Writing Q&A Number 11 – Creating Fun Characters

fantasy scene knight fighting dragonFrom Alexis:

I’ve been working on my novel, and I think I’ve got the plot generally figured out, but I’ve been told the my characters are too serious and possibly boring. I’m wanting to figure out fun / funny quirks my characters can have, but I tend to think of negative ones I don’t want for them. 🙁

How did you create such fun characters like Walter, Sir Barlow, Tibalt, Daryl, etc?

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Humor is hard to write. What you find funny might fall flat for others. Yet, when striving for humor, what can you do but write what you think is funny?

Listen to people laugh. What did they think was funny? People enjoy sharp wit, absurd plays on words, and making light of the situation during awkward or tense situations. Notice that Walter and Daryl come up with quips in the midst of danger. That’s comic relief.

When the situation is intense, readers often want relief, but you have to be careful to time it right. Don’t allow for witty comments during emotionally intense moments, especially grief. Save them for intensity that involves waiting for the springing of a trap, a verbal battle with a villain, or planning for the next conflict with the villain.

Keep your funny characters in character. Walter likes absurd humor and word play. Daryl likes movie quotes. Tibalt twists wisdom and proverbs. Test the humor on others. A smile is good. A laugh is better. A confused look means you need to try again.

What say you, readers? Do you have any suggestions? Please post them in a comment.

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5 replies

  1. Analyzing funny conversations and humorous moments in shows helps a lot. You may not get good at writing humor for a long time, but that’s ok.

    When characters are boring, it isn’t necessarily going to be because they’re serious. Humor isn’t the only way to gain the audience’s attention, and shouldn’t be the only trait a character has. Work on deepening their pasts and personalities, and that will make them more interesting. A way to make a character more interesting is to think of a habit or theme for them that affects their whole lives, then come up with possible explanations for their behavior.

    The best humor tends to arise from the characters simply being who they are. Even very serious characters can be very funny in certain situations, even when they aren’t trying to tell a joke. A scene can be funny, for instance, if two characters have a completely different way of looking at things, and some sort of misunderstanding forms between them.

    An example of a theme or quirk like I mentioned earlier can be found in Naruto. Kakashi is a skilled and experienced ninja, but he tends to be hours late to many things, like training sessions with his apprentices. It’s funny and absurd at the beginning of the show because it annoys the apprentices. But then, as the story unfolds, we see why he behaves that way. He does it to remember one of his deceased teammates, because that teammate was always late. It’s very sad and memorable when we get the full story and really think about it.

    If a character has an unusual name or trait, then that can be utilized for humor. And if a character is very serious(especially if he takes himself too seriously) he is liable to fall into a funny situation when he fails at something or those around him decide to tease them.

    In Death Note, the main character, Light Yagami, is very serious, a top student who thinks he’s better than anyone else. He rarely, if ever, jokes around. The second main character, L, is rather calm and serious, but is very odd and eccentric, and makes jokes on rare occasions. The main girl character, Misa, fangirls over Light and has convinced herself that she is in love with him.

    Between these three characters, we have a lot of comic relief moments simply because the characters are who they are and are different enough from each other that they get on each other’s nerves. And, better yet, they are funny without ruining the overall seriousness of the show.

    One time, L asked Misa if she loved Light from the bottom of her heart. Misa says ‘Yes! I couldn’t imagine a world without Light!’ And then L, in a rather calm and deadpan manner, says ‘Yes, that would be dark.’

    This is a fun pun off of Light’s name and probably a bit of a reaction to the odd, prissy and clingy demeanor Misa tends to have. L didn’t set off to make a joke, he was trying to see what information he could glean from Misa and if her relationship with Light could make her useful to the crime case he was trying to solve.

    Try to make funny scenes useful to the plot. Does a prank a character pulls change the way others perceive him? Does a humorous situation make a character realize something about himself? The possibilities are endless.

    As time goes on, you may find out that scenes you write are funnier than you initially thought. One time I wrote a scene where there was a less serious, but slightly unsettling character that was interacting with a more serious character. I wasn’t trying to make it funny, though I was pleased when my beta reader found it funny. The characters didn’t make any jokes. All it really was was the less serious character instructing the more serious character on how to make a certain recipe, and annoying the serious character along the way.

    One time on youtube I listened to a writing lesson on humor, and one way to create humor is for there to be an unexpected outcome, or at least an unintended consequence. A prank that backfires might be an example.

    Keep studying stuff like this, and work on making your characters unique, and not just from the standpoint of being funny, and you’ll get the hang of writing humor 🙂

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  2. Thanks, Mr. Davis! 😀
    I’ll try these out and see what happens.
    My ears are open to any more suggestions. 🙂

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