A long time ago, when I was experimenting with different genres to write, I sold some dark, quirky short stories. When I gave one of them to a fellow writer to critique, she said “You can’t use a happy word when you write dark fiction. It breaks the mood.” I’d described a forest with trees with dark, gnarled branches and then had birds hopping on the them overhead. Wrong. Happy birds don’t belong in gnarled forests. Ravens hovering might work with a gray, moody sky. But I realized that every word had to add to the tone of the story.
Once I started writing longer fiction, and tried my hand at even more genres, I realized that page after page of suspense or moody prose could use a break here or there, so I started to use humor as a relief occasionally. Sometimes the humor even made the dire circumstances more dire when I returned to it. But the humor had to be brief. And its tone had to match the tone of the story.
Once I started writing cozies, I could use humor to jazz up a scene or two. Humor added nice variety to digging for clues, and it could show relationships in a different light. It gave the entire manuscript a lighter feel. I like humor. I like using it, but I’m no pro. C.S. Boyack uses a lot of humor in his stories, and he does it well. He used the root monsters in his Voyage of the Lanternfish to add comic relief to his tale of a good man who had to turn to piracy to fight an oppressive government, and a lot of readers fell in love with the odd little vegetable men. I know I did. https://www.amazon.com/Voyage-Lanternfish-C-S-Boyack-ebook/dp/B07MP8V633/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=c.s.+boyack&qid=1613058898&sr=8-3
Boyack uses humor so often, he wrote two blogs about it for Story Empire, giving examples of different kinds of humor and how to use it: Expansion Pack: The Return of Comedy | Story Empire (wordpress.com) I read both posts and enjoyed them. And sometimes, serendipity happens, because right after reading the post about using “misunderstanding” for a chuckle or two, I started reading a book that uses that type of humor to wonderful effect–The Fear Hunter, by Elise Sax.
I’ve read a few suspense books back to back recently, and I have to admit the lighthearted cozy feel of a witch who’s out of touch with modern society trying to solve a crime is a delightful treat at the end of the day. Humor is subjective, and for me, Sax’s constant light touch is spot on.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Julia Donner’s sly humor in her Regency romances is one of the reasons I love her books. Dry wit takes a special skill. I’m adding a link to one of her Regencies, so you can check it out if you like historical romances with underlying humor: To Jilt a Corinthian (Friendship Series Book 12) – Kindle edition by Donner, Julia. Romance Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
I don’t know if you like to read or write humor. It won’t work in the new series I’ve just started, but it adds a lot to any cozy I write. Whether it works for you or not, happy reading and even better, happy writing!