The Challenge of Writing For Laughs by Penelope Bloom

14 Jul 2020

By Penelope Bloom

If you’ve never heard of me, I started writing romance in 2016. Since, I’ve penned just under 40 books, and about two years ago, I started diving into the world of romantic comedy. My debut rom-com series was The Objects of Attraction series, which ended up having four top ten bestselling books and has now been translated into over ten languages and even adapted for a mobile game (weird, I know).

So let me tell you from experience that writing for laughs is tricky.

If you want an easy way to imagine the way it feels, just picture yourself at a dinner party with a friend and some new potential friends. Now imagine your lovely (but misguided) best friend points at you and says, “This is Penelope. She’s absolutely hilarious. Seriously, you’ll laugh so hard you’re going to pee yourself. Go ahead, Penelope! Say something funny!”

And that’s kind of what happens when you decide to foolishly call yourself a rom-com author. Even from the first book, there’s an expectation the moment you classify your book as some form of comedy. People walk in the “door” expecting to laugh. And if you’ve never tried being funny on command, it’s a completely different thing than being funny spontaneously.

Growing up, I always felt like I was pretty good at making a little comment in school to get people to laugh. Or I could pick out something a friend said in conversation and turn it into a funny moment. But I had to almost learn how to be funny again when I wanted to inject that into my books.

And that brings me to one of the other challenges of writing for laughs. Not everybody will think you’re funny. Just go to a comedy show and watch the audience. There are always going to be the handful of people in the corners scowling with their arms crossed while everyone else laughs so hard they cry.

I had to learn not to take every review as gospel. Sure, I’d love it if every single person who read my books laughed every time I wanted them to. But that’s just not reality. There are people out there who have probably created hate shrines in their bedrooms dedicated to me, that horrible author who tried and failed to make them laugh.

So in the end, switching from plain old contemporary romance to romantic comedy has been a huge adjustment. I’ve had my feelings hurt from reviews. I’ve missed the mark and written books that weren’t as funny as I’d hoped. I’ve even felt burnt out by the expectation to be funny at times. But I have realized this style of book is what makes me happiest to write.

I love hearing about people who laughed so much in public while reading my books that they got weird looks. Or people who had their significant other come check on them to see if they were okay because they were cracking up while reading in bed. Or people who reach out to tell me I helped them smile at a time they really needed to smile.

I know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a really wonderful feeling to know I can bring happiness to people, even in small doses. So writing for laughs is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever tried to do, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

P.S. If you want to find out if I inspire laughter in you or the desire to build hate shrines, feel free to check out my latest rom-com, My (Mostly) Secret Baby!

Penelope Bloom is the author of the new book My Mostly Secret Baby.

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