Tuesday, April 15, 2014

And God Said, "Let There Be Comic Characters"

by Rachael Phillips

For Him, it was that easy. He simply said it, and it happened.

For writers, it gets a little more complicated. But with observation, reading, and practice, novelists can enjoy the process of creating them almost as much as God does.

Strangely enough, funny characters do not necessarily crack jokes. If tossing out one-liners fits a heroine’s personality, great, but even then, she is not a joke machine. We want the readers to laugh more than our characters.

Generally speaking, comic characters are stranger than the real version. Give them flaws and quirks that set up comedy. A good example of a complex extreme character is TV Detective Adrian Monk, whose obsessive-compulsive habits create endless opportunities for humor. His cleansing-wipe fetish alone supplies a running gag that never grows old.

You can also give them funny names. Charles Dickens is a master at this (e.g., Scrooge in A Christmas Carol), as is C.S. Lewis in naming his demons in Screwtape Letters (Screwtape, Wormwood, Slubgob).

Odd appearances, backgrounds, and occupations can contribute to your comic portraits as well. If you yourself claim bizarre relatives and in-laws, with a bit of shake-and-bake, you can use their strangeness to enhance your characters.  

Finally, always create sympathy in the reader for your comic character, even if he is the villain of your novel.  Just because he is funny does not mean he should be one-dimensional. Help your audience understand he is human by giving him complex motivations and at least one likable characteristic, e.g., he may be a murderer, but he is always nice to telemarketers.

If you run out of ideas, ask God, who created many, many funny people, to help you out. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing at—and writing about—you.

Have you crafted a fun comic character? Or did you discover a favorite in someone else’s story?  







1 comment:

  1. Love the image of shake-and-bake characters. So true.