Earlier this year This Book is Funny, a campaign to get funny books in the hands of children, selected my book ‘Dave Pigeon: How to Deal with Bad Cats and Keep (most of) Your Feathers’, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey, as one of the books for their 2016 poster.
Aside from being OVER THE MOON about this, it got me thinking about why funny books matter? In this post I’m going to talk about just that and next month I’ll be following up with my top tips to writing funny fiction.
Growing up I was a bookworm. I devoured books and spent my weekends stashing my rucksack with library books so that during the week I had something to read by torchlight after lights out.
But what got me hooked in the first place? I can’t pinpoint the exact moment or the exact book but I do remember my favourite books as a child were funny books. They kept me coming back for more and more. In fact, funny books still are my favourites. Characters that made me laugh or did the unexpected had me smitten with their stories. Tricking the adults, naughty words, cheeky one-liners and wordplay would have me rolling around on the floor in hysterics and constantly quoting lines to my friends and family.
Funny fiction isn’t as easy as adding in a wet raspberry here or a sticky fart there. The main thing about writing this kind of fiction well is EXACTLY the same as writing any other fiction: there needs to be a strong story. The characters have to ring true and readers need to see twists and unexpected obstacles in the narrative. Story is key.
The comedy comes from your characters and in how those characters deal with the challenges they face. It comes from YOUR voice as the writer so you need to have fun with your writing. If your writing is fun, you’ll have your reader hooked. Probably for life. And you will have been responsible for nurturing a lifelong love of reading in that reader, just like I was as a child (thank you Roald Dahl).
That’s the power of funny.