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  1. #1
    TyrannoLaurus
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    Character Calamities

    Welcome to the first addition of Character Calamities!

    Every fortnight (or thereabouts) I will be posting a new discussion topic for anyone to participate. Each discussion will be focused on a common problem writers stumble over with characterisation. Discussion will not be character-specific but we may find that certain characters are discussed more than others, depending on the theme.

    To begin with we will be discussing:

    Senses of Humour!


    Every character has a sense of humour, just as every person has a sense of humour, but some are more evident than others. Severus Snape, for example, has a dry sarcastic sense of humour that can be easier to write if you, too, have a dry sense of humour. Fred and George are the pranksters, so it is easy to see how they amuse themselves. However, what about Luna and Neville? They clearly get along well together, so how do they make one another laugh? What about Ginny and Harry? Is it easier to find a teenage character's funny bone than an adult's? Characters such as Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall can seem so serious all the time!

    I find characters with a more subtle sense of humour difficult to write, probably because I have a very loud, witty and often sarcastic sense of humour that has everyone knowing I'm part of the conversation. I also struggle with describing practical jokes, even though I have been known to deliver a few.

    Do you find it easier to relate to a character with your sense of humour? Are there some characters you can't help but think have no sense of humour at all?

    Points will be awarded ad hoc for good discussion points in this activity.

  2. #2
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    I would like to throw in another aspect of character humor that is also very much a part of the Potterverse: foils.

    A foil, by definition, is a type of sidekick character or oppositional character that serves to play up the main characters heroticness or other redeaming traits simply through their own lack of them. And although J.K. has said time and time again that she wished for this character to be a reflection of her own dear friend growing up, many people will agree that he clearly fits the bill: Ron Weasley.

    From his fear of spiders, to his ineptitude with the ladies, and general lack of, for better word, "a clue", he accomplishes the task of being Harry's foil in many ways. There is humor in the fact that he is poor, playing up Harry's wealth. There is his fear of spiders, something that can be crushed under your shoe, up against Harry's numerous encounters with horrifying monsters and dark wizards. Even Harry's own lack luster luck with the ladies is played up by the even worse experiences Ron has.

    A foil can be either easy or difficult to write, depending on how you approuch with your own knowlage of the main character and how you choose to portray the foil. With Ron, we see a young wizard, the best friend seen by many as the sidekick, who always seems to always come up just short of Harry. In fact, this also seems to be Ron's biggest source in insecurity, only playing up the role of foil that he has been assigned.

    I myself have written a few foils in my story: a naive, innocently sweet girl in comparison to one who considers herself a blooming sociopath, the happy-go-lucky partier in comparison with the no-nonsense workaholic. Again I say, there are many different ways to write a foil, and it is a technique that can be adapted to fit nearly any kind of sense of humor. It is a technique that has been used by a variety of famous writers, even in Shakespear's Macbeth.

    And many would agree, if it was good enough for the Bard, it is good enough for them. But it is all a matter of how one approuches it.

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  3. #3
    MissyQuill
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    I did take a humour class the term before last and did some reading. I don't know if this will be helpful but I'll post it here anyway. This is a list of verbal and written humour techniques and it helped me tons in defining my style. The secret to doing anything well is knowing what you're dealing with in the first place. So here goes.

    Different Types of Verbal & Written Humor

    Adviser: the comic adviser gives uncalled for advice in a Punch prototype. Ex: Advice to people who want to buy a puppy: Don't.

    Anecdotes: any interesting event, either having to do with a celebrity or something smaller, that helps the humorist make a point. Anecdotes are great for the speaker and writer.

    Aside: a thought added as if something the speaker was saying reminded him of it.

    Banter: good-natured teasing back and forth; exchange of witty remarks.

    Blendword: blending two or three words to make a new word. Ex: smog for smoke and fog.

    Blue Humor: not appropriate for the public speaker. Humor based on easily offensive subjects like making love, body parts, and bodily functions.

    Blunder:wit based on a person who makes a mistake, which makes them appear foolish.

    Bull: a humorous statement that is based on an outrageous contradiction. Ex: "The best people have never had kids."

