Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

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Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby sierramcconnell » 11 Nov 2010, 12:23

So I've noticed I have a tone I write in. I'm not sure what to call it. Let's call it Bob.

No, no, that's not right. I mean sarcastic? Sardonic, maybe?

When I write, I find that even in the middle of a serious scene, I usually crack one off. (Not a fart, a joke.) And it's this quirk of mine, as a writer, to do this. Apparently it's not been frowned upon yet by anyone, because no one's called on it, but I'm just curious.

Is flat humor a good thing for fantasy fiction?

Say, for instance, in the middle of a scene where the characters are discussing a possible cure to an affliction that has plagued a group for thousands of years. It's a huge OMG turning point. It involves growing a serum in tomatoes and one of the characters happens to say, "My plan has finally come to fruition."

And Bradley, sarcastic bastard he is, says, "Is it really fruition if it's a vegetable?"

I'm always doing this. Constantly. Some betas find these things snickerable. Some don't say anything at all.

It's just the way I am. I have dry, flat humor and I can't help but make fun of my own writing and the own seriousness of fantasy novels. Because I imagine if I were reading the book, and it was a serious turning point, I would be going, "Ooooh~" Because COME ON, really?

And it's my own book. XD

So should I lose the humor or keep it?
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby Guardian » 11 Nov 2010, 12:38

Humor is good in fantasy, IF and is a very huge IF... if it's not presented on the trendy mainstream style: useless sidekick with "funny" one liners. Those are the most bothering "humor" presentations in a fantasy.

Actually I love cynic and sarcastic characters. My favorite character in my WIP is also has these traits as it's fit to her character. My story is dark and serious in most places, but in peace time, a little humor from the character can be refreshing. And a last advice: don't overuse humor. Add it to the right place and it'll work out just fine.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby sierramcconnell » 11 Nov 2010, 12:41

No one liners really (aside from that one, XD) but I tend to make fun of things that I really shouldn't at times. XD
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby Quill » 11 Nov 2010, 12:43

If it works it works. If you can't tell, I'm sure your critique partners and other readers up the road will let you know. Sounds like a good trait to have, though. In a lot of genres I'm sure it would be quite the ticket, depending on how it's handled, like, probably best to have certain characters deliver the funny stuff, rather than the narrator, say, being the comedian.

That was a funny pun, by the way. Actually I think a tomato is a fruit.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby polymath » 11 Nov 2010, 12:57

Sounds to me like a viewpoint character expressing commentary through dry wit, which can be a form of verbal irony, where something other than what's said or written on the surface is meant. Anyway, those are facets of narrative voice, expressly attitude, an attitude taken toward a theme or topic.

If a witty commentary comes out of the blue from an unexpected source, it can reveal a hidden personality trait. If it's in character, it can build on character development. The only things I think are important are consistency and credibility. A witty remark during a love scene isn't likely to go over well with readers if it's a clever witticism the character who it's addressed to doesn't react to. It could be an echo response, an adverse reaction, a disapproving reaction, and so on.

The fruition example given is an example of an echo response.

On the other hand, if a character utters one and only one clever witticism in an entire narrative it kind of hangs out there all by its lonesome. A good rule of thumb principle is three times, because, as often cited, "What I tell you three times is true." Aristotle.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby sierramcconnell » 11 Nov 2010, 13:38

Quill wrote:That was a funny pun, by the way. Actually I think a tomato is a fruit.


Thanks! :3 It is, I think, because it's on a vine. But Bradley's fifteen and not a gardener, so he's going to think tomato = salad = vegetable like a lot of other people. XD


polymath wrote:On the other hand, if a character utters one and only one clever witticism in an entire narrative it kind of hangs out there all by its lonesome. A good rule of thumb principle is three times, because, as often cited, "What I tell you three times is true." Aristotle.


Bradley is like this, but I have another character who acts like that, too, only more gruffly and usually with perverse undertones. I have a couple others who fight with each other because they're father son who don't get along and father rags on his homosexuality, and son teases back.

I have the same sort of humor in my other book, with other characters who act similarily, but in their own ways. So it's definitely character based, but also me because I act like that myself. XD
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby Margo » 11 Nov 2010, 13:49

The concern that immediately occured to me is the possible sabotaging of your tension level if these wise cracks are sapping the conflict and tension out of your most serious scenes. How do you maintain the escalation of tension and stakes while using humor at the most tense moments?
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby heyimkt » 11 Nov 2010, 13:51

I find myself doing that too. There are too many times where the perfect sarcastic or smart-ass line will pop into my head at a time of nothing or complete seriousness in my MS. So when do I put them in and when do I keep them to myself?

