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How do I take a grim/violent subject matter and make it humorous? (1 Viewer)

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SerenataImmortale

Senior Member
I'm taking a break from my usual large novel projects to try a smaller, light writing project/personal writing experiment. Along the lines of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," (although with a humor style closer to Orange is the New Black or Parks and Recreation,) I thought I'd take the events of an existing novel, and retell them from the perspective of minor characters: in this case, the evil henchmen. (And for anyone who thinks they smell the odor of fanfiction or copyright infringement in the air, don't worry, I have no intent to publish anything, this project is just for me, and just for the fun of testing my writing abilities.)

However, I'm unsure of how to take the subject of death/homicide and actually make it grimly humorous. Sure, I've set up and foreshadowed, in a humorous way, that the henchmen in question will eventually be brutally killing innocent people (as in accordance with the source material plot), but I'm stuck and lost as to how to pull the killing scene off when the time actually comes to write it. I'm also very stuck in the habit of portraying death scenes as tragic/dark/emotional (i.e., how almost everyone does it already.) Suggestions?
 
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PatriciaLoupee

Senior Member
I have a tiny, three sentences long story, that isn't a creation of mine, but might work as an example:

"I often volunteer with ex-cons. I like to thing I'm giving back my share to society. Plus, I'll have a lot of contacts when I finally decide to hire someone to kill my wife."

This takes a ground level statement and leads it into a darker turn, which makes it funny. You maybe can start the action with your character saying how painstakingly boring his job is, just like any other office-head would complain his own job, than you reveal that his job is actually comitting crimes and killing people.

Although there is no right answer on how to do it, the secret about this kind of thing is usually the unexpected - is not a field I usually deal with, since comedy is the hardest genre to write, in my opinion. But I hope it helps.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
The darkest humour is found at the side of a grave.

It will probably be a suck it and see process, and not everybody finds the same things funny, I can't stand Fawlty Towers.

Good luck
BC
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
Laurie Halse Anderson has a brilliant mixture of funny and dark in her book Speak. But those are different topics. There is a running joke about changing the school mascot.

If you want to do both at the same time . . . maybe in the middle of the exciting killing scene he steps in a paint bucket and has a bucket on his foot that he doesn't have time to take off.
 

dale

Senior Member
i find it really easy to take horrible dark things that happen and make them humorous. but i couldn't explain to you
how i do it. i think it's just the way my mind works naturally.
 

SerenataImmortale

Senior Member
i find it really easy to take horrible dark things that happen and make them humorous. but i couldn't explain to you
how i do it. i think it's just the way my mind works naturally.

Maybe an example of a joke/scene you've written? That might help me out. :)
 

miasma

Senior Member
I once read horror writers Dean Koontz's book, "Tiktok" and thought it was supposed to be humor which played on other horror books. My brother said that there is something wrong with me.

Perhaps look at the TV series, "MASH."

Alan Alda said years after finishing the series, he went to Moscow, and people recognized him, sharing with him their favorite moments. Russians volunteered that it was the first time they realized Americans were human beings like them, instead of what their government had been saying about Capitalists, their greed. . . .That MASH had a role in ending the cold war.
 

BeastlyBeast

Senior Member
Usually jokes lighten the mood and that's about it. Think about it. Mash was serious in context, but funny because it was sorta-kinda a sitcom. When a character dies in a show, if there's a laugh track in the scene, it's usually because a joke was made. I find it hard to believe there's much else you could do. I also think that joke-during-a-crisis thing could be very hard to translate in a book. When you see it in a show, you grasp the entire situation, you can hear the characters' voices and their inflections. You truly see why it was funny. With a book, you could write dialogue like that, but I'd imagine readers would find it awkward and uncomfortable rather than humorous.

One show I think does the humor-during-violence thing well, though, is The Blacklist. Watch James Spader play Red. Oftentimes when he's in a serious situation, he makes it humorous through one-liners, stories, or just plain laughing about it. Maybe you could figure a way to translate something like that into your book. Hope this helped.
 

T.S.Bowman

CoF Challenge Host
WF Veterans
Laurie Halse Anderson has a brilliant mixture of funny and dark in her book Speak. But those are different topics. There is a running joke about changing the school mascot.

If you want to do both at the same time . . . maybe in the middle of the exciting killing scene he steps in a paint bucket and has a bucket on his foot that he doesn't have time to take off.

I don't think resorting to a "pratfall" style of humor would suit the intended purpose. That kind of humor is difficult to pull off in writing as it is. To try and do it in the middle of a normally dark situation would probably ( and this is just my opinion on it) fall flat...no pun intended.

I think the best way to do it is to make the characters use dark humor throughout the story. That way, the use of that kind of humor in the darkest of scenes will be easier to make the audience, even if the only audience happens to be the writer him/herself, a little more likely to accept it as normal.

As bazz said, the darkest humor can usually be found at a graveside.
 

Arcopitcairn

WF Veterans
I don't know what kind of story you're doing, but when I've done violence in the past and wanted it to be funny, I just went blatantly over the top with it. I just made the murder or gore so outrageous that the reader had to laugh (I hope). I personally have always found headless bodies that don't quite know they are dead to be funny. Like a decapitated corpse, spurting neckhole and all, crapping its pants and running a few steps, tripping over its own head and such, now that stuff makes me giggle:)
 

Ephemeral_One

Senior Member
There's an old saying that evil people don't see themselves as evil. Or that they believe the world is wrong and they're the only ones in the right. The best way to make it humorous or in a lighter mood is to repaint the entire scene out of context. Skulls grin, as if the world is an eternal joke, after all. Remember, 90% of what we think of the world is what we perceive to be true, whether it is real or not. So, what does the killer think of their victims? Is he enjoying it? If he isn't, why does he continue? After all, there is nothing so merciless and cruel than the heart of a child.
 
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