Friday, July 5, 2013

"F" is for Funny by Alison Henderson

I love humor in fiction, all fiction. Funny situations, witty dialogue, absurd characters--I love them all. 

When I was younger, I cherished  deeply emotional stories. If a book made me cry, so much the better. I wanted to experience every high and low along with the characters. I think it began with Gone with the Wind. When the movie was re-released, I was thirteen--the perfect age to revel in angst. And nobody did it better than Margaret Mitchell. Melanie's death scene would wring tears from a statue, much less a thirteen-year-old girl. I saw that movie four times, and re-read the book until the cover fell off.

I continued to adore intensely emotional stories for many years. For example, one scene in Paradise by Judith McNaught still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Only a special writer can pull readers so completely into a story. In my first two books, I gave my characters serious problems and was surprised and gratified when a reviewer wrote that she cried while reading one. I hadn't set out to evoke tears, but I appreciated the intensity of her response. 

So when and why did my tastes start to change? It was a gradual process influenced by life itself. The more serious life events I experienced first hand, the more I sought escape in my reading and writing life. I became a huge fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books with their outrageous characters and situations and decided to try my hand at writing lighter. I can't approach Janet's skill at writing comedy, but I did have tremendous fun injecting a healthy dose of humor into my next two projects.

My most recent release, a Western historical novella entitled The Treasure of Como Bluff features a paleontologist heroine who discovers an amnesiac greenhorn at her dig site. One reviewer compared their dialogue to Gable and Lombard or Tracy and Hepburn, and the premise allowed numerous opportunities for silly shenanigans, including forcing the hero to parade around in a pink sunbonnet. Here's the blurb:

In her race against rival bone hunters, the last complication paleontologist Caroline Hubbard needs is an unconscious stranger cluttering up her dig site. Nicholas Bancroft might have the chiseled features and sculpted physique of a classical statue, but she's not about to let him hamper her quest to unearth a new species of dinosaur and make her mark on the scientific world.

Nick has come to Wyoming in search of silver but, after a blow to the head, finds himself at the mercy of a feisty, determined female scientist. Despite his insistence that he's just passing through, he agrees to masquerade as Caroline's husband to help save her job. Once their deception plays out, they face a crucial decision. Will they be able to see beyond their separate goals and recognize the treasure right in front of them?

I may write more serious books again in the future, but for now I'm happy to bring a little  laughter to my readers' lives. What about you? Have you reading and writing tastes changed a bit over time, or do you still love the kind of stories that have always moved you? 

Alison Henderson 


Margo Hoornstra said...

Funny-no pun. I was just thinking about writing comedy for my next book. Your post has given me inspiration. Thank you.

Barbara Edwards said...

Your new book sounds great. Adding it to my 'have to read' pile.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I love writing laughable characters and dialog and, yes, absurd situations because I tend to walk right into those types of situations in real life. I do have to be careful about my sense of humor...not everyone gets it. So I'm learning to give it a light hand.

Jannine Gallant said...

I have to be careful about humor in romantic suspense since you don't want to break the tension. I've found sarcastic humor works well in my current WIP. For my last contemporary western, I went full out with the humor and had the best time ever writing it. It should be out sometime next spring. I was never a huge fan of emotional angst in books. I like to be entertained not depressed when I'm reading. Great post, Alison!

Alison Henderson said...

Humor isn't right for every story, but it's so much fun to write! Mine tends toward the sarcastic too, Jannine, but I'd love to get better at the absurd. Secretly, I'd love to be Janet Evanovich. LOL!!!

Sandy Owens said...

Humor is the hardest thing to pull off in writing. Sounds like you managed it, Alison.


Alison Henderson said...

Hi Sandy! The readers will have to decide if I pulled it off.

Leah St. James said...

I've always loved the emotional books too and felt the same way about "Gone with the Wind." (Have to say I view it a little differently as an adult, but it's still a great story. Although I'll never understand what Scarlett sees in Ashley... but I digress.) Now I love both stories with huge emotional impacts and I love funny stories. I'm going to check out your stories!