Tag Archives: Humor for children

12 1/2 More Things I Know About Humor


Do you see what she’s doing?

I know. I’m mortified.

Opening with a disclaimer again? Can she not jump in like a real writer?

I know. Grow some confidence already.

There’s no stopping her, is there. And those glasses. What?

I know. I can’t watch. Let’s go find a bigger mirror.


Disclaimer:  Writing rules, like the English language, are tufted with exceptions. Humor writing is particularly subjective. If one of the following tips does not speak to you, just remember tips can’t talk, my little apple strudel.

Funny Glasses 2018

Some days you gotta bring your own sunshine.

My 12 and a half subjective take ’em or leave ’em suggestions for writing with humor:

1. Study sit coms and stand up comics.

Notice how situation comedies  approach even heavy topics – infidelity, gambling addiction, shoplifting, sexual harassment, gender bias, challenges of aging and elder care, infertility, death, marital disputes, divorce/separation, socioeconomic disparity, juvenile delinquency, mood disorders. All of those were woven into episodes for The King of Queens!

Listen to stand up comedians. Catch the rhythm of jokes and notice the use of the rule of threes to get a laugh. 1 & 2 set the expectation and 3 flips it. Listen for it!

2. Give a character a funny namebut not all. Example – my current middle grade novel has a teacher named Mrs. Belcher.

3. Pace yourself. If your novel is a gut buster in the first chapter, you’ve set an expectation. If chapter two goes super serious, it feels like a bait and switch to your reader. Make sure you can keep the promise you made with chapter one. If you can’t or don’t want to keep the comic pace, take the opportunity to create an emotional equilibrium when you revise. Go from FUNNY to funny.

4. Be genuine. Just because humor adds levity to a story, it doesn’t mean you can’t include heavy issues or situations that would be meaningful to your readers.  (See Point 1.)

5. Be natural. Allow humor to bubble up and feel organic to the personalities of your characters and the world you’ve created for them. For me, that means writing to amuse myself in those early drafts. I do not worry if a kid will get it or will laugh. I can keep the gems and edit out the excess later.

6. Harvest funny details from your family like unique expressions, odd names for things, unusual habits or hobbies. These goodies give your story a taste all its own.

7. Consider the pun.  I love ’em, but keep in mind, they don’t always translate to an international market.

8. Play with words and make up new names for products or games.  Related to this, make Urban Dictionary your new best friend. Trust me on this one.

9. Switch up the situation. Put your character in an unfamiliar situation. A “first” experience is prime territory for this.

10. Funny characters still need to be people of substance. If you have a 3-D straight man, you can’t have a flat funny man. Related thoughts  . . .

  • Interview characters – this is really, really, really important. Really.
  • Your secondary characters can be a gold mine, so be sure to interview them too.
  • Personality quirks are fun, but they must contribute to the story in some way.

11. Don’t overlook the “serious” character as a source of humor. Being earnest, having zero sense of humor and taking things literally, can be amusing in its own way.

12. Recycle your embarrassing moments, especially if it will aid your emotional health.

And a halfLaughter is carbonated holiness. ~ Ann Lamott

BTW, this post has a companion. If you enjoy humor writing, I have a funny feeling you may want to read that one too.


Is she done? She took like forever.

I know. But she is kind of funny.


I know. It’s like Windex mixed with burnt toast and apprehension.

But we still love her.

I know.


The 12 1/2 Things I Know About Humor

Blond Wig EMLA retreat

Sometimes I can be a little silly. 

Do I know everything there is to know about humor writing? The answer is YES. Yes, I do.

Let me qualify that–I know everything “I” know about funny writing. There. That’s more accurate. And to be even more precise, I know just over a dozen things you might like to learn about writing with humor for children. These are mostly observations. I’m drafting another glistening post with actual tips on humor writing. (I do enjoy pressuring myself.)

So, here you go, my little Pixie Stix:

  1. Humor is a heart-grabber. Humor can give you a portal to your reader’s heart. When your reader throws back her head and laughs, that’s the author’s opportunity to reach in and snatch that reader’s heart.
  2. Respect your natural inclinations. If humor happens to be your super power, let it infuse your work in an organic way. Other than professional comedians, nobody leaves the house with a list of gags. You’re not writing “material,” you’re making a story. To be really funny, you need to keep it real.
  3. Humor can reveal your character’s character. Your character’s sense of what’s funny  informs the reader about a character’s character/personality/point of view.
  4.  Humor serves to make serious scenes serious-er. Drama is more dramatic and stress is more intense when it is contrasted with timely little moments of levity.
  5. Please yourself and your reader first. If your story makes adults laugh too, that’s a bonus. Resist the temptation to include a funny aside or quip solely for the grown-up reader’s benefit. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the young reader. Yes, Aretha said so.
  6. Humor lets your reader come up for air and can be used to dissipate tension. That means, the timing of your lighter moments is critical. Otherwise, you can let all the air out of the balloon (that is to say, the rising tension will dissipate).
  7. Don’t be afraid to use poop. The strategic use of taboo words like poop, booger, fart, snot, barf, belch or any of the other bodily-function-centric funny words is a sure-fire way to tickle your reader.
  8. Don’t over-do the doo doo. Remember the Poop Principle – even poop can lose its pizzazzle and be drained of its power with overuse. Just a sprinkling of poo will do.
  9. Sometimes, as in real life, your funniest character can be the one experiencing the most pain. So, your character’s sense of humor  provides an opportunity to reveal and contrast your character’s internal conflict with her people-facing side.
  10. Sarcasm is the wasabi of humor – use sparingly. Sarcastic quips get old and typically distances people. So, if you create a character who wants to push people away, sarcasm is the way to go. But be sure to dig deep to understand your character’s snark attacks. Why does he use sarcasm? What is his back story?  Why does he push people away & distance himself? For protection? To feel superior?
  11. Humor needs to fortify the overall plot (and not just hang out in the wings until it’s time to walk on stage). Otherwise, it’s just a series of Dad jokes—unless you want the Dad to tell jokes in the story “just because.”
  12. Humorous books meet a basic need. Kids need opportunities to laugh, to giggle, to be delighted and to escape. Your humor can forge an intimate bond with your reader because your stories will be source of happiness. Isn’t that marvelous?

And a half – Oh, I crack me up! There’s nothing like making yourself laugh, except for making your reader laugh.

Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables