My Own Personal Soap Opera is Libby’s third humorous women’s fiction book, the others being Fire Me! and Loves Me, Loves Me Not.
Writing as Libby Sternberg, she is the Edgar-nominated author of four YA mysteries. As Libby Sternberg, she currently has an adult historical mystery offered exclusively on Kindle entitled Death Is the Cool Night. In September, Five Star will release her Jane-Eyre-inspired historical set in old Hollywood, Sloane Hall.
Although writing was her first love, Libby holds two degrees in music from Peabody Conservatory. She’s worked in public relations, education reform advocacy and was a member of the Vermont Commission on Women when she lived in the Green Mountain State. She is the proud mother of three children and lives with her wonderful husband in Lancaster, PA.
She has assured Marlyn that she is currently reconsidering her self-imposed blog word count formula. You can friend Libby on Facebook at Libby Malin Sternberg or email her to get on her e-newsletter list at libby_malin at hotmail.com. She occasionally gives away free books to Facebook friends and those on her email list.
And now, heeere's Libby!
Traps to Avoid When Writing Humorous Fiction
As I’ve wandered the Internet on my eco-friendly virtual book tour, blogging hither and yon (but mostly yon because it’s closer), I have been asked many times (well, perhaps only once, and that time by myself looking in the mirror) the following question:
“We know there are many ways to write humor, Libby, with many different methods and techniques all with the ultimate goal of triggering a smile, a chuckle or a hearty belly laugh. But, pray tell, are there situations, characters, settings one should avoid when writing the comedic tale? And, by the way, we absolutely adore your books.”
I’ve thought about this long and hard and decided to whittle down the many possibilities to the Biblical ten. And like those original commandments, these, too, are all built around important prohibitions. Also like those commandments, if you follow these simple rules, you will lead a worthy life as a comedic writer. They cannot guarantee success, of course—what can?—but they will definitely help you avoid failure. Pencils ready? Here they are:
1. Thou shalt not have people in your stories commit violent acts— really, isn’t this one obvious? Violence and humor—who does that? There’s nothing funny about someone getting bopped on the head or having a pie thrown in his face or his derriere smacked.
2. Thou shalt not use the despicable mass-murdering tyrant Adolph Hitler in any scenario whatsoever, but especially not in musical numbers involving springtime. Again, who would think to put humor and Hitler together unless one has an obsession with names beginning with A.H.? If one must lampoon a leader, go for gentler types—Gandhi springs to mind or even Nelson Mandela. Now there’s a comedy gold mine!
3. Thou shalt not have men dressing up as women or women dressing up as men, especially in movies about soap operas or housekeepers named Doubtfire or Shakespeare being . . . in something or other. This is so obvious that one becomes grim just thinking about it. Cross-dressing makes one’s teeth gnash. Avoid it at all costs (unless, of course, you are related to a dentist).
4. Thou shalt not set your stories in New Jersey, especially if they’re mysteries. New Jersey and humor—who would think these would go together? Look to cities like Toronto or Medford, Oregon or Billings, Montana or Kansas City (Missouri, obviously, not Kansas) or even Des Moines—oh, the humorous stories to be told there!
5. Thou shalt not mimic fellow writers’ styles as a source of amusement. This is cruel, juvenile, somewhat “griggish” and completely unnecessary for the experienced and professional humorist. One need not resort to quasi-erudite name-calling in order to be a successful comedic writer, poking fun at one’s colleagues’ styles. This is precisely why no one remembers S.J. Perelman today.
6. Thou shalt not use the absurd, nor the word “avid.” This requires no explanation; it’s so obvious.
7. Thou shalt not name any characters in your stories Chad. Again, an obvious rule, but I put it down here in case writers failed to glean it on their own.
Oh dear, I see I’ve nearly met my self-imposed word-count formula for blog posts (precisely 623 words, including title, byline and website address; not a word more, nor a word less) which I’ve set after much scientific experimentation in labs around the world that determined this is the optimal word count for blog posts before readers navigate away from the page. I’ll wrap up now by including the MOST IMPORTANT thing to avoid, at all costs, when writing humor, and cover the other commandments in a subsequent post. Ahem. Here goes . . .
Thou shalt not
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