I want to say up front, I'm a HUGE fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books--her explosion-prone every-girl heroine, hunky heroes, wacky array of supporting characters, and endlessly inventive villains. But most of all, I love her humor. I almost fell out of my chair when I read Grandma Mazur's account of shooting the roast chicken in its gumpy at the dinner table.
I would never try to claim I am as brilliantly funny as Janet, but her unique brand of humorous romantic suspense has been a major influence on my Phoenix, Ltd. female bodyguard series. I don't do scary well. I'll never write hide-under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight, serial-killer suspense. I want readers to worry how my characters are going to thwart the unknown antagonist, but I want them to laugh while they're doing it.
Taking a page from Janet, one of my favorite ways to add humor is with colorful supporting characters. Because my books are stand-alone stories instead of a series featuring the same central character, there's no opportunity for a single, fabulous sidekick like Lula. Instead, my bodyguard heroines are beset by a meddling Chinese grandma, a malfunctioning cooking robot, and a light-fingered Capuchin monkey with a bad attitude. These secondary characters are perfect for lightening the mood whenever the situation gets too tense.
I also love snappy dialogue--classic, old movie-style bantering. I have a dry sense of humor and a smart mouth, and so do most of my heroines. Even the men are no slouches in the wit department. I like dialogue so much, large swaths of my first drafts read more like screenplays than novels. Sometimes, my characters are so chatty I can barely type fast enough to keep up with them. I have to go back later and add all the physical and emotional elements to round out the story.
Here are a couple of my favorite lines:
"It's not too late," Carter said in a stage whisper. "You can still change your mind and travel as my masseuse."
She sent him a quelling glance. "You do know I'm carrying a gun, right?" from UNWRITTEN RULES
As he carried her up the grand staircase, visions of Tara flashed through her mind. Although he didn't take the stairs two at a time like Rhett Butler, all she needed was a lush, red velvet dressing gown to transform into Scarlett O'Hara. Oh, and a night beyond her wildest dreams.
That was so not happening. from BOILING POINT
When it comes to writing humor, I bow at the feet of Mistress Evanovich, but if you love her books as much as I do, I invite you to check out UNWRITTEN RULES and BOILING POINT. And the third book in the series is due out early this summer.
I love Evanovich's Stephanie Plum and the crazy cast of characters! They are so well written and true to themselves. I just wish Steph and Joe would show some kind of movement toward a real relationship, you know?? Anyway, I agree you write with that same kind of snappy humor. I loved Unwritten Rules and Boiling Point and am really looking forward to reading the next book!
Im afraid I haven’t read Evsnovich so thsnks for introducing me to a new author. And I like your work Alison so I guess I have a step in the right direction
I do enjoy Evanovich...and I also enjoy yours! Keep them coming.
I love your books, Alison, esp. the witty dialogue. Stephanie Plum is my model (sort of) for my PI Alex O'Hara. Getting into scrapes is her modus operandi. My first draft, too, is usually dialogue and stage directions. I don't write scary thrillers, either. Too often my weird sense of the ridiculous creeps in.
Your series sounds like a lot of fun - I'll have to check them out.
I haven't read Evanovich. Obviously I should! Your writing reflects your upbeat, positive attitude, and your books are a pleasure to read. I prefer books with plenty of dialogue. I write the same way without a lot of internal thoughts and expository language. However, my books definitely have a darker side!
There will never be another scene like Grandma Mazur shooting the turkey on the dining room table. That said, I'm ashamed to say I haven't read your books. Going to Amazon right now.
I'm solid in the Evanovich and Henderson camp. In the worst of situations, the people around me crack jokes and make funny sarcastic comments. My brothers try to trip me (literally), play pranks (I always check my drink for extra objects they sneaked it when I'm not looking. When we golf and I make a pit stop, they find a way to chuck rocks on the restroom roof. We need to keep laughing, even in the worst of times. M.A.S.H. gave us permission. Allison and Vonnie carry off humor very well. I'm still a little more serious in my suspense novels, but I do like light!
I love the Stephanie Plum series, though for some reason, every time I read or re-read one, I can't sleep that night. I have no clue why, but it never stops me. The Bard taught us the value of humor in tense situations. In the middle of a powerful argument, Shakespeare would have two drunks stumble in and say the craziest things to make the audience erupt in laughter. I like that you do the same things with your books. To laugh is to live longer.
Leah, I'm WAY past wanting Janet to wrap up the romance element in this series. I understand that she (or her publisher) feels she has to keep it open-ended, but through 24 books???
Andi, you should definitely check out the Stephanie Plum series. They're hilarious!
Brenda, I'm working away on #3. I had a lot of trouble finding any humor in 2017, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to pump it up during my edits. I'm counting on a five-year-old and a monkey to provide plenty of fodder.
Diane, I can see bits of Stephanie in Alex O'Hara, and I clearly have a weird sense of the ridiculous, too. LOL
Thanks, Robin. I do try to entertain.
Jannine, I think you'd get a kick of out the Stephanie Plum books. If you ever have a free minute, you should give one a try.
Thanks, Betsy. Would you believe I was actually sitting at the table when I read that scene? I almost sprayed soup everywhere!
Rolynn, we definitely do need to keep laughing, even in the worst of times. Laughter can be the thin thread of sanity.
Vonnie, it's probably the pacing in the Stephanie Plum books that keeps you up. Janet never wastes a word. I make no claim to be in the same ballpark (heck, I'm barely on the same planet) as the bard, but I keep trying and keep learning.
Your books are so appealing to me from the cover to the blurb. They are definitely on my TBR pile and I'm anxious to get to at least one of them ASAP. Love the idea of a cooking robot, and malfunctioning at that. That will be my starter book.
I'm so glad, Margo! They do not have to be read in any particular order, and Boiling Point has some pretty funny scenes.
I'm looking forward to meeting that capuchin monkey, Alison, as well as the rest of the characters in your WIP.
Balthazar is quite a character, Phyllis, AND he likes to play dress-up!
I've never read Evanovich. I confess, I started one, but could not get into it. I am reading Boiling Point, though, and loving it. Maybe you're BETTER than Evanovich. :)
Haha, Alicia! I'm so glad you're enjoying Boiling Point. I have my own voice, as we all do, but I wish I had Janet's wildly creative imagination to add to it.
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