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Article:
Writing Humorous Stories: Do’s and Don’ts

Do's:

1) Watch your timing. Don't slow down the pace of a story with boring, unnecessary details. Write with a brisk, lively tempo.

2) Tell stories that are naturally humorous. (When something funny happens to you, simply telling the story clearly will convey the humor.)

3) Use hyperbole (exaggeration) but don't overdo it. (The dentist hovered over me with a foot-long needle.)

4) Do end the story with a punch line...or very soon after you deliver it.

5) Get feedback on your humor writing from several people or from your writing group.

6) Do read lots of stories by authors that you think are funny. (Don't attempt to copy them, but do take note of their timing and other tools they use to write humor.)

Don'ts:

1) Never make less fortunate people (the poor, homeless, handicapped, insane) the butt of jokes.

2) Don't try to convince the reader the situation was funny with remarks like: I laughed so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. (If you describe comic scenarios adequately, the reader will laugh without this kind of prodding.)

3) Don't overuse CAPITAL LETTERS, and exclamation points!!!! (These tend to distract and make the text difficult to read, rather than making the scene funnier.)

4) Avoid slang and swearing.

5) Avoid using "bathroom" humor in your stories, and making fun of characters who get seriously hurt. (Yes, there are movies and TV shows that use these so-called comedic scenarios, but literary journals and mainstream magazines avoid running stories about them.)

6) Steer clear of old, tired jokes; you don't want your readers to feel cheated when they get to the end of the story. Nor do you want them to know well ahead of the end what's going to happen because the premise is so familiar.

***

Many commercial magazines and literary publications invite humor. If you submit a story to one, study a few issues first to make sure they like "your" sense of humor. Before submitting, do share your humorous stories with honest friends or with your writing group. Do they think the piece is funny? If not, you may need to do some revising.

Don't be discouraged if your stories are rejected. Not everyone has the same sense of humor. Keep sending them out till you discover a few editors who think like you do.

 

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