments. Jennifer Crusie and Janet Evanovich are two of my favorite authors, and I love Cary Grant, especially in The Awful Truth, Holiday, and Arsenic and Old Lace, all of which feature him doing pratfalls from his acrobat days.

    My critique partner has been encouraging me to tap into my humorous scenes more, so I'm very appreciate when she gives me feedback as to whether something is working or not because when I try, it usually doesn't work, but there have been scenes where she sends back the critique and she laughed, and I always wonder what I did differently.

    One side note. I've been reading to my twins' class this year, and they respond especially well to the picture books with humor. I think readers on all levels appreciate any book that makes them laugh.

    Thanks for the tips. Congratulations to you on your book's nomination.

  95. Sherri! Congratulations! on being a finalist in the National Reader's Choice Awards for the Rancher's Christmas Proposal!

  96. Also I just finished episode 4, season 1 Orphan Black


  97. Fab blog, Sherri. We do a lot of laughing when we're together, that's for sure.

    I most often don't laugh at the same things other people laugh at. I find things hilarious that other people don't. Do I have a flawed sense of humor? Trying to think of funny scenes...In Big when Tom Hanks eats the blue cheese at the buffet and then grimaces and vigorously wipes his tongue with a napkin was hysterical to me. I think I may like sight jokes.

    The only sitcom I watch is Big Bang Theory.
    I love Lucy. I have a good friend who could never watch Lucy because she was embarrassed for her.
    LOVED Miss Fletcher's Murder Mysteries and found that show funny.

    I just spilled my water bottle on my desk, which is half an inch thick with papers, and that is no joke. Will see if my jump drive survived.

    Keep making us laugh!

  98. Sherri, congratulations on being a NRCA finalist! What an honor! I am a corny joke person, the cornier the better. Most of the humor in boops that makes me LOL literally are the mundane tasks that go wrong or corny jokes slyly inserted.

    What do you call a bagel that flies?
    A Plain Bagel

    What do you call a Sea Gull that flies over the Bay?
    A Bagel

    And one last one...

    What did the Buffalo say to his son when he left for college?

    Thanks for the humor suggestions. Life is too hard to go through it with out laughing. As writers, it is crucial to insert humor at points, I would even say it's Biblical. Paul gets pretty sarcastic with his readers and even Jesus could throw out some pretty witty stuff out. Remember the Proverbs 31 woman? She can laugh at the days to come. I think even God values humor, and God values it, we should insert it. :-) Anyone else have some good corny jokes? I keep a collection of them for those hard days.

  99. Well, Sherri, you've done it again. Been an amazing hostess. Funny. Seriously funny. I LOVE THAT. Thank you!

  100. Tracey, that absolutely, positively warmed my heart! Thank you :) That is exactly the reaction I was looking for!

    Tanya, You have good taste in movies AND critique partners :)

    Cheryl - I hope your drive survived the flood! And, yes, you are seriously flawed...I mean your sense of humor! hee hee.

  101. Now the robot capta is showing me pasta! It's killing me...

    Mary C., welcome...welcome to Clone Club...Bwa ha ha!

    "Life is too hard to get through it without laughing" Truer words were never spoken, Crystal!

  102. Thank you for having me, Seekers! I always learn a ton from your amazing followers :)

  103. This comment has been removed by the author.

  104. I am all for a laugh out loud book. It has to be a realistic scene though. Unrealistic nonsensical fluff is not appealing to me while reading. Wow, that was a mouthful !

    Please enter me for the LIH book. Sherri, I just love your books!

    Deanne P.

  105. Sherri - loved the post! I enjoy writing humor but worry about whether orbit others will like it. My sense of humor is rather quirky.

    1. Please ignore the orbit in my previous comment. I'm truly not aiming for other galaxies.

  106. Great article, Sherri! I'm one of those who think I can't write humor--until I read your "Ten Commandments." You've given me hope with your excellent suggestions and examples. Thank you. Debra

  107. Great article. Gives me excellent guidelines on how to deliberately incorporate humor into fiction, something that only occasionally has happened and only by chance. Thanks, Sherri! And please enter me in your giveaway. The description piqued my interest.

  108. I love humor in books. It keeps you going. Your 10 commandments are wonderful. It is good to remember these in life as well. :-)

    I just read book one of the Cowboy Creek series and would love to read the second one. Please put me in the drawing. I need to find out what happens to Will. :-)

    Becky B.

  109. Hi Sherri:

    So happy to learn you'll be back with, "The Ten Commandments of Giving Your Hero a Sense of Humor". in October. I don't think any guest is treated better than those that appear here on Seekerville.

    I also think both posts combined would make a welcome and needed writing novella for the Kindle. So many writers do this now and humor is one of the most neglected topics. If you wrote such a 'how-to' novella, I'd preorder it right now.

    Thanks and Good luck!


  110. Hi Tina:

    Just loved your 'writer goes into a bar' promps. My muse would not let me rest until I tried to write it. So here it is:

    The Last Chance HEA Bar and Grill

    So this slump shouldered wannabe author, rejection letter in hand, goes into a sleazy bar called the HEA.

    "Is this a good bar for a romance writer to get drunk in."

    "Well, not if you are going to end all your sentences in a preposition, it isn't."

    "My, my, and here I thought that this was the kind of establishment, up of which, such pedantic nonsense would not be put."

    "Don't get me wrong now, we'll put up with it to a certain degree; however, we're far less forgiving about non-attributed Winston Churchill quotes."

    "Sorry about that, it's just that I find the urge to spout Churchillisms to be irresistible and, as I've often said, 'I can resist anything but temptation'."

    "We feel the same way about Oscar Wilde quotes".

    "You're pretty critical for a bartended in a seedy waterfront watering hole where customers are more likely to be Shainghaied than get a Singapore sling."

    "You just had to use that line, didn't you? You just won't give up on it. I see that in here all the time here."

    "You're a hard man. I thought bartenders were understanding."

    "Hard? If you think I'm hard, you should see the critique group that meets here Wednesday nights. They play Russian Roulette for real. Along with Robert Heinlein they believe that suicide is the sincerest form of self-criticism."

    "Well, maybe we are all strangers in a strange land. By the way, does the HEA in your name really stand for, "Happily Ever After"?

    "Oh, yea, but the HEA applies to everyone else -- not the hero and heroine. Around here we're all plotters. We know that half those couples are going to end up divorced. We're just happy to see them ride off into the sunset."

    "I noticed that you have some interesting names for your drinks. What's in the 'Sagging Middle'"?

    "It's not what's in it. It's just what we serve you when you've had more liquor than you should have but less than the legal limit."

    "And what's the 'Show, Don't Tell'?"

    "That's a drink that comes with the guy's ID card. You know, when guy tells a girl he's an astronaut, we attach a copy of his NASA ID card."

    "And what's the 'Black Moment'? Is that like a Black Russian?"

    "No that's not a drink at all. That's your bill. So what do you think about joining our Wednesday night critique group?"

    "I'm afraid not. I'd rather face the barracudas I know than..."

    "Just stop right there...let's not part on an unattributed Hamlet quote."

    "Right, but tell me this: that autographed photo of Marlon Brando over the bar, is that the real thing?"

    "Sure is. Cost me $200 on ebay."

    "But isn't hanging it up there dishonest? Won't people think he was in this bar?"

    "It may be dishonest but it does demonstrate that you should show and not tell."