Monday, November 10, 2014

Guest post from Jenn Lyons

The Importance of Humor

Upon first reading one of my books, a long-time friend said to me, “I was really surprised at how funny this was.”
This took me aback. “You think the humor’s out of place?”
“No! Just...I was surprised. know.”
“Sorry, but I don’t.”
“Because it’s a serious book, I guess.”
Now, the book being discussed wasn’t part of my Blood Chimera series, but this turned out to not be the last time I would hear such a comment. Indeed, it opened up a conversation that I’ve been having with my husband for several years now: the importance of humor in fiction. You see, we’re both of the opinion that it’s absolutely vital, even in a story that is otherwise serious.
Maybe most of all in a story that is otherwise serious.
When times are toughest, when the situation is grimmest, I think it’s wired into the human condition to reach deep into our cores for strength and perseverance…
...and then crack a joke. (Bonus points if it’s a dirty joke.)

There’s something very human and very relatable to doing that.
Jenn Lyons
I remember a scene from fantasy author Steven Erickson where he showed two guards on the wall of a city under siege and surrounded on all sides by an army -- a cannibal army who was going to literally EAT the town members to replenish their own supplies. The city guards had no hope of reinforcements, the next attack might come at any moment…
So the guards were telling jokes about sleeping with each other’s wives.
Because of course they were. Have you ever known a soldier? That’s some authenticity right there.
Everyone’s going to die? Time to break out the mom jokes!
I will always cherish that one tiny, largely inconsequential scene, which did more to have me rooting for those townspeople than any number of more serious attempts to make me empathize with their plight. Humor is humanizing. Humor is revelatory. Humor will encourage you to cheer on a character you might never otherwise connect with emotionally. Don’t believe me? Go watch A Clockwork Orange.
Don’t get me wrong, I find writing humor to be very challenging stuff. Personally, I think it’s far harder to be funny than it is to be grim dark serious, and my personal ideal is a balancing act that pivots from witty and sarcastic to serious and back again. But leave humor out of my work?

Happily, that’s never going to happen.

About Jenn:

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, she can be found debating the Oxford comma and Joss Whedon’s oeuvre at various local coffee shops.

The Blood Chimera series chronicles the experiences of a Kidnap And Ransom expert forced to deal with the realization that he's a member of a race of vampiric 

shapeshifters who secretly control society. She is currently working on the third book in the series.

Check her out at

1 comment:

  1. A lot of times, humor can help a reader from being totally overwhelmed by a grim/dark setting. They need to be reminded that the characters are human (or whatever species they might be) and that, no matter how fleetingly small, there IS a ray of hope shining through the dark.

    (That's not to say that hope is REAL, of course.)

    Great post!

    —Vic S.—


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