Monday, October 25, 2021

You're funny. Right?

I have written a book that is intended to make readers laugh occasionally. That is a deadening description, I know, but one can hardly call one’s own book “witty,” and “humorous” sounds like it belongs in the Humor section of the bookstore, which my novel does not. (It’s Upmarket fiction.)
The best I can come up with for a query is “light-hearted,” but I would love to have your perspective on this, as I think that humor can be a big selling point. Or do I simply let the pages speak for themselves?

You're right to avoid calling your book witty or humorous.

That's like Felix Buttonweezer calling himself handsome and erudite on (Betty finally had enough of Felix rewashing the dishes after her, and has run off with a chainsaw sculptor) when his photo is right there, and he lists his favorite book as "Cents and Sensibility by Jane Austin".

Humor IS a big selling point for me.

I think if you look at almost every novel I've sold there's a strong element of humor or wit.

Even in old sobersides Jeff Somers.

So, how do you show rather than tell?


The answer is right here.


Craig F said...

My personal wants for what I write is for it to run the gamut of emotions. I want to make people smile, cringe, cry just a little, and feel something akin to terror.

If I can get an outright laugh, I would be over the moon. Writing is a serious thing to me.

PAH said...

Funny book? Funny query.

Kathleen Marple Kalb said...

This was a thing for me, too, when I was querying. Instead of talking up my wonderful wit, I described the MC's wry voice and made sure some of my best lines were in the sample copy. Humor is REALLY subjective, and you may find some folks who don't get you. That's okay...better to find out now!

Donnaeve said...

I read "Nothing To See Here" fairly recently. The novel not only tugged at my heart, it made me, you know, LOL. The description from the publisher at the beginning of the flap copy said this:

Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel . . . and this is very apropos because my emotions ran the gamut while reading.

Maybe try to find other books that are similar to what you've written and look at how the publisher describes them, if you haven't already. It sounds like you have those elements of lighthearted humor mixed with serious scenes, those little nugget that can alleviate tension.

While Wilson's book might not be a match, I thought "moving and uproarious" depicted it well, and that's what you need, two words to marry the yin and yang of your book.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You mean Betty Buttonweezer ran off with a chainsaw sculptor. My son-in-law sculpts with Husqvarna and he doesn't wash dishes once or twice. He eats off Chinet (only the best for my kid) and then repurposes them as fire-starters. They are a hot couple so it can't be him.

Hey sweetie if you want to let someone know that you have written funny parts in your novel than you have to write funny parts in your query and I'm not just talking about the length of your #2 Ticonderogas with or without an eraser.

John Davis Frain said...

Am I the only one stumbling and bumbling to find the answer that is "right here."

The answer is right here.

This is some kind of koan, right, and I'm failing (and flailing) again. Does the day job on my first day back after vacation take too much of my brain or am I missing something here? Help!

Dena Pawling said...

I'm with you JDF. Today's post is beyond my current mental capacity.

C. Dan Castro said...

Hello JDF (and all). Janet is saying show, don’t tell, in your query. And that’s what she does in the post’s largest paragraph, lacing it with humor to underscore the value of imbuing your query with humor. I mean, c’mon, “Cents and Sensibility” must have at least made you smile.

OR I’m completely wrong because Janet left a link off at the end of her post.

John Davis Frain said...

Thanks, Dan. Sure, I get the "Cents and Sensibility" and Jane Austen wasn't named for a city in Texas, all that was great fun as these posts so often are.

But the end...

"How do you show rather than tell?

The answer is right here."

I know I'm gonna facepalm as soon as its made obvious to me, but I shudder to admit that it's lost on me. (Janet has made this community so welcoming, I'm dancing out here like the emperor in his new clothes.)

KDJames said...

I think we're all so used to Janet's posts being funny, we don't recognize it when she uses humour to make a point. This entire post [right here] is funny. Especially the part where she calls Jeff Somers "old sobersides," which is funny given the definition of a sobersides as "a sedate and serious person" (that man is hilarious) and doubly so given the other definition of "sober," when he consistently makes a point of portraying himself as someone who imbibes freely and often (which I don't believe for a minute).

She's giving us an example of how to *be* funny (ie, in your query) rather than just saying so.

Either that or you, JD (MS) Frain, are being deliberately obtuse and pretending not to understand. Which, honestly, would make this even funnier.

AJ Blythe said...

It's not even just about showing (although yes, show not tell the best rule)... what one person finds funny another doesn't, so if you say this is the funniest thing since Jeff Somers lost his pants and JR reads it without so much as a chortle, it will be a pass.

Mister Furkles said...

OP, if you have a website or blog, and you write humor there then reference it in your query. Were I an agent, I'd certainly look at it for style if nothing else.

Michael Seese said...

PAH nailed it, y'all.

The humor can come across in the query.