COMEDY KNOWHOW with Justin Davies (part four)


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 four: breaking the laugh-o-meter


So far, we’ve discussed the importance of having a good sense of humour and of knowing what you find funny yourself. We’ve also looked at some of the things kids look for in funny middle grade books.


Let’s finish with a few other top tips to help your comedy writing break that laugh-o-meter.



Be consistent.


If a character is accident prone, and you’re using that trait for comedic effect, then make sure they trip, slip and flip over at every opportunity! Similarly, if they collapse in a heap with the giggles at entirely inappropriate moments, they need to react the same way all the way through your story.


The art of anticipation. 


Keeping your characters’ reactions and actions consistent is also vital to helping your reader anticipate your comedy moments. We all have our favourite comedy characters and we love them because we know them. Fans of The Simpsons don’t tune in to watch Homer act like a responsible parent – Lisa does that! We enjoy watching because we can guess the hilarious outcomes before Homer does – but not before Lisa gets there first.


As every successful joke has a killer punchline, so every comedy situation you set up in your story needs a satisfyingly funny outcome. And if your reader can see it coming because they know how the character will react, you’re onto a winner. So allow your characters and your story to lead your readers to the laughs. 


Supersize the silly!


When I write funny, I channel my inner uncle. The daring uncle. The uncle who lets you stay up late and sprinkle chilli flakes on your ice cream. Push your comedy that bit further. Be bold. Go large. Be more uncle!


And finally, and most important of all…. enjoy writing your funny stories. You might not be able to guarantee that your readers will all laugh their socks off, but you’ll have had a good time trying – and maybe laughed some of your own socks off along the way.

Justin's middle grade mystery adventure Haarville will be out with Kelpies/Floris books in Feb '23.


Justin Davies 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. 

Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let us know at

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