- Using Humour:
One way for your story to stand out, is to make your reader laugh. It won’t be easy, as what is funny to you, may not be funny to others (especially adults). Here are some ways we can inject humour into our stories.
- Use funny moments from your personal life/anecdotes – If you’re stuck or confused on how to add humor to your writing, the first thing to do is ask yourself, what makes me laugh?
Brainstorm some ideas of funny moments in your life and see if you can include them in your story. If it was something someone said, make your characters say it. If it was a funny dance you saw on television, describe your character doing it. One of the primary steps of writing funny is writing about what you yourself think is funny.
For e.g. Jimmy’s first time at the pool was an extremely painful and memorable experience. He had taken a running jump, dived headfirst into the pool, only to find that his swimming trunks had been totally ripped off by the impact of his dive. Those traitorous trunks then floated away from him, leaving him totally naked.
- Using metaphors and similes – Using funny metaphors and similes is another way to add humor to your writing. Combine these with dialogue to create even funnier moments in your story!
Here are some examples:
- “Her singing sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard.”
- “His grandma’s hair was like a massive bird’s nest”
- “He ran like his pants were on fire”
- “He was angry like a sack full of wild cats.”
Try it out! Create your own similes or metaphors to make these situations funnier! (note: don’t use well-known similes e.g. happy as a lark)-
- Using Slapstick Action – This may be the easiest way to bring a smile to a reader. Everyone loves watching clowns do silly antics, or Mr. Bean and his hilarious mannerisms and actions. Slipping on a banana peel, having a bucket fall on your head, landing in a pile of cow dung…you get the idea. Make it happen to an Antagonist (or bad guy) in your story, for even better effect!
e.g. The burglar scrambled out of the door, unaware that Jack had poured a thick layer of cooking oil on it. As soon as his feet landed on the slick, oily surface, the hapless thief seemed to be running on the spot for a few moments. His arms went pinwheeling comically as he tried to keep his balance. Then, with a loud ‘OOF’, he landed on his backside.
Funny moments in stories need to be carefully set up, and usually requires a PUNCHLINE, which is the final phrase or moment of a joke or story, providing the humor. Make sure your comic moment has a punchline that will make your reader laugh (or at least smile!)
2. Using Dramatic Action
Action-packed stories are always fun to read because it’s faster paced and exciting.
Writing good action takes practice and a good imagination! You will have to picture each scene as if it’s a movie scene, in slow motion, and describe in a play-by-play way how the scene is acted out! A lot of times, when students write, they tend to just TELL the reader something happens.
- Jackson played a sport and lost a point
- As the tennis ball flashed over the net, Jackson dove to the left, his long hair trailing behind him, and caught the ball on the bounce, flicking it back to Helena’s right. He hit the ground with a loud “oof” and slid to a stop, helplessly watching the ball sail over his young opponent’s head and land a yard behind the baseline.
- Jackson fought the bully and won.
- Jackson ducked a blow from Big Ben and drove his fist into the bully’s bulging belly. Big Ben grunted and doubled over with pain, tears springing from his beady eyes.
- Jackson chased after the thief and caught him
- Jackson leaped after the snatch-thief who was weaving his way through the crowded mall. He dodged a pushcart, almost tripped over a toddler, then tackled the thief at his knees, as if he was playing rugby. They landed in a heap, with the thief groaning in pain.3. Using Pathos
Pathos is an appeal to emotion and is a way of convincing a reader by creating an emotional response. This is usually done by trying to evoke strong emotions (usually tug at heartstrings, bring a tear to the reader) at the end of a story. You have to INSPIRE the reader to experience the emotion, not TELL them to.
Compare these two scenes:
a) Jane had loved her mother deeply. Every object in the room made her miss her mother more.
b) She uncapped her mother’s lipstick. Deep pink, worn unevenly in the three-swipe movement Jane had seen her mother do it a thousand times in the mirror. It was as individual as a fingerprint. Jane held the lipstick up to her own reflected mouth but her hand shook. She refused to destroy her mother’s traces. Careful not to catch the edge, she replaced the gold cap.
On the sofa, two knitting needles were crossed neatly through a ball of wool, politely, like knife and fork placed just so on a plate. Jane didn’t have to pick up the half-knit sleeve to know it was her mother’s patterning; the tension was so tight, it felt as her chest did
Which of the above scenes convey MORE emotion? You’re right, it’s (b)!
(a) uses emotion words; ‘loved’, ‘miss’ These are a useful short-cut in telling a story but they don’t usually make you feel the emotions mentioned – they quickly give you the information you need to get onto the next part. That could be exactly what you want to do. But if you want to involve the reader, try these tips for the (b) effect.
- Avoid the emotion words (love/fear/happy/afraid/in love/scared)
- Cut the clichés – if words come very easily, maybe that’s because they’ve been used a million times. Readers’ imaginations skim over clichés without becoming involved.
- Give details and make the details personal. Reach for the shared experience (we can identify with bereavement/loss of someone close) through creating a unique moment for an individual (Janie and her mother are unique)
- Build towards the emotional scene.
Basically, when it comes to emotional scenes, SHOW NOT TELL is the way to go.
These statements ‘tell’ everything. Try replacing them with as many sentences as you like, without using ‘emotion’ words (excited, loved, horror, sad…) so that you create the emotion without stating it.
Show, don’t tell. Avoid clichés, adjectives, and adverbs. Imagery and ambiguity enrich your writing. Give any contextual detail you like.
- Jenny was very excited at the idea of seeing her mother again after ten years.
- e.g. Although she was only ten minutes early to meet the plane, every minute on the airport clock ticked an agonizing year long, one for each year since Jenny had last seen her mother.