I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people that reviewers say my book, Hospice Tails, is funny.
“But hospice is about dying!” they respond. “Shouldn’t that be serious?”
Yes…and no. The end of someone’s life is indeed a serious matter, but that doesn’t mean hospice patients should have to focus on doom and gloom every second of their lives. They can and do laugh, just like everyone else.
The good news is that if I can write a funny book about hospice, you can certainly use humor to spice up your own writing.
Types of Humor
There are several types of humor. As you review my admittedly incomplete list, think about what tickles your funny bone.
Slapstick/Physical Comedy (Examples: The Three Stooges, The Home Alone movies). This kind of pie-in-the-face comedy can be difficult to capture effectively in writing, but if you’ve got a knack for it, most readers love it. There’s nothing quite as amusing as a jerk slipping on a banana peel.
“Broad” Humor (Examples: knock-knock jokes, kids’ riddles). Why did the Egyptian man go home? Because he missed his mummy. This type of humor works great if you’re writing for kids, but it’s likely to elicit more groans than laughs from an adult audience.
Observational Humor (Examples: Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin). Humor of this type focuses on the absurdities of everyday life. It’s usually not difficult to write, especially if you’ve got a beef about something. Better yet, most readers enjoy it because it gives voice to their own frustrations.
Dry Wit (Examples: Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw). This type of humor usually consists of a clever or biting remark inserted subtly in the prose. True, the remark will go unnoticed by some readers, but that makes it all the more fun for those in the know.
Dark or Gallows Humor (Example: The Darwin Award series). Gallows humor is often shared by groups who deal with violence and tragedy as part of their jobs. This kind of humor pokes fun at serious situations or those who are involved in them. It is usually cynical and has a razor sharp edge. For instance, in some emergency rooms, people who require medical care due to their own foolishness may be given the unofficial diagnosis of TSTL (Too Stupid to Live). Obviously, this type of humor can be offensive or wounding, so use it with care.
Do any of the types of humor I’ve mentioned tickle your funny bone? More importantly, do any of them fit with a project you’re currently working on? If so, take the risk and add a little humor to your prose. At best, your readers will love it. At worst, your editor will blue-line it, and you can try again next time.
When not caring for cats or writing, Debra Stang spent many years as a social worker. She worked with AIDS patients, emergency room patients, and those with Alzheimer’s. Her final years as a social worker were spent with hospice patients. Although some would view that as a depressing job Debra chose to view herself as a catalyst helping people make their final hopes and dreams come true. Sometimes it was making up with a family member after a decades long feud or leaving behind the stress of the office to reconnect with another aspect of their personality.
Debra took a clue from her patients and recently decided her writing – for years a part-time career – couldn’t wait any longer. Worried she would become one of those people who would one day say, “I wish I had…” she handed in her resignation and is now living her dream as a full time writer. Visit her website at www.debrastang.net.
Funny, sad, and irreverent, Hospice Tails shares the stories of pets who traveled to the door of death with their humans. Meet King, an abused pit bull fiercely loyal to his rescuer, Jasper and Jackie, Amazon parrots who sang their person to his final sleep, Washington, a golden retriever who became the only connection to the world for an Alzheimer’s patient, and ten other animals who accompanied their beloved people on the hospice journey.