Laughing in the Face of Danger Pt. II

The Hows and Whys

of Using Humor to

Freshen your Prose,

Strengthen your Story

and Deepen your Characterization.

Oh, and hook your reader!



In LAUGHING IN THE FACE OF DANGER PT I, we talked about the key principles of comedy and how to incorporate them into your work.

In Part II, we are going to discuss WHY you should do that very thing. (No, really, you should.)



I know what you’re thinking. How can comedy freshen my prose, strengthen my story, and deepen my characterization? And, oh yeah! Hook my reader?

I’m glad you asked!

As stated in Part I, comedy is very much like romance. It is maligned. It is never taken as seriously as its dramatic counterpart even though it is much harder to master. This fact is heartbreaking considering everything comedy can do for you, for your writing, and for your characters.

Here are three ways this powerful art form can take your writing to the next level.

  1. Comedy makes our characters instantly relatable and likeable.

    • Michael Hauge talks about the ways to create empathy in our readers for our characters, and likeability is one of them. Comedy creates an insta-bond.

    • We like people who can laugh at themselves.

    • Humor, especially self-deprecating humor, lets the reader know your character is confident.

      • Only a confident heroine can laugh at herself.

      • The inability to laugh at oneself is actually a sign of insecurity. We don’t want to read about characters who are insecure unless that is the point of your story.

  1. Comedy can also reveal your character’s wound.

    • In an interesting juxtaposition, one of the most emotional ways to reveal a character’s wound is to do it with humor.

    • Have your hero or heroine use humor to deflect or as a defense mechanism anytime someone gets too close.

    • It’s an excellent tool to show how deep that wound goes.

  2. Comedy is fresh. (Unless it’s stale. Don’t write stale comedy.)

    • People are always talking about a fresh voice. Comedy is one way to get it!

    • Use the principles in Part I to hone your comedic voice, grab an agent’s or editor’s attention, and lure your reader into turning the page.

All of these combined strengthen your story and create a hook that makes your reader want to know more.

In other words, never underestimate the power of comedy.


Here is another principle that you can use today.


This is by far the easiest to learn and put into use.

  • A funny line is sometimes said to be like a train wreck.

  • You know where the train (your train of thought) has been, you think you know where it’s going, but then you’re surprised when it goes off track.

  • The surprise or twist helps build the tension to create and magnify the humor. 

EXAMPLE 1: (PATTERN: trivial, trivial, exalted)

MY SISTER HAD SURGERY THIS WEEK. I was texting her and I could tell she was still really groggy, so I asked, “Can I bring you anything? Coffee? Diet Coke? Methamphetamine?”

EXAMPLE 2: (PATTERN: exalted, exalted, trivial)

VOICEMAIL GREETING: “Sorry I can’t personally answer the phone. I’m either motivating thousands of people, appearing on the Oprah show…or taking a nap. Please leave a message and I’ll return your call when I wake up.” 

Why does the rule of three work?

  • It’s simply tried and true.

  • It’s more about the rhythm of the prose than the fact that it’s three.

  • It creates expectation (aka, the setup) and then hits them with the humor.

Comment below with your own example of a quick set up and “rule of three” and keep practicing all the principles of humor. Even the darkest story can benefit from a humor hit every so often.


You have a smile that could light up a whole psych ward.

8 responses to “Laughing in the Face of Danger Pt. II”

  1. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    GREAT post, D! While I drop bits of humor in all my books, I can’t say that I’ve used the rule of three. Gonna have to give it a whirl.

  2. Dude. I love this. Can I take this as a master class? Pretty please? So brilliant, the way you break this down.

    I’m craving Krispy Kreme so my example is: All men are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of jelly donuts. 😉

    Thank you, Darynda!

  3. Great post, D. I’m in on a master class too, plz.

    I’m running out the door to work, but I’ll try to get back later with my homework. Life.

  4. Kate Parker says:

    Sign me up for that master class. Great post, D. I try to inject some humor into my murders, but I’m not sure I always succeed.

  5. This is brilliant! And so helpful. Definitely putting these ideas to work. Thank you, Darynda!

    Homework: (heroine to hero) What do you want to eat? Greek, Chinese, or me?

    I’d be SO down for a master class. 🙂


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