Fear and Laughter

For the last 3 years I’ve taken part in the T-party‘s writing workshop at Eastercon. This year, a couple of the stories made me think about the difficulty of balancing fear and humour in writing. We all know it’s funny watching someone else walk into a lampost, and much less amusing when it’s us suffering a blinding shooting-stars headache and public humiliation.

It seems to me that the same distancing effect applies in writing – if you’re standing back and laughing at the characters, you’re not feeling what they’re feeling. So, if you’re aiming to write comedy, is there always a trade-off between the laughs and the involvement? If you want a moment to have emotional intensity or integrity, do you have to sacrifice the humour?

I think you do. I don’t think we can expect readers to laugh and feel frightened simultaneously (or upset, or furious, or whatever else we want them to feel through the protagonist).  I think you can have both in the same book, just not at the same time.  But I’m open to persuasion otherwise.

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One thought on “Fear and Laughter

  1. Only in that particular moment, and only mostly. It’s pretty difficult to mix powerful emotions but it can be done – I’m thinking of those great sitcom moments that made you laugh and cry at the same time, or laugh and squirm with embrassment. Some things are going to be contradictions though because fear is your internal emotion and humour is often empathic, linking you together. perhaps.

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