GUEST POST: 5 Tips for Writing a Humorous Novel with Karina Fabian

NeetaLyffe_ILeftMyBrainsinSanFrancisco_audio_MEDWith all this talk of horror and mayhem lately, I thought it might be nice to feature an author who not only knows her way around a horror novel, but can also make us DIE laughing.  Get it… DIE laughing?  Ahem… anyway, here today at The Belle, author Karina Fabian is going to be educating us on the art of comedy as featured in her new audiobook release, I Left My Brains in San Francisco.  So without further ado…


I’ve always enjoyed being silly. I fell in love while trading puns with a new friend who is now my husband of nearly 25 years. At work, I’ve been known to put our skeleton in funny places, like the bathroom stall for “private time.” When I was asked to write a zombie story, I got into a silly mood, and the story, “Wokking Dead,” ended up being more an apocalypse of puns than undead. However Neeta Lyffe (say it out loud) was a character of such character that my publisher asked me to writer her in a novel. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator won awards, and now I’ve written the second, I Left My Brains in San Francisco, which comes out in audiobook this month.

Not everyone can write funny stories, nor does everyone want to. But if you’d like to try to make someone graffaw in a library or snort soda out their nose while reading in a cafe, here are some tips:

  1. Make Yourself Laugh. I mean it. If you don’t enjoy your own jokes, why bother writing them? You should laugh when you read your own work. If it’s not funny to you, how can it be funny to anyone else?
  2. Keep your pacing. Just like a comedian needs to pace his punchline, you need to pace the humor of your story. Be sure you set up the joke but don’t overstate it. Get the punch line in and give the reader a chance to laugh. Hit them with a surprise.
  3. A novel is not a series of jokes. It’s a story. Just like no novel is all dialogue or all long descriptions of the scene, a humorous novel is not all slapstick and comedy. In fact, properly placed seriousness can make the jokes all the better. My funniest novels have serious things happen in them. Sometimes, they are quiet moments to let the characters (and the reader) catch their breaths. Sometimes, they are the tragic consequences of what was a humorous scene. Other times, they are touching moments or intense action. You might say it’s a yin-yang kind of thing, but it adds depth and complexity, which makes a better novel all around.
  4. Don’t force the humor. Sometimes, all the machinations in the world will not let a joke go through in a novel, even when it seemed so funny in your head. Cut it the way you would a bad description or laborious dialogue. Also, be careful that your humor, especially political/social/religious humor, doesn’t cross the line to insult (unless that’s what you’re going for, but then be prepared for it to not be so funny after all.)
  5. Don’t expect everyone to get all your jokes. I’ve had critiquers who did not understand my humor. I’ve had editors try to fix the manuscript by changing punch lines (or punch scenes) to funny pieces they did not get. Even “Neeta Lyffe,” which I thought was a pretty obvious pun, has to be explained sometimes. (And pronounced. It’s like Need-a-Life, not Need a Lift.) Having said that, if too many of your beta readers don’t get the joke, then you should rethink it.

Laughter has been shown to reduce tension, exercise the cardiovascular system, and encourage a more positive outlook. Writing funny stories promotes good health! (Or so I tell myself when I skip the gym to write.) The great thing is, you get to share the benefits with others. So go write funny! And if your funny bone needs a workout, consider I Left My Brains in San Francisco. It’s even in audio, so you can listen to it while you run!


About I Left My Brains in San Francisco

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator–but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she’s looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it’ll be a working vacation after all.

 Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

Excerpt:

Survival Hardware hadn’t seen such a rush of customers since the last Armageddon prediction coincided with Black Friday.

Manager Clint Sanders rubbed his hands with glee. Oh, Marley, if only you hadn’t gotten drunk and decided to go zombie hunting. Was it only last Christmas?

He hurried to Customer Service, crafting an announcement in his mind.  “You want to live!  We want to live!  That’s why you are going to file calmly to the back if you need a suit.”

Yeah.  Sense of urgency, plus that “We’re in this together” crap.

He got to the counter and nodded at Bitsy, who had rung up a chainsaw and a half-crate of bleach.

God bless survivors. Clint continued to the back.  Out of habit, he checked the exit door, even though it was always locked from the outside.  He needed to delete Marley’s old code from it.

He cleared his throat.  “Listen up!  You want to live!  We want to live!”

The exit door clicked.

“That’s impossible!” he declared.  The store fell silent.

“Boss?” Bitsy’s voice ended in a squeak.

“That’s not what I meant!  Security team to customer service!”

He reached under the counter for a shotgun.  Bitsy grabbed the chainsaw.  They had filled them that morning—another example of the excellent service at Survival Hardware.

The door swung open, and the zombiefied remains of his late business partner, Marley, staggered through.

Clint to blasted him with the shotgun.  The impact knocked the Marley out the door.

Clint used the gunsight to scan the parking lot.  “He brought friends!  Call Nine-One-One.  I’m putting this place on shutdown.”

“Screw that!  I’ve been prepping all my life for this!”  With a howl of challenge, Bitsy dashed out the door.  She swung low and decapitated her former boss before moving on.

Thundering footsteps signaled the customers following in her wake.

He gaped at the carnage while Dirk called 9-1-1.  It’d be too late by the time they got there.  All that’d be left was to clean up the zombie parts and get the customers back in to pay.

God bless survivors.

Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco (also available in audio) HERE:

Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727643

Amazon: http://amzn.to/Nzm01L (paper) http://amzn.to/OBBmkL (Kindle)

More about it at http://zombiedeathextreme.com


About Karina Fabian:

Winner of the Global eBook Award for Best Horror (Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator), Karina Fabian’s writing takes quirky karinachainsaw2tales that keep her–and her fans–amused. Zombie exterminators to snarky dragons, things get a little silly in her brain. When she’s not pretending to be an insane psychic or a politically correct corpsicle for a story, she writes product reviews for TopTenReviews.com and takes care of her husband, four kids and two dogs. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

Website: http://fabianspace.com, http://zombiedeathextreme.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karina.fabian

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/KarinaFabian

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/103660024891826015212

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10981939-karina-fabian

What I’ve Learned About Editing

me and amy (2)OMG… can it be that The Belle herself is posting on the blog today?  Why yes!  Your eyes don’t deceive you.  It’s really me this time.  I figured that I should share my genius with you since it’s been a while (tongue placed firmly in cheek).  The truth is, I’ve been really busy the last few weeks.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I really have.  I’ve got two new releases with Little Red Hen Romance this month and I literally finished the edits on one of those stories the day before release.  I’ve also been knee-deep in the edits for the Sherlock Holmes anthology, An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which will be hitting eBook shelves on October 27, 2015.  And speaking of editing, that’s the purpose of my article today.

I’ve been a part of several anthologies as an author but An Improbable Truth is the first time that I’ve been on the other side of the editorial desk.  Yes, my evil alter-ego, A.C. Thompson is the editor of this collection.  And lemme tell you, kittens– it’s been a learning experience.  It’s had its ups and downs but I like to think the process has been pretty smooth for all those involved.  But now that I have something to compare it to, here are some things that I’ve learned.

  1. Have a schedule in place.  This is actually good advice for most endeavors, but it’s really essential if you’re going to take responsibility of other people’s work.  Before the call ever goes out, you should have a clear timeline in your head of not just when the release date is but other important things like:  when will the submission window close, when will everyone’s stories be accepted or rejected, how are you going to let them know, when do contracts go out, when do you project having your first round of edits done, your authors turn in those edits by what date, when is the deadline for cover art, etc.  Now these dates don’t need to be set in stone, but you should have some idea.  No one should be floundering at the last minute.
  2. Be a professional.  Let me say that again.  *In her best Christian Bale voice* BE A FUCKING PROFESSIONAL.  Ahem, that felt good.  Anyway, remember kittens– this is not the church bake sale.  This is someone’s hard work that you’re screwing around with here.  These people are not donating their work to your cause, they’re giving you something for publication that they will hopefully make a little money from.  That means that you cannot keep their work indefinitely in limbo never telling them whether their story got in or not or never sending them a contract.  Authors should NOT find out that their story wasn’t accepted by reading the release announcement. Nor should you keep them on a mailing list that constantly says “just because you’re getting this doesn’t mean you’re in the anthology, just fyi.”  It’s rude, it’s confusing, and it keeps an author’s story on the hook for ages when they could be submitting it to someone that might accept it. Rejections are the most un-fun part of the process, but they’re just as necessary as the acceptances.
  3. Don’t become an editor if you don’t have any credentials other than you’ve read a book before.  I decided to pitch the idea of An Improbable Truth because I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, the copyrights had been released, and there weren’t any other paranormal/ horror Sherlock anthologies out there.  Before I made the decision to pitch to my wonderful publisher, Nicole Kurtz, I thought about whether or not I was equipped to edit someone else’s work.  So here it is:  I graduated from Winthrop University with a degree in Education.  Part of that program required that I complete college level work in writing and grammar.  Up to this point I’ve published two novels a slew of short stories and novellas, and a magazine article with several reputable presses.  I’ve written five novels.  I have also been through a hard edit with a professional “big 5” author and editor.  Do I think I know it all?  Hell no!  I have called on the help of my sister who has a Master’s Degree in English as well as other editors many times.  Trust me, commas are not my friends. But if you don’t have a grasp of language in your own writing, you probably shouldn’t be an editor.  Sadly, this is an epidemic in the self-pubbing/ indie world.  We scream that we want to be taken seriously, but kids– big time publishing is never going to take us seriously until we hold our authors to the same standard as they do.  And that means good writing and professional editing.
  4. I am your editor, not your mama!!  Therefore, it is not my job to teach you to write or completely re-write your first draft.  I actually overheard an author tell someone, “It doesn’t matter if I can write.  That’s what the editor is for.”  WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!! It is your job as the writer to write a great story, polish it up (DO NOT SEND YOUR FIRST DRAFT), and edit– not write a ten page dissertation on why the editor is wrong and you’re right.  The editor is an unbiased third party whose only interest is in making your story the best it can be.  Don’t fight them every step of the way.  If you disagree with something, discuss it.  Don’t stomp your feet like a toddler and refuse to change it.  Or make up some silly excuse as to WHY you can’t edit.  It is worth noting that I did NOT have this problem on the Sherlock anthology.  Every single author I have is the picture of professionalism and talent.  I may be slightly biased, but seriously… these guys and gals rock!
  5. Have a plan for promotion.  This is particularly for the editors of anthologies.  Now you might say, “That’s not my division.”  Well Lestrade, yes it is.  If you’re editing an anthology for a small press it IS your division.  Finding as many places to get the word out about your authors and your book is part of your job description.  You don’t just send these things out into the world and expect them to swim on their own!  You have to be creative.  Think outside the box.  While you’re sitting here reading this ridiculously long diatribe, five anthologies just hit the shelves.  You have to make your book stand out.  Why should people buy YOUR anthology and not the other one.  And don’t worry, you aren’t alone.  Your publisher and all those lovely people who contributed to the anthology are there to help you.  They should have a plan for what they’re going to do as well.  And you’ll, hopefully, all succeed together.

So that’s it. That’s what I’ve learned so far and trust me– it’s a process.  I don’t know it all and probably never will.  And of course, these are all just my opinions.  We’ll see if they work at all in a few weeks.