Saturday, April 10, 2010

A funny thing happened....

Today I bought some nail polish. This afternoon, I tried it out, along with the cuticle remover I had decided was essential to the manicuring process. Then, having removed my cuticle, I polished my nails, ate a little dinner, and went out and gassed up the lawn tractor and mowed the lawn.

Doesn't sound very funny when I tell it that way, does it? Or does it? Some people would see the humor and at least be smiling. Others would simply read it and wonder why I felt the need to document these events.

Humor is all about context and point of view. If you can relate to a situation, it makes it more humorous. A man, having never used nail polish in his life, would think the above scenario was perfectly reasonable. Those women who are obsessed with the condition of their fingernails would be appalled, rather than amused. My best friends, however, would be rolling on the floor."You NEVER polish your nails!" they would say. "Whatever possessed you?" and "Only you would do it and then cut the grass." Hey, at least I wore gloves.

That's a problem when it comes to writing humor. You have to know your audience. A stand-up comedian in front of a college crowd wouldn't be talking about the humor that can be found in the infirmities and forgetfulness of old age. However, a group of retirees would be laughing themselves silly because they can relate to it.

Romance readers are a varied group. While they are primarily female, though not always, they can be of any age and background. I have readers from their teens to their eighties, and though I probably have more in common with the older set, you must remember that everyone was young once. They have shared laughter with their friends, have known what it is to fall in love, whether that love was ever returned or not. When I was a kid, it used to amaze me that my grandmother had a sense of humor. Now that I've got a little age on me, I know that in her mind, she was the same person she had always been, whether young or old. And she, like most people, loved to laugh.

Traditionally, romance novels have not been humorous. When Slave first came out, I got comments in reviews that went something like this: "I don't know if Ms Brooks intended this to be funny or not, but in many places, I was LMAO!" And yes, it was meant to be funny. When I'm writing, if I can throw in a little silliness, I do it because I think the romance genre, on the whole, takes itself much too seriously. Life is not meant to be all drama and strife. It should be filled with love and laughter. And I do my best to spread as much of those things around through my writing as I possibly can.

So, you may be wondering what the cat has to do with today's post. Not a thing except that it makes me laugh every time I look at it. And that's really all that matters, isn't it?


  1. That cat is totally cracking me up!

  2. I don't think that poor cat could look any more disgruntled!!! It's hilarious.

  3. I'm a firm believer in knowing your audience. I have a little fan club that loves my sense of humor and I love giving it to them!

    There's nothing like audience appreciation.


  4. I love the humor in your books Cheryl. It's fresh and inventive and very, very funny.

    I was ready to take exception to your comment that romance traditionally has not been humorous--since I didn't become a romance fan until I found out how frequently humor was used to lighten things up.

    But then I thought about it.

    Truth is, my faves always deliver on the humor as well as offering intriguing, lovable characters. If there's no humor at all, I probably don't finish the book, and certainly don't read another by that author.

    So there might be a gazillion seeeriiiooous romances out there, and I wouldn't know it.

    Your point about audience is well-taken. A certain bestselling historical writer is often praised for her humor--but I don't think her books are funny. I think they're just dumb. But you've only got to look at her sales to figure she must be doing something right.

  5. LOL about the cat picture. Poor cat! :) I mowed the yard yesterday--but first, I had to get it started. Dead battery. Charged it up. Thought I did anyway. Wouldn't turn over. Checked the gas tank. Fumes. Tried a different charger. Went to the service station and got gas. Returned. Tried to start the mower. Still won't turn over. Left it charging for longer. Got it started! Tried to move the mower...two flat tires. Aired them up. And I was off!!! Woohoo, mowed and mowed and mowed, and ran over my favorite hose. Mower died. With hose wrapped around the blades. Favorite hose. Is it time to pay for a service yet?

  6. BTW,

    I'm a little behind on my blogs. I just read your comment yesterday about the sit-com "Barney Miller."

    Yes, yes!! Loved that show.

    Even when the situation was tragic and no one pretended otherwise, the humor was in the characters--not because they were behaving stupidly, but because they were behaving humanly.

