All of my favorite writers have one thing in common: Their use of humor. Flannery O’Connor’s use of black humor adds greatly to adds to the characterization and the setting in her stories. Another one of my writers is Nathanael West also employs a similar sort of dark and demented humor in his stories. Most people would agree with me that the John Kennedy Toole novel A Confederacy of Dunces is a work of comic genius. I also admire the dry and witty humor of the science fiction writer, Douglas Adams. Although the humor in the works of these latter two writers is much more accessible and apparent than the former, they all have made me, at one time or another, laugh out loud. And I have learned greatly from all of these writers in how to employ humor in fiction.
When I began writing my novel, I did not intend for it to be funny, but when I read my first chapter to a group of fellow writers, I was delighted to find them laughing out loud at certain lines and or situations that I had written. I was also delighted when I my book got several reviews claiming that it was very humorous. I believe that the use of humor in fiction is a great tool, and not just for the sake of being entertaining, but also for the sake of driving a point home without sounding didactic or overly moralistic. I also believe that it’s the sheer honesty of good humor that can really make an impression on people. If someone is genuinely funny, they are not afraid to say what they see. There are no pretensions. There are no lies.
In terms of character development, it is the funny quirks about characters that make them more real, more believable and more lovable. Vince believes that the recent preponderance of books about war is a government conspiracy. As a lawyer, Frank bartered with clients who could not make their whole legal fee. Angie is obsessed by the fact that she lives in the very same neighborhood as Bruce Springsteen and is determined to find his house. Donna is constantly plagued by some new self-diagnosed ailment that keeps her following one trend diet after another.
Humor can really enhance dialogue. Cosmo tells Silvia that she would have better luck making peace in the Middle East than within their family. Frank finishes his monologue of complaints with the phrase “I can’t complain.” And last but not least, humor greatly adds to the fun of story. Silvia listens to her boss, a full grown man, rant on about the importance of Gummy Bears. Donna is sexually harassed by the Three Little Pigs at Disney World. What fun!