When is a joke not a joke? Answers on a postcard please.
Funny stories are often cited as a great way to get children reading, yet many authors claim they can’t write humour. I’m not sure I can write anything else!
The first thing to sort out is the voice.
|Jo Franklin's business card|
I prefer to write in the first person. The protagonist becomes the narrator and I give them a quirky view of the world. It means they can also send up their own actions and feelings. The same words could sound bitchy or mean coming from another character.
Gordon stroked the Thin Crust laptop and sighed as he lifted the lid to reveal the keyboard. He whispered little snatches of baby talk and giggled coyly as he tiptoed his fingers over the keys. He was flirting with the laptop. My laptop. –Help! I’m an Alien
Next, set up characters who are at odds with each other. Yes, humour is another form of conflict. Put a crisp-eating slob and a ‘don’t touch me’ neat freak in a top-secret meeting in a tiny Wendy house and something funny is bound to happen.
The humour needs to be everywhere. In the language, the action, the situation and the tone.
It needs to be children’s humour aimed specifically at your target age group. And no adult jokes or Adult jokes. And absolutely no politics.
Last but not least, don’t forget the plot. Too many funny books are nothing more than a string of gags loosely tied together, which results in a very unsatisfactory reading experience. I believe the payoff is critical for the reader to enjoy the story, whatever the genre. That means your character needs to overcome the funny problem you give them in the first place, and grow a little along the way–while still being funny.
Not much, then!
|Photo by Liz Emerson|
Help! I’m an Alien will be published by Troika Books in May 2016.