Sudesna Ghosh is a prolific indie author who weaves humour into her stories. In this post she talks about the intricacies of writing humour. Over to Sue...
I've been told I'm funny. Whether it's making a sarcastic remark mid conversation or the tone that I use in my romantic comedies, it's all me. Natural, unadulterated Sue. The thing is, I believe that a sense of humour can't be created by training or practice — it comes with your personality. You're either funny or you're not. Of course there are different kinds of humour. For example, there are those who can make everything seem light and fun and laughable including the bad things in life. And then there are those who can bring humour into certain topics. Like I know some people who can make you laugh a lot talking about antics of their pets or about their family members’ craziness. Other times, they're not so funny. Maybe they feel more comfortable letting lose about specific topics.
My first attempt at writing romance was a novella called My Singapore Fling. It's a rom com. I didn't see myself doing a heavy romance loaded with intense emotions and drama at that point, so I let myself be myself on the pages. My protagonist had fun interactions and fun interesting thoughts ran wild in her head.
My other romances maybe more sweet than humorous but they ALL have humour slipped into little pockets. To-the-point humourous dialogue or a sudden funny thought that hits the heroine’s head. For instance, one of my romance novellas has a scene where the protagonist bumps into an ex at the bookstore and the ex calls her Didi, which means elder sister, in front of his present partner. In response, she calls him ‘little one’.
In fact, I've written non-romance humour too. There's The Adventures of Ernie Fish which is about a cat expert and his two rescue cats who get into hilarious situations and do interesting things. These stories were based on my own interaction with cats and dogs. And then there's My Small Thin Indian Wedding which is a fun family drama with a little bit of romance thrown in. In it, I look at the big fat Indian weddings through a humourous lens and that means looking at the views and usual comments made by members of Indian society.
In my short story His Search for the Perfect Bride, I give the reader a peek at the arranged marriage process where patriarchy puts certain expectations on the women and let the man’s side dictate terms. It’s not a nice reality but humour can make it seem less nasty.
It's a look at culture without being an opinionated preacher. That's where humour works well.
Even in my latest book, Second Chance at Love, I have found myself putting in a sprinkling of humour without even meaning to. I guess humour comes out naturally from your pen when it's a part of you.
Is it tough to write humour? Yes, if you don't have a funny bone of some degree. It’s like standup comedy; I don't think everyone can do it or rather, do it well. If humour is forced, it doesn't have the impact that it should have. You can't teach humour. Delivery is crucial. Timing and place. It can take a very serious scene into a light ending of laughter, reducing the intensity of emotions. It can also remind readers to not take life so seriously because no one’s life is perfect. Mean mothers. Insensitive comments from random strangers, it can all be taken with a pinch of salt.
Yes, humour is an art. A much-needed art in our times of high stress.
Excerpt from SecondChance at Love
I wanted to strangle this woman. I’d never behaved this way in a public place. Sid better come back. Maybe he was escaping from another side of the hotel. Or maybe he was calling mental health organisations to take his mother away for treatment. Either way, I was ready to go home after this drama was finished. We had great sex, cuddles and some conversation but hardly any peace.
The young hotel staff kept an eye on us, perhaps ready to pounce if we tried to physically harm each other while Sid wasn’t present. I felt like I was being watched. Yes, she was looking at me. Critically. Enviously.
Sipping my drink, I made an attempt at being more mature than her. “Aunty, you know that a girlfriend and a mother are two very different people in a man’s life, right?”
She made a rude noise and told me I should stop trying to trap her innocent son.
“Trap? In a hotel room?” This was fun.
She was horrified at the thought. Calling me impertinent, she asked the staff for another cocktail. I asked for coffee, tapping my phone to call Sid and see what was taking him so long? Maybe he was stressed out and sick in the bathroom. I should go check.
His mother said, “Let me go to the room and talk to my son.”
“Wait a few more minutes. You can’t go up to guest rooms like that,” I said with glee.
She grunted, muttering a few Bengali obscenities under her breath. Then we got our fresh beverages. They even added a plate of croissants. How sweet.
She made a grab for the chocolate croissant before I could even choose one. The other one was an almond croissant. Trust her to take my favourite. I’d let it go if she wasn’t being such an evil witch already. I grabbed it from her hand. It broke into two.
“What the hell are you doing, greedy girl?” She screamed, bringing the attention of a few guests who were checking out, to our side of the lobby.
Immediately, I whispered to Sid’s mother, “You said I’m a bad girl, didn’t you? I’m so bad that I took half your croissant.” Letting myself laugh like a lunatic because that’s what I felt like at the moment, I noticed Sid walk in.
Sudesna (Sue) Ghosh is an Indian-American author based in Kolkata, India. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester (USA) and an ex-journalist. When Sue isn’t reading or writing, she is busy doing her best to keep her rescue cats happy. She can be reached on Twitter @sudesna_ghosh