It's my pleasure to introduce crime writer John Daniel to the Bad Girl Blog. (Every now and then, we allow a Bad Boy on these pages. John qualifies.)
What’s sss ho fuf, fuf, funny about the way I tut,
by John Daniel
I feel as if
I’m bringing coals to Newcastle, and my coals are like…well, like coals, compared to the comedic diamonds
that sparkle in Melodie Campbell’s hilarious Goddaughter books. Nevertheless, I
have a few things to say on the subject of humorous storytelling, so here goes.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Write funny, and
readers will beg for more. About this rib-tickling subject I couldn’t be more
serious. And, on a serious note, here are three things I believe about writing
1. Humor is a response
to pain. Face the fact that humor bubbles to the surface through
a soup of sorrow, suffering, cruelty, loneliness, and anger. Don’t believe me?
What humorous writer makes you laugh the loudest? Woody Allen? Nora Ephron?
David Sedaris? Read their stories again and notice how much their humor is
based on neuroses, love gone wrong, and family dysfunction.
2. Humor must engage the
brain. Remember, your stories do not come with a laugh track. You may trade
on the familiar, but make the story your own by being original, being honest,
and avoiding gimmicks and clichés. Use irony. Irony flexes the mind.
3. Humor should serve a
higher purpose. We may tend to consider humor fluff, lightweight, as
unnecessary as M&Ms, as disposable as Kleenex. Well, a funny can be as
forgettable as all that, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re going to tell a
funny story, find a story that matters, that might make the world a tiny bit
Bonus rule. Having
reread my last sentence, I’m compelled to add, “Lighten up.” Yes, humor, in
spite of its painful origin, its intellect, and its moral purpose, should be fun. To entertain is to serve a higher
purpose. So make your stories fun to read, enjoy writing for the fun of
writing, and while you’re at it, practice the fine, fun art of laughter. The
good news is that humor lightens the load and gets us through. A little
laughing gas can make you enjoy the drilling of a tooth.
In my new novel, Hooperman:
A Bookstore Mystery, one of the sources of humor is speech disorder. Speech
impediments are not funny to anybody who lives with one. But for some reason,
speech disorder makes people laugh. Think of Warner Brothers cartoons: Porky
Pig stammers, Elmer Fudd can’t pronounce L’s or R’s, Sylvester and Daffy both
lisp (wetly), Bugs has a nasal twang, and so forth.
In Hooperman, the
main character, Hoop Johnson, has a dreadful, crippling stutter. Another
character, Martin West, has a neurological disorder, similar to Tourette
Syndrome, that liberally sprinkles his speech with scatological profanity—barnyard
cusswords. Do these two guys think speech disorder is funny?
Funny as a rubber crutch.
Here’s a brief excerpt from a scene with Hoop and Martin.
remember that? How cuh,can you buh,be shhh…sure?”
think because I talk weird, horse**** pig**** and like that, I’m automatically
stupid? Horse**** pig****?” Nodded, shook his head, nodded again. Shook his
head again. “Huh?”
laughed out loud.
You think it’s horse****? You think it’s funny?”
Shhhh…hit, yes! Fuh,fuh,fuh… hilarious!”
snarled for a minute, then let his mouth grow into a wide-open grin. “Rat****
bat**** cat**** gnat****!” he said, and laughed. “Couple of horse**** crazies,
huh? You and me? Horse****!”
clapped his hands and laughed out loud. “Cuck razy and duh, dumb. We;re duh,duh,dumbells!”
But the laughter quickly died
Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery celebrates the joy of books and bookselling and also explores the
many ways people get into trouble—deadly serious trouble—when they fail to
Johnson is a tall, bushy-bearded man of few words. He works as a bookstore cop,
catching shoplifters in the act. It’s a difficult job for a man with a severe
stammer, but somebody’s got to do it, because Maxwell’s Books is getting ripped
off big-time. And, more and more, it looks like the thief works for the store.
Set in the summer of 1972, the summer of the
Watergate break-in, Hooperman is a
bookstore mystery without a murder, but full of plot, full of oddball
characters, full of laughs, and full of love, some of it poignant, some of it
“Pleasant and unusually
good-natured, this novel from Daniel harkens back to a time when printed books
mattered and an independent bookstore could be a social club for passionately
eccentric bibliophiles.” —Publishers
Weekly, starred review
(photo by Clark Lohr)
Daniel is a lifelong bibliophile, having worked in eight bookstores. He’s also
the author of fourteen published books, including the well-reviewed Guy Mallon
Mystery Series. He lives among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California,
with Susan Daniel, his wife and partner. They publish mystery fiction under the
imprint Perseverance Press (Daniel & Daniel).