I've mentioned before that I'm currently working on a chick-lit murder mystery novel. It's been a strange process, because I'm really learning a different form--or perhaps, a couple of different forms. I've got to develop a voice for chick-lit, and I've got to work out the basic structure of how to tell a mystery effectively. Both reasonably difficult challenges when tackled for the first time.
So, as normal, I'm trying to work my way into writing this story, and I've written the first chapter a few times--testing out the waters, as it were. I've tried third person and first person, starting at point A and at point B. I've found I l=really like the use of the first person for developng the voice of the character, which is great for building the narrative. But when I had my first readers look at that version, I heard one thing back--"She's mean."
I thought she was snarky, a little sarcastic, funny in an audience-insider sort of way, rubbing elbows with the reader. "Isn't she funny?" I asked.
"No, not at all," I heard back. "She's just... mean. Angry."
Okay, well, she did just go through a break-up of a five-year long relationship, but still, she can't come across as mean. She needs to be funny, or the character won't work.
"Not funny?" I double-checked.
And I thought, and I thought, a long long deep think... and slowly I came to a terrifying realization:
I have no idea how to write funny.
Oh, you've got to be kidding. I've written funny before, but it seems that somewhere along the way I lost touch with the funny. Not sure where it went. Maybe Kelly's marauding woodchucks pilfered it.
It's so different from sounding or acting funny, where intonation, volume, accent, physical language, etc. can all be used as cues that something is not to be taken seriously, or that another character's voice is being adopted. Those things just aren't there as words on a page, and so there have to be other ways to cue the reader that there is a shift--without using a two by four and telling them (here's a joke coming up, get ready!).
So, dear readers: How much does your sympathy for a character relate, in a light, fun read, to how funny they are? What are some of your favorite funny characters, or scenes? And what makes them funny to you? How does reading something funny differ from hearing it, or seeing it?