Everybody likes a laugh. I went to a wonderful exhibition at Mottisfont recently and tittered in front of zany cartoons by Heath Robinson. I wish I’d taken photos of viewers before and after they’d looked round. There were smiles all round.
On the train home, I started to think about humour; how it works, why we need it. At the moment, I’m writing a novella which I hope will come over as gently humorous. (“Mavis and Dot” is to be launched in November 2108). I’ve dipped into creative writing courses over the years, but I’ve never attended a class on writing humour. Will my new book work? Is writing comedy a matter of instinct or must it be studied? If you try to analyse humour, will it work?
Perhaps to create comedy you have to be a little zany.
Comedians use the incongruous, employing quirky, wild ideas. When writing in humorous vein, we can send our readers down unexpected paths to keep them guessing. Maybe it’s best not to write comedy when you’re in a serious mood. But in life, even in dreadful situations, we joke, don’t we? How often have you heard someone say, “You’ll laugh about that one day,” when you recount them something bad that happened? Two weeks ago, in the dementia home where we left my beautiful mother-in-law, we giggled afterwards about some of the patients. The lady cramming cream cheese sandwiches into her pockets, the gentleman wearing one shoe and clutching a maraca, as if his whole life depended on it. I think we laughed in order to cope. “…humour can make tragic moments bearable.” (Rufus Wainwright).
What is funny to one person might be serious to another. And this could be another way of showing more about characters we invent in our stories.
Humour can also disguise or soften negative moments. Dawn French: “I’ve often said the most difficult things I have to say to people through humour. I can very quickly put some-one in their place with it.”
Let’s face it, life can be harsh, and laughter is good for us. Leave aside the academic aspects to creating humour, it can be better than medicine. So, if we can pull it off, we’re adding to the feel-good factor in our troubled world.
Let me introduce you to two clever humourists. I’m going to do this in two stages – today is the turn of Audrey Cowie and tomorrow we’ll meet Patricia Feinberg Stoner.
This week, Audrey published the second part to her book “The Haunting of Hattie Has-tings”. Writing as Audrey Davis, this lady admits to being slightly crazy, so that backs up my theory about humourists. She started her career as a journalist in Dumfriesshire and put her writing dreams to one side, whilst bringing up her family and moving around the globe for her husband’s career. She’s lived in Singapore, Australia and Switzerland – no doubt storing ideas away all the time until an online Writing Fiction Course inspired her to get cracking. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two was published on 21st March 2018, with the conclusion following in May/June. “After which she might have a wee lie down …”
Chatting to Audrey on Facebook, her sense of fun is always refreshing. I asked her about her journey into self-publishing. “Before June 2017 I had four Twitter follows and no clue how or what to tweet. Now I have almost one thousand. FB was only used to admire photos of people’s dogs/babies/house plants. Book bloggers were a mystery to me, whereas now I worship at their feet. I had never heard of acronyms such as WIP, TBR, DNF and thought Mobi was a singer. Since then I have managed to upload four books to Amazon (but still manage to mess things up all the time). I exist in a muddle of scribbled notes, empty coffee cups (or wine glasses) and my friends think I’m one step away from madness, or hermit status. I am quite amazed at how much I’ve learned (and forgotten) and how much more I could achieve.”
I wish Audrey all the best for her future achievements and look forward to being haunted and entertained with her next instalment of Hattie Hastings.
Here is my 4 star* review:
“Part two of “The Haunting of Hattie Hastings” was eagerly awaited. I read the first part days after a painful shoulder operation. Just the tonic I needed. I love the bizarre situation of a dead husband, Gary, returning at unexpected moments, popping back to check up on things earthly. Hattie’s best friend, Cat, is now in on Gary’s ghostly comings and goings, but Gary doesn’t always choose the most tactful moments to return. Cat is “busy” with a new boyfriend when Gary appears to her. “There he stood in all his weird glory … Like a “ghostly gooseberry”.
In this second part we have a tender love scene between septuagenarians. Cat’s mother is gravely ill, but her new man is there for her. And we have the pathos of the little boy, Marty, who Gary befriends up in Paradise – or wherever he is. Marty has a little rubber toy called Grump and resembles a certain American politician with a rhyming surname. I don’t want to write a spoiler but, up in Heaven (or wherever), Gary is entrusted with a “mission” by Clarence, an annoyingly-pedantic God-like personality… And he decides to entrust this task to Cat, who has to travel up to Edinburgh to meet Marty’s parents, landing on their doorstep like a Jehovah’s Witness. Get the crazy picture? Audrey Cowie can do tender as well as stand-up comedy. I smiled my way through this book. It is refreshingly different. But I still maintain it is too much of a tease to leave the reader hanging off a cliff edge to see how the rest of the story pans out. I would prefer to read all Hattie’s adventures as one book.”
Don’t forget to pop by tomorrow for another giggle, with Patricia Feinberg Stoner.
Click here for: Audrey’s book