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Monday, September 19, 2016
Writing Humor: I'll Be Here All Night, Ladies and Gents! by Stuart R. West
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
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!