Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Where to Stick It – Three Types of Scenes That are Begging for Humor

By Tiffany Reisz, @TiffanyReisz

Part of the How They Do It Series

Hi Writing Writers!

I’ve got a new erotic novella out today called MISBEHAVING (Harlequin/Cosmo). It’s the story of Beatriz, a sex blogger, who has to write a review of a sex position manual. The only problem is that she’s stuck at her sister Claudia’s wedding without a date. Enter Ben, the one who got away in college who is acting as groomsman to his friend Henry. MISBEHAVING is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which is the precursor to our modern day romantic comedies. My readers who are used to my darker erotic works were shocked to hear I wrote a rom-com. But I had a good reason to do it—I wanted to.

Why write comedy? Why not? Comedy, like pornography, produces a physiological reaction in people—a smile, a laugh, a spit-take. A good laugh is almost as good as an orgasm (almost). Plus humor comes in many forms and the type of humor a person uses can be a great indicator of character. A villain will mock people with insults. A hero will crack a jaunty one-liner in the heat of battle. A shy lover will make a self-deprecating joke at his own expense to mask his nervousness.

If you’re new to incorporating humor into your books, don’t be afraid. It’s easier than you think. If you don’t know where to start, keep reading. I’ve listed three types of scenes (plus examples from MISBEHAVING) that benefit from adding humor.

Scene Type #1 –The Mundane

A man and a woman are having a talk about a minor issue at a mill. Boring! Well, it was boring until the man says “I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition!” and then, suddenly, the Spanish Inquisition bursts through the door. If you have a scene that’s otherwise mundane (walking, chores, discussing trouble at the mill) add humor.

In MISBEHAVING, two sisters, Beatriz the sex blogger and Claudia the bride-to-be, are walking up to a hotel room with a bellhop carrying the bags. Keaton, the bellhop, has one task—get the bags to the room. Since it’s such a boring task, I made Keaton an interesting guy.
“The wedding planner’s driving Henry nuts,” Claudia said. “I’m about ready to hit her myself. Got any connections?”

“I do,” said the bellhop.

Beatriz made a mental note to give the bellhop a good tip.

“Is Mike still single?” Bea asked.

Claudia shook her head. “Nope. He’s here with his girlfriend. Why?”

“I need to get laid,” Bea said. “It’s work-related.”

Claudia nodded. She knew all about Beatriz’s work.

“I have connections there, too,” said the bellhop. Keaton, his name tag indicated.
Instead of just carrying the bags, Keaton the bellhop volunteers the information that he has connections with hit men and prostitutes. That’s not normal behavior for a bellhop and a scene that could be boring now has comic relief. But sadly, not the Spanish Inquisition.

Scene Type #2 – In Bed

“Sex at age ninety is like trying to shoot pool with a rope,” said George Burns and we all laughed at the image. I don’t care if you’re a tween, a teen, or ninety-years-old, a good sex joke makes us all laugh.

If you write for adults, you’ll have sexual content in your books. Don’t be afraid to throw in a sex joke here and there. A good joke makes great foreplay.

In MISBEHAVING, Bea, the sex blogger, and Ben, her partner in sexytimes, are about to review the chapter on blow jobs. She’s sent him a text message summoning him to her room. He could show up to her room with a simple, “I’m here. Let’s do this.” But why waste such a great opportunity for a little verbal foreplay?
“That was fast,” she said, holding the door open for him. She had nothing on but a towel.

“I didn’t want to miss you blowing me in the shower. I’m not late, am I?” He started unbuttoning his shirt.

“I’m not even in the shower yet.”

“Then hurry up,” he said, throwing his shirt off. “You’re late.”
Sex is funny. If you’ve never laughed during sex, you’re doing something wrong.

Scene Type #3 –Under Stress, Distress, or Duress

A would-be assassin shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Most people alive at that time remember two things about this event—the shooter was obsessed with Jodie Foster, and President Reagan cracked jokes at the hospital. Before going under the knife he famously asked the doctors, “You’re all Republicans, right?”

People make jokes when they’re stressed out. It’s a coping mechanism. Stress is a form of distress and distress is a sign that one is in a weak position. But cracking a joke when freaked out or in danger is a sign of strength. At some point in your book, your characters will be scared, upset, or in danger. This is the perfect time to let them get their funny on.

In MISBEHAVING, our hero Ben has tracked down the runaway groom Henry who mistakenly thinks his fiancée has decided she wants an open relationship full of pegging once they’re married (it makes sense in context, I promise). He’s freaked out. Ben’s furious. Perfect time to throw in the funny. (Ed Note: Edited for PG-13-ness)
“Claudia’s never once said anything about our sex life not being enough for her,” Henry said, collapsing into a chair. “She’s never once said she wants to see other people. I asked her once if she wanted to try kinky stuff because she was reading that one kinky book.”

“There’s more than one.”

“Whatever. She said no, that she just liked reading about it and didn’t want to do it. Apparently she lied because my fiancée wants to have sex with other guys and do me up the butt.”

“Maybe she just wants to do the other guys up the butt and not you.”

“If she’s going to do any guy up the butt, it’ll be me.” Henry pointed at himself.
Nobody wants to see a grown man cry. Unless he’s making you laugh while he’s crying. Go ahead and give your heroes some jokes to make while they’re freaking out. Your readers will be entertained and your heroes will look even more heroic if they can be funny in the middle of a crisis.

Humor. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace the wisecracks. Clasp the one-liners to your bosom. Fondle your puns. If you have scenes that are mundane, add comic relief. Got two characters in bed? Throw a joke in with them. Is your hero getting shot at while hiding in an air duct? Have him grumble to himself “Come out to the coast…we’ll get together, we’ll have a few laughs…” (Die Hard reference, if case you’ve been living under a rock).

Also, buy MISBEHAVING if you’re so inclined. It is as funny as ETHAN FROME isn’t.

Tiffany Reisz is the award-winning and internationally best-selling author of The Original Sinners series from MIRA Books. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her on Twitter making butt sex jokes. Follow her at your own risk. @TiffanyReisz



  1. Point taken - I will look specifically for places where a well-cracked joke fits.

    Good idea - to look for the mundane exchanges, and look at them cross-eyed.

    Love your posts.

  2. OMG, how is it that I've never heard that George Burns joke? Oh, the visuals! Tiffany's posts are always entertaining…even with PG-13-ness

  3. I knew you'd be funny in your writing because you have a lot of humor on twitter. Loved the examples and I do think Keaton is my favorite. :) *goes off to look for humor in the WIP*