Thursday, November 12, 2015

Use humor the right way in your memoir

Have you looked for ways to include humor in your memoir? I hope so, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the process—especially the end result.  (If you missed our last two posts, click on Cry Laugh Wait and Humor can be “like a sneak attack.”)

Humor can work wonders in human hearts and lives. Take, for example, what happened one day to Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers (The Writing Sisters).

Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities and tight schedules, they took a break and watched something on TV: Lucy and Ethel wearing bakery hats. “As I watch them desperately wrapping candies unable to keep up with the speed of the conveyor belt, I totally relate to the feeling. I’m already behind today. Now I’m laughing and feeling connected, not alone in my frailty and human condition. It’s a relief to be reminded that I am human, made of dust. My own busy day pulls into perspective” (emphasis mine).

That’s the value of humor and its capacity to bond. In the same way Lucy and Ethel’s episode impacted The Writing Sisters, your humor can help readers bond with you and your story—and keep reading. (Your memoir might not lend itself to humor—we’ll look at other options in the future—but use humor if you can.)

Readers like to be entertained. If you entertain them, you engage them, and you’ve begun to win them over.

“…We like to read other people’s
embarrassing stories.
They give us a laugh—
and often lift our mood
(‘at least I didn’t do that!’).
They can even provide
valuable learning experiences.
You don’t want to overdo it
and come across as a bumbling idiot—
but occasionally admitting to
something embarrassing
or talking about a failure
can make you more human
in your readers’ eyes.”

Kate Cohen shares this tip on timing: “This can be as simple as applying the funny word, phrase or sentence at the last possible moment. You can force a pause before the punch line by starting a new paragraph” (emphasis mine). Good tip.

Stand back and search for what’s comical or quirky in your situation. Besides timing, look for ways to use subtle humor. Or maybe exaggerate just a wee bit. Experiment. Give yourself time. It might just work.

But here’s a caution: Avoid offending. Poke fun at yourself, not others. If we want readers to respect us, we must respect others.

The Writing Sisters caught my attention with this: “Worldly humor comes from a platform of superiority over others, Godly humor from a platform of humility.”

The Sisters shared Liz Curtis Higgs’ list comparing worldly humor with God-honoring humor:

Worldly Humor
  • Glorifies sin
  • Puts down others
  • Ridicules righteousness
  • Hurts the spirit

Godly Humor
  • Avoids offense
  • Builds up others
  • Honors the Lord
  • Heals the Spirit

Laughter is
a universal language,
a common connector
a shared experience.

Use it well
in your memoir.

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