The Challenge of Keeping it Funny by Penelope Bloom
05 Feb 2019
By Penelope Bloom
If you’ve never read a book in my Objects of Attraction series, they can be summed up as irreverent, light romantic comedies. In every book, I try to make sure there are frequent moments that will at least make you grin if they don’t get a laugh out of you. But I wanted to dive a little into some of the (maybe) surprising challenges that come with keeping the humor flowing.
One of the first obstacles in adding humor to my books was apparent to me before I ever wrote Chapter 1 of His Banana. Humor is highly personal. I’d be putting a part of myself in the book and exposing it to all my readers. If you don’t believe me, just look through my critical reviews at the number of people who are shocked anyone in their right mind could find humor in my books. What’s delightfully hilarious to one person is tiresome and annoying to another. So I had to decide I was okay with that. No, I wasn’t going to make everyone happy, but I was going to try to make a select few as happy as I could.
Another obstacle is finding ways to keep finding opportunities for funny moments. This was and is probably still the toughest for me. I like to think of myself as a funny person in my everyday life. I’m usually looking for opportunities to get a laugh out of people, and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. So I was surprised when I first started writing that it didn’t feel easier to slide humor in more often than I did. It seemed like the opportunities would stick out to me, just like the might in a normal, everyday conversation, but book after book, they were few and far between.
With His Banana, I finally realized what the issue was. One of the biggest problems was that I’d been taking my characters too seriously. My fear of chipping away at the “alphaness” of my male leads or the relatability of my female leads put my mind in the wrong gear for being funny. The most exciting part about getting looser with my characters has been that they feel so much more real to me now. Most real people do make jokes. They do make light of a situation from time to time, and they do like to have fun. Sometimes they even say stupid things just to get someone to grin. Once I let my characters have those moments, it felt like everything opened up. Besides, what’s sexier than a guy who knows how to make you laugh?
The last big challenge of keeping it funny is being careful not to go too far. At the end of the day, whether it’s humorous, scary, or suspenseful, a romance book is about the romance. I want my readers to feel the connection and the chemistry between the characters above everything else. So I have to be careful that I don’t drag the story too far in any one direction for the sake of a laugh. For me, the perfect scene is one where the humor actually helps add context and depth to the developing relationship. Obviously, I don’t always hit that one perfectly on the mark, but it’s a goal, and not an easy one to reach.
Whether it’s challenging or not, I’ve never been happier with the response to my books than I have since I started adding in humor. Nothing feels better than reading that somebody had been having a horrible day until they read my story. Besides, life is stressful enough as it is. I love that I get to laugh while I do my job now and that I get to help bring smiles to my readers, too.
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