Tag Archives: maria semple

Humor Writing Lessons from Semple, Goldstein, and Ulinich

Posted by September 6th, 2013

Infusing humor in your writing is a smart way to get readers to stick around. Who doesn’t enjoy good comic relief? Yet there is no recipe to make a book funny; “funny” is easy to spot but harder to recreate.

That’s why I decided to look at books I’ve read in the past month and study the strategies they’ve used to make me smile, chuckle, and even hoot with laughter.

Humor & Character

bernadetteHumor can affect the way we perceive a character, appeal to our sympathies. WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple is about a mother who retreats from the world. Kooky Bernadette is pretty hard to like at times, but her zaniness is steeped with so much humor that I couldn’t help but like her a little. To avoid interacting with other people, she hires a seventy-five-cent-per-hour virtual personal assistant from India to do her shopping for her and organize her life. Bernadette affectionately refers to the other mothers at her daughter’s school as gnats. She can spend hours fuming over the design of Seattle roads. Humor softens up Bernadette’s edges, brings out her humanity. It heightens her character in a way that is almost loveable. Bernadette has flaws but is not unsalvageable.

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