If the scene is becoming too serious (more than I'd intended) then a line like that can blow off some steam. Also, if it's the character's way of talking, or dealing with stress, or the character wants to play devil's advocate, then in my opinion, it works.

But I've had to hold myself back (MANY of my characters are super sarcastic) when I want to get a point across. A hardcore feeling.

So I think you need to think about where you want the scene to go and how you want it to feel, then you can decide whether or not to keep the line. But if it comes to you and it fits that character's voice for the situation, then it's needed. Hope that helped!
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby sierramcconnell » 11 Nov 2010, 13:55

Margo wrote:The concern that immediately occured to me is the possible sabotaging of your tension level if these wise cracks are sapping the conflict and tension out of your most serious scenes. How do you maintain the escalation of tension and stakes while using humor at the most tense moments?


There are still super tense moments. Like the rape and murder of the protagonist, the attack in the alleyway on his first assignment, a few things I haven't written yet so they might not be in there yet (XD), Cael's taking over of the Nephilim faction of Georgia, and things like that. It's sorta like...

1. Serious scenes
2. Somewhat serious scenes
3. VERY SRS SCENES

That's how it works. So I wouldn't dare make a joke in a VERY SRS one. Just the semi-somewhat serious scenes dependant on who all is there. Because when Cael takes over, he's just had everyone, including all the women and children, poisoned (to which I even hone in on a little child dying, it's terribly graphic). They're standing in the middle of a Highborn bloodbath. And he had Adelaide and Bradley be the ones who delivered it unknowingly.

I couldn't possibly have him joke there.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby Guardian » 11 Nov 2010, 14:20

So I wouldn't dare make a joke in a VERY SRS one.


Try it. There is no problem if your character is making a "half-funny" remark in a very srs, hopeless scene or when anger is overwhelming the character. The timing is the essence and the tone what your character is using. Even if it's a serious remark from the character, it can be "half-funny" sometimes.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby sierramcconnell » 11 Nov 2010, 14:26

Guardian wrote:
So I wouldn't dare make a joke in a VERY SRS one.


Try it. There is no problem if your character is making a "half-funny" remark in a very srs, hopeless scene or when anger is overwhelming the character. The timing is the essence and the tone what your character is using. Even if it's a serious remark from the character, it can be "half-funny" sometimes.


Well, technically, there's a little silly in there from my brain planning. Cael has a gun pointed at the two of them and he's inching closer. Then he looks down as he's impaled, quite suddenly, on a sword.

"Oh, Fidelis. How nice of you to come. But didn't anyone ever tell you not to bring a knife to a gunfight?"

And Fidelis, I'm sure, will be leaning over his shoulder to grab the gun away, and say something like, "And haven't you learned to stop monologing when you're about to shoot someone?"

"You mean, like this?"

Or something. Snap snap snap. XD Ah, unwritten brain drafts. We need to polish you shiny!
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby Guardian » 11 Nov 2010, 17:55

I can't see any problem with this Sierra. You should keep interactions, dialogues, descriptions like this one in the story.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby J. T. SHEA » 11 Nov 2010, 19:20

The more serious a situation, the more likely both my characters in my WIP, and myself in real life, are to joke about it. Also, wisecracking is customary in the world of my WIP. And in Ireland, the slightly surreal part of the world where I live. But I do avoid camp humor, where the laugh is against the story, rather than with it.
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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby wordranger » 11 Nov 2010, 20:00

I think it is absolutely fine as long as it is "In character"

If a character is usually serious, and says something like that, then it will not work.

If it's right, it will sound right to you and the readers. If you are even questionsing if that works or not, it may not work for that particular scene.

I've found that when I write something that I like, but I'm not sure if it works, someone points it out to me later. (And I usually feel stupid about it)

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Re: Is it a bad thing to not be serious?

Postby Fenris » 13 Nov 2010, 16:38

Actually, I'll have to contradict Guardian here. While it's true that a wisecrack can relieve lots of tension, you don't want any of your characters cracking jokes while they're witnessing a bloodbath unless they're insane or something, and take pleasure in people dying. Dark humor can be used, I suppose, but only from dark characters (note: 'dark character' does not mean antagonist, just someone who's used to death and is no longer emotionally affected by it). I mean, if a goody-two-shoes character witnesses murder and cracks a joke about it, readers are going to sit back wonder what just happened.

However, if it's a serious scene because someone is explaining a serious and dark concept, scheme, etc., there are perfectly good opportunities for humor characters to liven up the scene, to kind of burst the other person's bubble. Still, don't reserve some characters only for humor--you need them to be dynamic. The man who pops in, delivers a witty one-liner, and then disappears until next time is a static character, not to mention an idiot.

Now--Guardian, I guess our opinions just differ on this one. Sierra, it's up to you whose advice to follow. They're your characters and scenes, after all.
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