Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani. When Donna isn’t homeschooling or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family, or visiting her hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.
Follow Donna’s personal blog here.
If you are looking for a magic formula to make your writing “funny”, you will be looking forever. BUT… we can work hard and learn how to perfect our craft, using every word to its best potential.
Here are a few things to consider when trying to “hit the side of the barn”
- Ask yourself, “How do your characters respond to weird and unexpected situations?” This is fertile ground for infusing humor into the story.
- Is your character funny? Or are they funny only when in certain situations? How is he or she funny? What makes them tick? Use this informatioin to your advantage. Allow the reader to see the humanity in the character… and thus, the humor.
- What internal struggles can be shown through humor? What external struggles can be shown through humor?
- Leave room for the unexpected — or your predictable plot becomes an obsolete one.
- Is the humor appropriate for the situation your character is in? If not, is that part of the character’s flaws? Does he laugh at the wrong times? Make jokes at the wrong times?
- HAVE FUN when you are writing. ENJOY IT! You get to make kids laugh… don’t miss out on the fun of creating!
- Humor is subjective. A dear friend of mine despises fart and burp poems. I, on the other hand, find them hilarious. Don’t try to please everyone when writing funny stuff… because you won’t.
- Know your target audience and read, read, read! If you are writing a picture book for 3-7 year olds, don’t include jokes about puberty and dating. Read the type of books you want to write, go to conferences, and get critiques. Check out this great resource from Darcy Pattison.
- Study the different forms of funny. Try to identify them as you read the types of books you want to write. This will help you see the big picture and vast variety of humor in children’s books. Here are a few that I’ve identified, but definitely not all:
Witty funny, gross funny,
cheeky funny, “punny” funny,
Make you slap your brother-funny,
- IMPORTANT: Be aware of the fact that the people who are buying the books (usually the adults) are not going to enjoy the same kind of humor as the ones READING the books (usually the kids). But whatever type of humor you write, remember what the editor told me, “Don’t make the readers the “butt” of the joke.”
- Know that it is okay to fail. A lot of humor can come from our “failed” attempts at something. Think about all the stories we write. The characters in our stories and poems usually fail several times before they triumph. Why should we be any different? Some people are naturally gifted at humor, most folks have to work at it. “I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.” – Frank A. Clarke
- FUN FACT: It’s okay to look to something OLD in order to make something NEW! Check out one of my most recent poems, The Shark Who Cried Hook. It’s a new take on the old story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf!
- Tap into your inner 6 year old, 12 year old, and 17 year old. What made you laugh when you were a child? A teen? A young adult? Make a list for future projects.
- Mark Twain once wrote, “Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever.” It’s a fine line – but one we must be aware of. A great example to read is, “Hug of War”.
- If you are interested in writing funny poetry, or even if you aren’t, head over to Kenn Nesbitt’s site and practice with some of his poetry lessons and prompts. He’s the former Children’s Poet Laureate (2013-15), so you’ll be learning from one of the best!
Langston Hughes once wrote, “”Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.” Who knows? Your “funny writing” just might be the rain that cools someone’s dry, weary land. So go out….
And hit those barns!