Can a writer combine humor and drama? The simple answer? Yes. I write two mystery series and they’re both light reading with a little humor. There’s a big “however” here. However, murder isn’t funny by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore, the books contain some drama, too. I’ll never make light of a murder and generally the motives aren’t humorous, either.
Back to humor, you can find some humor in the characters solving the mystery and in the situations in which they find themselves. There’s so much drama in today’s world that I believe we need something to lighten our mood sometimes. Hopefully, that’s a need I’m addressing.
In the Sandi Webster series, she’s a female P.I., has a menopausal mother and an overbearing aunt, employs a formal acting yet klutzy guy and his wife, and she has a partner who always wants to watch her back, although he sometimes ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She frequently finds herself confronting quirky or eccentric people. These traits often equal humor, and they’re traits I’ve found in people in my own life over the years.
I mentioned both drama and humor. Sandi has a few situations where she runs into heartbreaking circumstances and needs humor to keep her balanced. That can be difficult in real life and in fiction. You can’t walk away from heartbreak and laugh at it. Sometimes you have to look for the humor somewhere else. As writers, we can provide that distraction.
I’ve worked in law enforcement (in a clerical capacity), part-time in a shoe store and a lingerie store, and for a state transportation department, among other jobs. Some of the things I’ve seen would boggle your mind. Of course, some of these things are only humorous after the fact – like the time I had to search a Ladies Restroom for a bomb, with no training. There was, after all, a time when you wouldn’t expect to find a bomb in a john. Then there was the time a woman was turned down for a job in law enforcement because she didn’t have the qualifications. Death threats followed, even though I’d only given her the typing test. Ah, those were the days.
My Bogey Man series features Chris Cross, who’s a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart, and who manages to walk the walk and talk the talk. Bogart is his muse, his hero and his idea of how a man should act. That is, the Bogey he saw in the movies. He’s very good at rolling his upper lip under like Mr. Bogart did. Chris is married and has a stepson, and they sometimes remind me just a little of a modern Thin Man family.
Humor keeps most of the characters going. We need a good laugh in our own lives once in a while, and so do fictional characters.
In both series the characters and their lives grow and change over time. So do we. Time seems to pass slowly in a series. Occasionally that would be preferable in real life, although there are other times when we wish we could speed things along. Either way, humor helps us and our characters get through the day.
Someone once sent me a joke which read, “Awkward Moments: When you’re digging a hole to bury a body, and you find another body already buried there.” Maybe that’s dark humor, but it gave me a chuckle and inspired an entire book, Awkward Moments – A Bogey Man Mystery. Humor can come from the most unexpected places.
There’s so much more that could be said about humor in mysteries, but instead of me saying more, try picking up a book with humor in it and see for yourself. Ask for recommendations from friends, family or your librarian.
Until next time, I hope something sparks a chuckle in your day. How about this? I recently discovered that my hundred pound yellow Labrador Retriever is terrified of a little bitty snail. Of course, this is the same dog who’s afraid of the dark. True stories.
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If you’re looking for something lighter, try the Sandi Webster Mysteries or The Bogey Man Mysteries.