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Friday, May 17, 2013

Alyse Carlson - When Murder is a Laughing Matter



Mystery readers come in all shapes and sizes, so it really shouldn't be surprising they come in all variety of preferences, eh? But Cozy Mystery readers are a breed off from most... I believe they are perhaps gentler spirits, if no less inquisitive. They want the thrill of the mystery and the solving of it, but they don't care for the blood and guts of death; they aren't driven by the police procedural matters. They seem to care more about character development, and... strangely, they like their murder with some laughs...

That isn't to say the murder itself is comical—it needs to still be believable—but probably it is best if the reader never came to LIKE the guy... in fact a despicable victim is preferable... one that LOTS of people might like to see dead.  But still... the death itself isn't the funny part. So what is?

Characters, mostly.

Characters can be funny because they have a fine sense of humor (or are snarky). I try to always have at least a couple characters that readers would really want to hang out with—the kind of people you SHARE laughter with.  Annie, in particular, channels my silliest moments and I have a ball with any interaction between she and my MC, Cam.

Others are a little ridiculous, or annoying in a way that is funny, provided you don't actually have to spend time with these people. Life is full of these folks—nit-picky people, people with ridiculously high expectations, people with personality quirks. I love using folks like this for my background cast—most of the garden society is made up of nice people, but most of them also have a quirk or two that is amusing.

And then there are the obnoxious people: people so brazen that jaws drop. At least one of these folks will end up dead... and one or two more will end up on the suspect list, though some portion of suspects are also decent folks. But it is human nature to include a few obnoxious people when writing out that suspect list.

And then there are the situational opportunities.

I find having somebody ask my MC to do something she'd really rather no is often a fabulous place to infuse a little humor.

Or when characters who are snooping have to cover... either hiding, running, making up a story...

And there is ALWAYS gallows humor.

So how do you like your humor in mysteries, or other typically dark genres?

Begonia Bribe Blurb

Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a pint-sized beauty contest comes to town, someone decides to deliver a final judgment …

A beauty pageant for little girls—the Little Miss Begonia Pageant—has decided to hold their event in a Roanoke park. Camellia is called in to help deal with the botanical details, the cute contestants, and their catty mothers. She soon realizes that the drama onstage is nothing compared to the judges row. There’s jealousy, betrayal, and a love triangle involving local newsman—and known lothario—Telly Stevens. And a mysterious saboteur is trying to stop the pageant from happening at all.

But the drama turns deadly when Stevens is found dead, poisoned by some sort of plant. With a full flowerbed of potential suspects, Cam needs to dig through the evidence to uproot a killer with a deadly green thumb.

Hart Johnson (aka: Alyse Carlson) writes books from her bathtub and can be found at:
Confessions of a Watery Tart: http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/ 

24 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love humor in mysteries! And I think you do a great job with the balance in yours. Great tips for finding ways to infuse humor in our mysteries--I think situational humor is my favorite!

Dana said...

Hi Hart! Sounds like a blast - nothing like catty stage moms for dramadey. And I do enjoy gallows humor. You're on my summer reading list :)

mshatch said...

Actually, I hadn't thought about it before but knowing there's humor in your book makes me even more interested to read - and I love gallows humor! Nice to see you here, Hart :)

Hart Johnson said...

(this is Alyse, sans pen name, BTW)

Thank you, Elizabeth! You do a fabulous job of it, too!

Dana-I'm honored! I hope you enjoy it!

Marcy-great to see you, too! Yeah--the darkness and humor make nice compliments, eh?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Snarky always does it for me! Like the subtle, dry humor as well.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, Alex, you've stumped me! What does subtle mean again? *shifty*

Connie said...

As far as I’m concerned, I would love to find humor in any genre that I read. I think it really adds to any story and keeps it real. Gallows humor is fabulous too. I guess you could say that I just love to laugh. Why not? Life is too harsh by itself so being able to laugh at things really “helps the medicine go down.” :-)

I’m looking forward to reading “The Begonia Bribe” and as I’m a crazy cat lady, I have to add that I adore the cat on the cover of the book!

Arlee Bird said...

Very cool. Every time I see your book cover I get drawn into that splash of colors. It's so mesmerizing. I also like Roanoke.

Lee
A Faraway View
An A to Z Co-host blog

Jai said...

I like snarky humor.
I really love this book cover, all the vibrant colors and a cat.

Tina said...

Snarky is really good. Cam's sister is pretty snarky...but my favorite parts are Cam and Annie. Together, they're like me and my best friend. And yes, continue to kill the jerks. Love that.
Tina @ Life is Good

Hart Johnson said...

Connie-I love that cat, too! I really hope you enjoy the book!

Lee-I love my cover artists. I think they've done the great job of that shelf advantage.

Jai-I like snarky humor, too. And it seems to come naturally for me *shifty*

Tina-Oh, Petunia!!! She is definitely snarky. But I DO have the most fun with Cam and Annie and I'm sure that shows.

Deniz Bevan said...

I love humour in mysteries, and I'm always a little awed by it. Humour is one thing I don't seem able to write in very well...

Carol Kilgore said...

I like almost all kinds of humor. Especially when the situation is dire.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh Deniz, I bet you could do it! Just make a practice of acting goofy in real life! I think it takes some letting go because there is a fear people might laugh for the wrong reason, but with some practice, it's liberating.

Carol-absolutely! The direr the better... erm...

Pat Cochran said...

I love the connections: the garden society,
the flowery cover, and the heroine's name.
And I love mysteries!

Pat C.

Johanna Garth said...

I loved the humor in Azalea Assault and am looking forward to similar giggles in Begonia Bribe!

Helena said...

It must be kinda fun to kill off jerks and unpleasant people, and then to investigate those deaths with some snark and style is even better.

Hart Johnson said...

Pat-oh, the gardening word games are a hoot!

Johanna-THANK YOU!!!

Helena, it IS satisfying.

Powdered Toast Man said...

I love funny characters in a mystery. I loved the book The Lion's Game. The MC was a sarcastic ass and it was great.

Adina West said...

Kudos to you for writing humour, Alyse - it's not one of my strong points! But I like your observation about your readers preferring if the character who ends up dead wasn't that nice in the first place. I think I subconsciously do the same in my writing. Kill off your favourites? Break not just the reader's heart, but your own too? No way! Sigh. Think I might have to learn to toughen up. :-)

Hart Johnson said...

Jamie-sarcastic asses really CAN be hysterical.

Adina-Oh yeah... killing nice people is HEARTBREAKING. I killed a dog in on of my WiPs and cried through writing the entire thing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sounds like you have a lot of fun with your quirky characters.

VR Barkowski said...

Humor is a necessity! I write dark and primarily depend on cynicism, irony, and sarcasm to fuel the humor element. Also snark. Smart snarkiness transcends genre.

VR Barkowski

Eli Yanti said...

I like humor in mysteries