Muse Humor

Juan Reyes leans in the doorway of my cluttered office. specter-2

smoke-1-2He gestures at the Word file on my screen while extracting a pack of Marlboros from the pocket of his camera vest.

“I don’t want to alarm you, girl, but this may be one of the worst chapters you have ever written,” he says, lighting his imaginary cigarette.

“No smoking in here, muse,” I snarl.

“I don’t have time for this kind of nonsense,” he says, ignoring my icy stare.  “You’re making me look bad, lady. This is the second time in two months I’ve had to stop by. If you don’t pull yourself together, I’ll be reassigned to the Sunny Sarasota Retirement Home inspiring the Silver Sneakers crowd or, worse, I’ll be riding herd over budding artists at Little Tykes Fun Fiesta. You know I’m not fond of kids.”

“You never had kids,” I snap. “They are highly creative. It’s possible you might really enjoy them.”

He nods, smiling that seductive evil-dead smile. How could I, someone who struggles to scribble a single coherent paragraph, have written such a tantalizing creature?

“Point taken. However, their creativity differs from that of adults in one profoundly important way.”

I glare at him. “Which is?”laughter

“Children haven’t lost their sense of humor, my beautiful writer.” Juan folds his arms over his vest, covering the laser burns on the fabric. I did kill him off in my first novel, but he has returned as my muse and alternately infuriates or inspires me.

You’ve lost it, babe,” he says, shaking his head. “The humor you had in the first novel is too well-hidden in this second story.”

I sniff, insulted but intrigued. “Yes. You’re right. I’m just having a hard time making murder, drug lords, and slavery funny.”

He laughs, white teeth flashing in his brown face. “There were plenty of terrible misfortunes in your first book and somehow we made the readers laugh.  For God’s sake, have you forgotten everything I taught you? Humor is essential in this kind of  fiction. It can’t be taken seriously. Think of Carl Hiaasen’s Skinny Dip. A man tries to kill his wife by pushing her off a cruise ship, for crying out loud. But she lives to torment him.  Even a  grim book like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War has humor or at least irony. Your POV character is too, too serious. Of course, her situation is dire, but she is still capable of sarcasm, if you allow it. Turn her loose. She can banter with the best, heap on derision, look death in the eye and laugh.”sarcasm

He thumps his chest and a puff of smoke rises from the bullet hole over his pocket. “Until the day you re-shirted me, I was one  sarcastic sexy bastard. Remember how humor makes a book sing? Hell, even The Stand had its moments. How about Randall Flagg’s classical reference to Sympathy for the Devil?” Juan chuckles, brushing back his dreads. “OK, that was only in the mini-series but it made you laugh out loud.”

“Yeah,” I mutter. “Naomi is too serious. Maybe because she’s older than my usual characters. Oh god, am I falling prey to ageist stereotypes?”

“Naw. She’s still hot in an obsessive workaholic paleo-archaeologist a kind of way.” Juan grins down at me, perching on the edge of my desk. “Listen, when you had me fired and disgraced by the biggest news outlet on Earth did you let it get me down? Hell, no, you had me laugh in the face of failure, and it made me a great character.”

As his gorgeous Cheshire cat smile fades, I return to my chapter. Time for a rewrite. This chapter only.  He was right about humor – he’s always right.


How important is humor in your writing? How do you make your readers smile?


Photos from Foter





15 thoughts on “Muse Humor”

  1. I think Randall Flagg’s reference to “Sympathy for the Devil” was the best thing about the miniseries of The Stand. It’s certainly the only I part I recall with any fondness, and I still think it’s funny. Humor with dramatic irony — gotta love it. (I’m a big fan of dramatic irony, and use it frequently in my own writing.) And there was one series of novels that a friend tried to get me to read when I was in high school, and I really did try to read them, but I had to stop after maybe the third one because there was NO humor of any kind, not even sarcasm or dark humor, anywhere in any of those books. I don’t go for outright comedies — not in written fiction, anyway — but there has to be some lighter moments occasionally, just because life is like that. Not to mention that readers need some humor, or the grimdark becomes ineffective due to lack of contrast.

    1. I hadn’t thought of it as contrast to grimdark, but that’s exactly what it is. I remember a Robert Heinlein book where the characters are stuck in a bomb-shelter waiting for the end of the world and they are playing bridge and making jokes. These people are going to die in a flash of atomic Apocalypse and they’re laughing! It was fiction, of course, but it was excellent reading.

    1. Even in the most extreme situations some people use humor to get through. In fiction, at least the fiction I read, humor helps me identify with the story. Creating the right balance is the tricky part.

  2. I hadn’t thought about The Stand..or indeed my own stab at writing for that matter…how to make people smile, is a tough one, I find that even the most mundane of things can be funny if you look sideways at them…for a definition of sideways, eat dog food, that taste is how I define sideways…I hasten to add I was only curious about it once.

    1. I hate to admit this but some kinds of dog food like the corned beef hash I’ve seen in restaurants. Oh,oh…they wouldn’t do that, would they??

  3. Mr. Juan Reyes fascinates me–which leads me to believe your other characters will intrigue me as well. 🙂
    I can’t plan humor in my writing. It does happen on its own, I think, but only when I’m deep into my characters. Some characters have the ability to mock their situations, and that’s when I know I’ve found my writing groove. Usually if I’m laughing at my own words, my readers will come with me.
    And now you’ve got me wondering where my Muse is! I think I found him … he’s leased a house in the Hollywood Hills, and is basking in the sun next to his infinity pool. Gotta get him back to work. 😉

    1. I’m beginning to think I may have to re-incarnate Juan into my next novel! Just kidding. When I was writing Muse Humor it occurred to me I write characters with the beliefs and humor I hold true. What have I been thinking?? People like Juan because he’s so rude and not PC. So, from now on I look at my characters strictly as themselves. Funny how long it took me to figure this out *blush*.

  4. Great post, love your muse 😀 Trying to fit humour into a story is worth doing, as it can help just add that little bit of relief from something too serious.

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