There are rules to writing humour, apparently. Odd numbers are funnier than even; three items in a list are funnier than two; names with two or three syllables and hard sounds are more likely to raise a titter than single syllable ones. So J Peasemold Gruntfuttock wins on all counts! Weresloths are more amusing than werewolves (I hope they are anyway, seeing as I once wrote a short story about them) and were-echidnas would be funnier still, given the male reproductive anatomy of the species.
I do a fair number of author events, from being mistress of ceremonies at conferences to sitting on author panels at literary festivals, and the ‘punters’ love a bit of humour, especially if it’s saucy. Best to avoid overt smut, I find, but some nice double entendres always go with a bang, if you’ll excuse the expression. You’ve never seen an audience get so hysterical as when my pal Elin quoted this bit of a book, “I never saw two men do more with one-and-twopence worth of butter in my whole life than they did.”
Now, smutty minds, the next bit of the story (‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K Jerome) reads, “After George had got it off his slipper, they tried to put it in the kettle. It wouldn’t go in, and what was in wouldn’t come out. They did scrape it out at last, and put it down on a chair, and Harris sat on it, and it stuck to him, and they went looking for it all over the room.” It’s amusing, but I bet that wasn’t what you were thinking, and it certainly wasn’t what the audience thought. Nor, when another author read from a work in progress, in which two men were talking over a garden fence and one said, “I bet you know all about cocks,” were the audience thinking about the chickens in the garden!
As an author, I’ve always got my ear out for a bit of dialogue I can use in my stories, especially if there is a double meaning to it. There is a downside to this, namely keeping a straight face, which becomes increasingly difficult when you’ve used a similar phrase in a saucy context in one of your stories. I love Waitrose fruit and veg aisle, with all the overheard discussions about whether people want a big one, if something’s a bit too bent to be of use, or how many you get to the pound (let alone any mention of juicy melons). Scene of many a fit of the giggles, especially when I can’t resist picking up a cucumber and asking whoever I’m with whether we should poke it through the vicar’s door and shout, “The Martians have landed!”
I suspect that one day somebody will take umbrage and lump me one with said cucumber. See – humour’s a serious (and dangerous) business.
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, MLR, and Riptide.
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Horns and Haloes
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