August 04, 2018

Finding a Funny Bone by Susan Barclay

In person I have a pretty good sense of humour. I love to laugh and make others laugh and my family members like nothing better than to carry on and be silly. When it comes to writing, though, more often than not I find it challenging to make the funny come alive on paper. 

That gets me thinking about some of the charming, quirky and laugh-out-loud books I've enjoyed reading over the years. Books by authors like Jan Karon (the Mitford and Father Tim series), Philip Gulley (Harmony and Hope) and Jonas Jonasson (The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared). How do they do it?

Jan Karon has a wry sense of humour. Her characters use snappy dialogue and consistently find themselves in comical predicaments (usually of their own making) from which they need to be extricated. They are lovable and endearing. Karon makes you wish Mitford was a real place and that you could meet Father Tim, Uncle Billy, Dooley and others in person.

Gulley is a Quaker pastor whose main character is a Quaker pastor named Sam. The author gently pokes fun of Sam and his congregation by exaggerating their perspectives, habits and traits. If you could get your hands on Dale Hinshaw and throttle him, you probably would. Perhaps we all have a Dale Hinshaw somewhere in our lives. Clearly Gulley is a pro at creating relatable characters and presenting grains of truth.

Jonasson also likes using exaggeration. In his case, it seems that he asks the question 'what if?' and gives the most far-fetched answer. What if an old man climbed out of the window of his nursing home and walked to the train station? What if a young man asked him to watch his suitcase? What if the old man took off with it, setting a series of unlikely events in motion?

Looking at the work of authors who make us laugh can help us as we seek to incorporate humour into our own writing. By examining their methods, we can practice their techniques. We might find out we're no Stephen Leacock, and that's okay. After all, we each have our own writing voice, preferences and style. We each have our own strengths.

Whether you write humour well or not, here's some advice: never, ever, stop laughing.
Susan Barclay currently blogs very infrequently at She is busy writing.


  1. Love the post and especially the last sentence. So healthy. Thank you, Susan.

  2. It is so important to maintain one's sense of humour, isn;t it?


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