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.