COMEDY KNOWHOW with Justin Davies (part one)

Fancy having a pop at writing comedy for middle graders? In this four-part series, SCBWI’s Justin Davies, author of the face-bustingly funny Help! I Smell a Monster and Woah! I Spy a Werewolf, talks us through the steps to comic genius.


Part One: Before You Start

Pop into your local bookshop and you’ll see that there’s tons of funny books on the Middle Grade shelf. To stand out from the crowd your writing needs to score big on the laugh-o-meter, but, making sure it does, isn’t easy.


Begin by asking yourself this important question:


Do you have a sense of humour?


Not everyone does – I know this because I’ve sat through enough wedding speeches which didn’t register so much as a tickle on my funny bone. But if you want to write comedy books for kids, it really helps if you’re the sort of person who enjoys a good laugh and who looks for the funny in everything.


Next, work out what makes you laugh.


The chances are, the sort of comedy that has you laughing in the aisles – be it at the cinema or Tesco – will be the comedy you find easiest to write, and, more importantly, enjoy writing the most.


If slapstick comedy has you laughing so hard that a fart pops out, why not start there? (Top tip: if that sentence left you tight-lipped and indignant, writing comedy for kids might not be for you!). 

Or maybe you prefer surreal comedy or dark humour? Play around and see what comes naturally to you. If the gags are flowing (and the farts are blowing) – great! Because they need to flow from the first line to the last. But remember, your young readers will need a chance to catch their breaths from all that laughing, so include some quieter moments too.


Don’t forget to do your homework.


You’re going to need to know what has kids laughing their socks off these days. What words make them giggle? Gleaning this info first-hand is great, but, failing that, it’s back to the bookshelves to read some recently-published funny books. And by some, I mean a lot! 


Justin lives in Fife with his husband Andrew and Sally The Greyhound. He spends his mornings working at his local primary school, and his afternoons writing “brilliantly funny”* and “spectacularly hilarious”* Middle Grade books. His debut title, Help! I Smell a Monster (Orchard Books) was named a Fantastic Book Award 2021 winner. Justin’s third children’s book – a darkly comic adventure – will publish in Spring 2023.

 (*Quotes: author’s own.)

You can find Justin on Twitter @flyingscribbler and Instagram @flyingscribbler

His website is



Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 

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