Monday, September 19, 2016

Writing Humor: I'll Be Here All Night, Ladies and Gents! by Stuart R. West



Laughs! Murder! G-strings! Clicky Here!

Humor’s very subjective. For the writer and the reader. Out of all the genres I’ve written, humor’s probably the hardest. Don’t get me wrong, I have a blast writing my Zach and Zora comic mystery series and I’m always proud of the outcome. The problem is I tend to write aiming at my funny bone. Not everyone shares it. Many readers found the first book in the series, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock, “hilarious.” But one reviewer suffered through four pages and declared it “total trash,” the equivalent of having a tomato lobbed at me if I was on-stage doing a stand-up routine. Tough crowd, tough crowd. 

Of course everyone’s entitled to their opinion, the world would be very dull if that wasn’t the case. But clearly the reviewer didn’t understand the book was a comedy. You can’t please everyone. Especially regarding humor. Readers are very protective of their humor, I’ve found, and everyone has a different threshold and variety of likes.

For instance, I’ve never laughed at an Adam Sandler movie. Honestly, a crackly Jerry Lewis voice and vulgar humor doesn’t do it for me. And, psst! I don’t even like the Three Stooges. Blasphemy among my male peers who would probably want me to hand in my “Guy Card.” It takes a strange mixture of low-brow and high-brow to amuse me.

So, I started writing stuff I find funny. Going into the Zach and Zora books, I knew I might be the only one amused, my laughter the only barometer. Mark Twain said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” While I don’t have such lofty ambitions as to be the Pope of humor, if I can make someone smile while reading my books, goal accomplished!

The road to the first book, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock, was a sloppy one, pocked with potholes of doubt and riddled with speed-bumps of hesitation. I didn’t trust that anyone might find it amusing other than myself. Then something happened…badda-boom! Everything seemed to come together.

True origin time! The book almost didn’t happen. I was gabbing with a writer friend one day, grousing about the same-ol’, same-ol’ books we’ve read. I said, “What if I came up with the dumbest lead character in history? How about…a really vain, vapid, stupid male stripper? Yeah!” She laughed, said, “I dare you!” I can’t turn down a dare, especially since it was a double-dog dare. Badda-bing!
So I started writing Hammock. One chapter in, though, I cheated. It became obvious Zach wasn’t strong enough to completely lead a book. So I created his super-competent, super-irritable, extremely pregnant sister, Zora (an ex security specialist), to bail Zach out of trouble when he wakes up with no memory or clothes next to a naked dead man. Hilarity ensues. (I hope). Did I mention Zora’s other three kids who have to tag along for the first part of the investigation?

The second book in the series, Murder by Massage, just released September 4th. When I accepted that challenge a while back, I had no idea the bet would turn into a series. And I’m having a ball with these characters and hope it shines through on the pages. (But what do I know?) I’ll be here all weekend, folks!

Murder by Massage once again finds Zach up to his g-string in trouble when he stumbles onto another murder. Zora to the rescue! There’re ex-radical hippies, the cult of “Furries,” a g-string chase through the streets, a dance-off, smart aleck kids, bewigged pastors, a dancing and singing detective, secrets, more murder and mystery and I hope laughs. Lotsa, lotsa laughs. And despite Zach’s rather unsavory choice of profession (“male entertainment dancer,” NOT “stripper” as he protests), the comic cozy books are not explicit. Rather chaste actually. Except for a g-string here and there.

You’ve been a great audience ladies and gentlemen!
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