  7. My cat would soo kill me if I ever took a picture of him in that helmet, or even tried to get one on him. Hell, I'm probably doomed just for contemplating it. I'm sure all those dead bodies he leaves in my kitchen stand as warnings if I should ever get out of line or forget to feed him. {sigh} It's a good thing my son picks up all things dead or dying. I trained him early, I think the first time I asked him was when he was seven. Son, I said. Be a man...a little man but a man all the same. He's a Domestic God in the making.

    Okay, back to my comment. I love humor in all books, but then you probably know that by now. Life is usually funny - even at its most depressing there's always something to laugh at. I remember my best friend when her mother was dying. Every time the poor woman would be at death's door, she'd rally and improve. My friend would take off work to be with her mom, and then she'd get better. The next week, she'd be at death's door again. This went on for several months and my friend had taken tons of time off work. One time she was called to the hospital because her mom was failing yet again, she walked in and said "Mom, if you don't die this time, I'm gonna need a note." Everyone in the room (including her mother) busted out laughing. It was the funniest thing, I thing I've ever heard.

  8. What a cute little kitty!

    Humor is definitely subjective -- but I guess storytelling itself is, too. What one person loves, another might find dry or even distasteful. You can only try your best, write what comes naturally . . . and look at that adorable cat picture!

  9. Love the cat. I think cat expressions are the best.

  10. Cute kitten and no half naked man? Has hell frozen over?!?! We come to expect a certain standard from you Cheryl. ;-)

    Great post. I have to have humor in any book I read. Having not been a romance reader until recently, I can relate this to my love of fantasy. Most fantasy, traditionally, is heavy and serious. After all, the fate of the known universe is usually at stake! That is fine, but the ones who inject humor are my favorites. Yesterday Danielle mentioned Terry Pratchett who is the King of weird fantasy. I could also name David Eddings who has so much humor in his novels that at times you do forget the fate of the world is at stake.

    In romance, since that is closer to Real Life, the humor has to be there to make it believable and relatable. Thanks for a great post. I am laughing at the kitty, even if I am missing the half naked man. :)

  11. You're right, Cheryl. The cat made me laugh too. Although I'm sure he wasn't too happy about it!

    Yes, know your audience.

  12. Hey Cheryl,
    I LOVED your comment about your grandmother having a sense of humor and being the same person she'd always been. Now that I'm "of a certain age" I can totally relate to being the same person inside. But who IS that old broad in my mirror?!?!

    I know dogs are much more tolerant of being dressed up and such, but my pug-wawa would have a very similar expression if I ever put anything on her head! She's such a little martyr. LOL!


  13. Hi Cheryl
    What a wonderful post. I do love humor even some in the most suspenseful books. If it's done right, with the right timing it's great. Those are my fave books, the ones that have it "all".

  14. I don't find this at all funny. The cat wanted a Orange hat. Now she'll have to get her nails redown. I'd be just as Mad. LOL!!!
    And I'm trying to buy a rotary lawnmower. No carbon emmissions. And the exercise would be great. Just Push power. And Cheryl, if only you had a sense of humor.

  15. The cat picture was funny and cute. The cat does not look happy.

    When I read your story I thought why would she do her nails then mow the lawn? LOL.

    I try to incorporate humor when I write and sometimes I put something down that everyone laughs at and I'm standing there like, "What's so funny?"

    Great post :D

  16. One thing I love about this month's theme is all the amazing perspectives we are getting from a variety of authors on their own sense of humor and what they look for in other books, in movies, life, etc.! It is really interesting--great post, Cheryl!

  17. Love the cat. Love the post. (But wouldn't use nail polish before cutting the grass.)

  18. LOL! I will state for the record that I had nothing to do with the cat helmet. I know for a fact that my own cats wouldn't sit still for it, and I can only assume that the cat in question was a highly unusual and tolerant feline.

    Sharon, if you want half (or fully!) naked men, you know where to look!

    Terry, I feel your pain. Been there, done that. While mowing with my freshly painted nails, I had to replace the pin in one of the wheels on the deck. I did, however, have sense enough to do it with a pair of pliers, rather than my fingernails!

    Yeah, AC, there's a woman in my mirror who looks more like my grandmother every day, but she's still me inside!

  19. I have to agree, Cheryl. That cat photo took me by surprise. Poor thing, I hated to laugh, but couldn't help myself. :}

  20. Cheryl,

    That may be the funniest picture I've ever seen. :)