How Much is Too Much? – Humor

This one is a bit difficult. Obviously, if you’re writing humor, it’s not going to be too much unless you aren’t consistent. For the sake of all our sanity, I’ll just focus on humor as an element within fantasy.

One of my favorite Hamline professors taught us that, as important as tragedy is to drive plot and stakes, humor is important to keep character and reader alike from getting too depressed. And, of course, it’s never easy.

The wrong use of humor, the wrong time for humor, or too much humor can jar a reader right out of their suspension of disbelief. For me, there are just a couple of points at which humor crosses the line to not-humor.

The first is misplaced humor—when a character makes a joke at a wildly inappropriate time. For instance, in a moment of great tension and danger when the stakes are at their highest, a character cracks a joke. That same joke might have been funny a page or two earlier before the tension had risen to this point, but right now I just want to see the battle rage so I can find out what happens.

The second is when a story has too much humor. If a book is billed as being an exciting adventure story, but none of the characters has a serious bone in their body, it’s going to liquefy the stakes. How can the adventure be all that important if even the very characters treat it like it’s just a joke?

Unlike with world-building, I think I have less patience for tomfoolery. I enjoy a good joke but I’m almost as picky with jokes as I am with tacos (I am very picky about my tacos).

Of course there are exceptions (I say this so as not to be inundated with reasons as to why I’m wrong). Still, I’m curious as to where you, my readers, draw the line? Do you have more patience or less?

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