We have dealt with various types of imaginative assignments. In this section, we deal with humorous writing, Some people have a natural gift for telling humorous stories. However, it it quite difficult when it comes to writing them.
Humour emanates from various sources. When we expect one thing to happen and something else unexpectedly takes place, we can have a comical situation. For instance, someone is expecting a birthday present. A parcel arrives. He unwraps it and finds a dead cockroach wrapped in a golden paper! Secondly, we can have humorous situation when someone behaves in a way that is inappropriate to the situation or the surroundings. An example would be when someone not used to polite company has to attend an important party. Because he does not know how to behave in such a situation, he makes a laughing stock of himself.
The strange behavior of people can be extremely comic. A character who collects ‘speak-your-weight’ weighting machines and teaches them to sing Chrisman carols, makes people laugh. Eccentricity of people cannot but be comic.
The preceding notes refer to situations or characters that are comic. The words, a writer uses, can also produce a comic effect. There are a number of ways in which writer can do this.
- Many times writers make use of pun to create a comic effect. The pun is play on words. In a pun, two possible meanings of a word are referred to, one of them the expected meaning, the other an absurd meaning in the context. For example:
Ben Battle was a solider bold,
And used to war’s alarm:
But a cannon-ball took of his legs,
So he laid down is arms!
- Another way in which words can indicate comedy is by the care and neatness with which they are balanced against each other by using antitheses. Here are some examples taken from Oscar Wilde.
“A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”
“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
- Words used in an outrageous way in a comparison create a comic effect.
The angry councilor looked like a bloated blue bottle. His shiny red cheeks were puffed up like a balloon about to burst. I wanted to stick a pin in him and watch shrivel into a scrappy end of rubber.
- Understatement is another means by which a piece of writing is made comic. For instance, a character may have had whole series of disasters: he woke up late, had no breakfast, missed his bus, posted letters in the wrong envelopes, spilled ink on his manager’s new suit….etc. The narration could end with the comment, ” It had been a trying day’.
- The particular tone used in any writing can create a comic effect. It is largely through examining the tone that we can determine whether a piece of writing is meant to be comic or not. We must ask question like these: Is the author being serious? Is he being mock-serious, keeping a straight face while, in fact, he is laughing? Are we meant to laugh at the way the characters behave? Is there a contrast between the seriousness of the characters and the absurdity of the situation?
There are a few indications which show that a piece of writing is meant to be comic. However, remember that different people have different sense of humour and what is funny to one, may not be funny to another.