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Switching To Comedic Scenes

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Xitra_Blud, Feb 6, 2015.

  1. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

    When writing a serious story, I find it nice to always throw in a few comedic scenes in there so that the story doesn't get to weighed down with darkness and depression. However, when writing in a serious story, the voice of the story would be serious as well making it difficult to get across the more comedic scenes. My question is, how do you write a comedic scene without disrupting the voice of the story?
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke. -- Joss Whedon

    On that note. I remember, I think, one of the Buffy writers saying that Joss would tell them something to the effect "Find the sad in the funny and the funny in the sad."

    If you know your characters, then you should know what they find humorous. Use that to lighten things up. Again, it's about the character, so if you know what they find amusing then you shouldn't have too much trouble with voice. Remember you don't have go for the belly laughs or slapstick. That's the kind of stuff that can throw a reader if it doesn't fit. It's just about lightening the mood. And to do that you can draw upon the everything that has ever happened to your characters and poke fun at that.

    Also, you can't force humor, either you can see it or you can't. If you can't then maybe start studying humor. Look at some stand up comics, see the different styles and how they set up their punchlines. Watch some grim and not so grim movies and see how they deal with humor. And maybe read a book or two where they use humor.

    What's your sense of humor like? Do you have a character that maybe shares your sense of humor? Maybe you can exploit that.
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  3. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    I've been struggling with this very issue. Your other advice was helpful.

    Would you happen to have any recommendations for good sources to study? (Besides the obvious Pratchett.)
  4. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I remember that the directors' commentary for the first Ice Age movie said that the Scrat and his acorn came in handy once placed next to the more serious scenes. Ironically, the scenes from that first movie which impacted me the most weren't so much the comedic ones but the more somber ones (my favorite being the one with the cave paintings).

    In addition to humor vs seriousness, I have to say that I'm a sucker for contrasts between exciting and intense moments and softer sentimentality. Together they have a way of giving the story a greater multi-dimensionality. There is something strangely beautiful about seeing the gentler side of something you first perceive as ferocious.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    For TV shows, I'd recommend Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it's spin off Angel. These shows go from drama to comedy and back again effortlessly. These shows have broken my heart and made me belly laugh within the span of a few moments.

    As for book sources, that's a little tougher. Nothing comes to mind that mixes comedy and drama as well as Buffy. I'm sure others will have better recommendations, but I'd say check out Neil Gaiman, specifically American Gods and Anansi Boys. American Gods has a more serious tone, but there are moments of humor and fun that break the seriousness up. Anansi Boys takes place in the same universe, but it's slanted more towards the humorous side.

    If you want to look at stuff that's just plain funny, I'd say look at comic strips like The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbs. Also there's a book series by Robert Asprin called the Myth series. It's just off the wall fun.

    In general, we're always surrounded by humor. Most of the media we consume contains humor in some form. Just keep your eyes and ears open and take it in. It's like anything in life, the more exposure you have to something, the more likely you'll gain a better understanding of it.
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  6. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage


    From what I've seen in stories, comedy is often used to draw the reader/audience closer in to characters, to get to like them, to love them - it creates the stakes prior to drama and action kicking in. So its no surprise that in the Hobbit Jackson made Kili a humorous character in the lead up to his romance with Tauriel and tragic death - there just wasn't enough screen time with all the other characters to make you care about him.

    I saw an interview with Patch Adams (of the eponymous movie, staring Robin Williams) once and they asked him why he uses humour with his patients, did humour have the power to heal. He responded that it was love that healed, and that humour was the quickest way to show love and connect with patients so that's why he used it.
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  7. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    I agree with king Joss Whedon. An easy example is in the first Avengers movie when during the battle of New York. After an intense fight where Hulk and Thor work together they reach the ground and the Hulk hits Thor with a sucker punch only for fun. the hard part with all comedy is timing and amount. You need to test out various spots in the narrative to place the lighter moments and various levels. I watched an interview with Alfred Hitchcock who said when writing suspense an author needs to treat it the same way as an engineer building a roller coaster. You need to provide moments where the tension drops, you cannot keep building endlessly.
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  9. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    People who have very stressful jobs often maintain a 'gallows humour' around death (I suppose Bond's quips as he dispatches opponents is a popular culture example).

    In a similar way some of my friends have been police officers or in the military and they have to take a slightly warped and impersonal view in order not to get caught up in the emotion of some events.

    This distancing leads to humour - but often a type that outside the profession would seem callous - but it isn't its really a defense mechanism.

    I worked in a zoo for many years - and once one of my friends had to remove a dead baby gibbon from an enclosure that had fallen from it's mother and died (this is very common - a huge percentage of gibbons in the wild have fractures from falling). Obviously we could't upset the children there so my friend pretended that the gibbon was still alive - moving it like a puppet as if it was trying to get away.
    While you may be horrified at this we found it intensely funny.
    Not I may add because we were callous sons of bitches - the keepers were passionate and deeply committed to their charges - the loss of the baby was deeply felt and left us disappointed and depressed and sad for its mother. BUT - the event was funny to us at the time - and if it were carried out in a film I would put money on that it could easilly be made to make an audience laugh.
    (The humour in the film 'A fish called Wanda' is a prime example of this). Humour is often a release valve and shouldn't be taken as proof or non-proof of someone's morality.
  10. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    It's also worth saying that humour tends to follow specific characters more than others. E.g. in Star wars most of the humour centered on the droids.
    The advantage of this it helps not confuse the reader.
  11. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Another good example of when humor fits naturally into a more serious narrative is the Gunnerkrigg Court (Gunnerkrigg Court - By Tom Siddell). The story itself is kind of serious, but that doesn't prevent the characters from joking with, or poking fun at, each other. I feel that rather than diminishing the seriousness of the story, it adds more depth to the characters, makes them more believeable.
  12. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    Had to do this recently.

    Definitely recommend getting the story down solid and then layering the comedy on top. There's also the added advantage that, with the story down, comedic gaps open up. You can see moments where you can be light-hearted, throw in some black humor etc.
  13. spectre

    spectre Sage

    comedic scenes can amplify emotional arousal other than in a humorous way because of the appreciation it creates either for the humor when identifying with a character or the indifference it makes when you have to examine the actual situation between a moment where there is a distraction from it

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