    Burlesque: a form of satire. Burlesque ridicules any basic style of speech or writing. (Parody makes fun of specific writings.)

    Caricature: exaggeration of a personís mental, physical, or personality traits, in wisecrack form.

    The Catch Tale: a funny story that messes up the reader or listener by implying an awful ending but then stopping with a small declaration.

    Conundrum: a word puzzle that canít be solved because the answer is a pun. Ex: why do cows wear bells? Their horns donít work.

    Epigram: clever, short saying about a general group. Mostly satire about mankind. Two types, wordplay and thought play.

    Exaggerism: an exaggerated witticism that overstates the features, defects, or the strangeness of someone or something.

    Freudian Slip: a funny statement which seems to just pop out, but which actually comes from the personís subconscious thoughts.

    Hyperbole: extreme exaggeration.

    Irony: a leading part of humor. Irony is using words to express something completely different from the literal meaning. Usually, someone says the opposite of what they mean and the listener believes the opposite of what they said.

    Joke: short story ending with a funny climactic twist.

    Nonsensism: inclusive of the epigram and the wisecrack, it is any kind of funny nonsense in speaking form. Nonsensism includes all kinds of absurdity without realistic logic and makes a general observation of absurd reference.

    Parody: humorous version of any well-known writing. Ex: Weird Al Yankovicís "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi".

    Practical Joke: a joke put into action. You hear an oral joke, sees a printed joke, and feel the practical joke. The trick is played on another person and the humor comes from what happens.

    Recovery: a combination of blunder and wit, where a person makes an error, and then saves himself with a fast correction.

    Repartee: includes clever replies and retorts. The most common form is the insult.

    Satire: wit that is critical humor. Satire is sarcasm that makes fun of something.

    Situational Humor: this is comedy that comes from your own life. No one in your audience will have heard it and it can get a group used to you. This type of humor is based on a humorous situation that you have experienced.

    Switching: a common form of switching is changing the main parts of the story, such as the setup or the punch line, and creating a new joke.

    Understatement: making something that is regular or large seem extremely smaller or less. Intentionally down- sizing a large object.

    Wisecrack: any clever remark about a particular person or thing. Wisecracks are quick wordplays about a person.

    Wit: humor, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee. Wit is funny because of the sudden sharpness and quick perception. Wit can bite. Verbal wit is a type of humor known as Wordplay.

    Source: http://library.thinkquest.org/J00226...s_of_humor.htm
    After I got the basics and types of humour, I was able to develope my own style and find out which one I was most comfortable with. I ended up writing a story about Harry and his daughter, Lily for the final of this class. It was the first humour fic I had ever written and the first time I had suggested such an absurd ship as Lily/Mundungus but I liked to think I pulled it off well.=Sammy

  4. #4
    Hermoine Jean Granger
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    Humour in itself, is a relative term. What may be humorous to one may not be humorous to another.


    Do you find it easier to relate to a character with your sense of humour? Are there some characters you can't help but think have no sense of humour at all?
    I wouldn't say so. I have a dry sense of humour and prefer sarcastic and witty replies. But I can't manage to write a humorous anecdote on Snape, who has a similar sense of humour. Providing humorous incidents, without the character becoming too OOC is quite a task, at least for me.

    There are a few characters in potterverse who do not strike me as humorous people. For example Viktor Krum, Prof. McGonagall, Karkaroff and Madam Pomfrey are people who do not seem to have a sense of humour at all.
    ***

  5. #5
    Striped_Candycane
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    I agree with OliveOil_Med in that foils are great ways to bring out humor, and this is because humor often relies on contrasts and the unexpected. These contrasts don't necessarily have to be character vs. character, you could also have contrasts:
    • A character and his environment. Ex: Wizards trying to blend in with Muggles and failing miserably.

    • Between the character and his situation. Ex: Snape's "Would you like me to do it now? Or would you like a few moments to compose an epitaph?" when faced with the fact that he must kill Dumbeldore.

