Writing - The Light Side

"Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at." 


At appropriate intervals, characters (and readers) need to take a break from a story's intense action. Writers plunge their characters into one abyss after another by a variety of means. Sometimes, the reader needs to enjoy life, breathe, and experience humor. 



Humor. Not slapstick, goofy, cartoon-like humor, but quirky traits and unique circumstances that show characters as fully developed individuals with a funny side. This applies to protagonists and antagonists alike. 


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes, "Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at." 


How can a writer accomplish this? Here are a few ways to lighten life in novels by using already-established character traits: 


  1. The reader appreciates a serious character with dry wit. Although other characters may not understand the sarcasm or play on words, the reader will. The situation becomes a private joke, allowing the reader to be part of the creative process of the story. 

  1. Banter between characters moves the reader to value the intelligence of the story's players and the wisdom of the writer. 

  1. Assigning unique traits that are unlikely yet convincing shows a real character. 

  1. Exaggerate a character trait for comic relief. If a character's only purpose is to amuse, give them a role in the plot where the display of humor is fresh and unexpected. 

  1. Using sarcasm to an extreme is hurtful, so avoid that technique for the protagonist, unless it is a flaw the character is trying to overcome. Readers expect antagonists to use sarcasm. Imagine a protagonist who vows to rid sarcasm from their personality pinned against an antagonist who easily has their feelings hurt. This can be humorous, but a writer needs to carefully consider a condescending protagonist. 

  1. Unexpected situations can provide a chuckle. Think about pest control commercials. An unsuspecting couple opens the door to a low-life roach. We laugh because it's impossible, but we also understand how unwanted pests can invade our homes. Use humor to ease the character through a tough situation. 

  1. Avoid too many verbs that tell how a character laughs, unless the story is a comic book. 

  1. Overdone humor or inappropriate ridicule will cause a story to fall flat. The goal is for humor to display the writer's creativity and to show a well-rounded character. 



The light side of protagonists and antagonists paves the way for highly developed and well-rounded characters. Using a comical technique is essential for a writer who specializes in humorous stories, and a sprinkling in the most serious of stories adds flavor and variety. 


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels with threads of romance. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?  

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards, Golden Scroll, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.