How often have you heard, ‘laugh and the whole world laughs with you?’
When we create suspense and villainous scoundrels as characters in novels, we keep readers on the edge of their seats, reading on beyond the bewitching hour and sometimes we ignore the benefit of a moment of comic relief that allows the reader/us to ‘take a break’ from the mounting tension. An anti-climax with the eruption of raucous laughter to ease tension is not the only way, humour injected, subtly at an appropriate moment will not be lost on a reader who is likely to feel, ‘Phew, finally!’
Likewise, an intensely sad story does not have to weigh the reader down in grief invested emotions and images throughout the novel – some brief moments of humour allows your reader to breathe and enjoy the realism of life’s situations. If humour is subtle it adds credibility to the story, it mirrors life in its essence.
Consider this scenario
A family sits grieving at the passing of their father, a stalwart to all. A guest arrives, sees the sadness and decides to recall a moment when the departed induced laughter with something said or a situation they found themselves in. This is subtle but suited to the purpose that remembrance of the joy a departed member brought to life does not have to be weighed down by ongoing intense sadness. The message is subtle enough not to be disrespectful of grief but instead offers an understanding that grief can be expressed through what the departed one was noteworthy for. While providing relief for the reader it also has a life message – feel sad at an irreplaceable loss but remember the fun times, celebrate the joy spent with the departed, hang on to fond memories. A bit of comic relief strengthens the message the writer hopes to instil. As Oscar Wilde aptly put it, Life imitates art far more than art imitates life. This gives the writer the opportunity to transform thinking by creating connections with the reader beyond the plot of the story.
A classic example that springs to mind is the role the Nurse plays in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, her bawdy humour certainly lightens the weight of the dilemma both Romeo and Juliet face. She is a memorable character whose mirth is fuelled by a loving and caring nature which makes her an enduring character.
What’s the takeaway from this example?
Love, fun, and laughter are essential human attributes if we are to survive the challenges that life throws at us. In a similar vein, stories should reflect this need.
Here are some lines that elicit a smile
· I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again – This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
· Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.- Albert Einstein
· The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.- Jane Austen
· I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. – Woody Allen
· No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar – Abraham Lincoln
· We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth are the others here for I don’t know.- WH Auden
· Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.- Mark Twain
· Life is hard. After all, it kills you. – Katherine Hepburn
· If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance- George Bernard Shaw
Laughter reminds us of our common humanity.
How much humour do you expect in a good story? Share your views in the comment box below?