    • Within the characters themselves. Ex: Conina in Terry Pratchett's Sourcery, who wants to be a hairdresser but also has an instinct for silting throats.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hermoine Jean Granger
    Humour in itself, is a relative term. What may be humorous to one may not be humorous to another.
    I agree with this. I think that one reason that some people find things more funny than others is the fact that people relate to different things. People who aren't pranksters don't necessarily enjoy prank-fics as much as those who are. That's also why spoofs are more humorous if you've actually read the book/movie it is based on. I think that to fix this, people who incorporate humorous characters into their fiction should try to be as diverse as possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hermoine Jean Granger
    There are a few characters in potterverse who do not strike me as humorous people. For example Viktor Krum, Prof. McGonagall, Karkaroff and Madam Pomfrey are people who do not seem to have a sense of humour at all.
    I actually think that Viktor Krum can be humorous, even if he doesn't exactly have a sense of humor. (“Vot is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all the good-looking girls are taken?”) And McGonagall definitely provides humor as well ("It unscrews the other way!"). I've got to agree that Karkaroff and Madame Pomfrey aren't particularly humorous, but not everyone has to be funny to have a good humor background in a fic: actually, if everyone was funny, it would be slightly too much and might even lessen the value of humorous characters in the fic.

    That's all for now!

    ~Veronica

    P.S. That's quite a list, Sammy! That'll come in handy...

  6. #6
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    One must also take into account the type of humor that would work well in front of a camera, and ones that could not possibly be portrayed in the written word.

    Let's take, for example, the slapstick comedy of The Three Studges. Such a type of comedy can be hilarious when watched on television, but the same level of humor is almost impossible to replicate in a story. A lot of it may have a lot to do with timing. In television, the joke is delivered to you instantly and you do not even have to think about why it is funny. But in the written word, the reader must visualize the scene in their minds eye and then consider why it is humorous. After all that time has passed, the joke has lost its novelty and the reader is simpley bored with the whole thing.

    I believe that is why a lot of the humor discussed in the Potter books has to do with dialogue. Witty banter can easily be made funny in a story, while action scenes are best left to more visual forms of entertainment.

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  7. #7
    Nundu
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    Quote Originally Posted by Striped_Candycane
    I actually think that Viktor Krum can be humorous, even if he doesn't exactly have a sense of humor. (ďVot is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all the good-looking girls are taken?Ē) And McGonagall definitely provides humor as well ("It unscrews the other way!"). I've got to agree that Karkaroff and Madame Pomfrey aren't particularly humorous, but not everyone has to be funny to have a good humor background in a fic: actually, if everyone was funny, it would be slightly too much and might even lessen the value of humorous characters in the fic.
    There is a difference between characters that have a sense of humor and characters that are humorous. Some of the characters that have a distinct sense of humor in the HP world are, for instance, Fred & George (obviously), Harry, Ron, Ginny, Snape and Flitwick. On the other hand many people do not find Fred and George amusing because they don't enjoy slapstick, (perceived) violence or degradation amusing. Krum and McGonagall amuse the reader by their subtle actions rather than the blatant joke. That goes back to Sammy's list (an excellent and succinct one!).

    The best humor, in my humble opinion, is humor that is done subtly. Subtle is hard to write sometimes, but when it works right the writer and the reader are rewarded.
    Quote:
    I walked into my house and surveyed the bleak scene before me. Oh, goody. Blood was smeared on the walls in bizzare patterns- I thought cave men had died out a long time ago?- and glass was all over the carpet, completely ruining the soft woven fibres I had paid an extra two pounds per square metre for. What a mess. Couldn't the forces of evil at least be courteous enough to clean up after themselves? Gulping, I took one more step.
    This, Stubbornly Appeared, is a brilliant example! You took an overwrought setting and response and gave the character a readily recognizable personality! Even when writing an 'angsty', emo story, injections of humor, when done well, make the story more interesting.

    Look to JKRowling as an example. Even as the story got darker and heavier, there were still interjections of humor. It kept the story from becoming maudlin. Your story needs shades of light and dark. Think of it as a picture. If a picture is all dark, you can't see the details. Add some light!

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