Surprise usually evokes one of two emotions: fear or pleasure. If the setting is threatening—a dark alley, a creepy house, my daughter's bedroom—then we feel fear. If the setting is welcoming—a birthday party, a sunny room, a chocolate shop—then we feel pleasure. Surprise is also the key to humor writing. In other words, humor is created by confounding expectations.
I saw a great example of this the other day on Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews' Facebook page:
Why is that so funny? Because we expect seduction and instead we get naughty cross-dressing!
Of course, there is a catch. To write humor, you have to have a sense of humor. You need to see the humor in any situation, delve deep into life's most embarrassing or cringe-worthy moments and take them out of context. Suddenly events that may not have seemed funny at the time can make you laugh. And when incorporated into a story, they can make readers laugh, too.
Although my sexy MMA fighter romance, Against the Ropes isn’t a romantic comedy (too much emotional drama and smokin’ hot smex), it does have a lot of humor. And, yes, I relied on real life events when I wrote the humorous scenes.
The muffin top incident in a swanky dress shop was me. Except my boyfriend at the time wasn't buying the dress. And the store clerk wasn't quite as helpful...or flattering. I may also have accidentally tossed food across a fancy restaurant (another date that didn't go so well) like the heroine of Against the Ropes, Makayla. And I certainly wasn't laughing the night I was dressed to impress, complete with food in my teeth.
When I wrote Against the Ropes, I used humor and the element of surprise to relieve tension after dark or emotional moments and relied on many of the bad dating stories I’d heard from friends over the years. But the most embarrassing incidents...those were all mine. Even the one with the caviar and the panties!