What Makes it Funny?

I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. I usually reread several of them every year. This year I started back at the beginning with One for the Money and have been reading them in order. I’m up to Hot Six now. Even though I know these books inside out, they still make me laugh. And I’m not talking chuckles here. I’m talking full blown honking belly laughs. I know what’s coming and I can’t wait to get to it and let the laughter out. These scenes work over and over again because they are so damn funny. What is the secret to writing a scene that makes it funny no matter how many times you read it? You have to start with great characters. They need to be distinctive, have their own voice, and connect with the reader. Stephanie elicits a lot of sympathy. She’s just trying to make a living, be a loving, supportive daughter, and maybe find love. Her basic problems are everyone’s problems. How do you make it through the day, pay your bills, be there for your family, and find some satisfaction in life? Can you ever get off the treadmill or is this all there is? Stephanie wants some excitement and spice in her life. Who doesn’t? We connect and bond with her basic problems and desires. You can’t make every character in your story a comedian. You need the contrast to show the absurdity. The person narrating the story has to be the sane character in the comedic mix so that the reader connects with them. That way the reader experiences the craziness through...