Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Laugh a Minute: Guest Post by Author Patricia Green

Did you ever read a book where the characters giggle, guffaw, and laugh like they were lunatics? It sometimes seems like everything is a joke to this kind of character, and often it's annoying. Laughter at a good joke is okay, or an outrageous situation, or the occasional nervous giggle is good, but how much is too much? It isn't funny to portray a character like this, and can make me put a book aside as "too silly."

Classic novels, such as Gone With the Wind, portray some characters as less intelligent because they laugh too often or too quickly. The giggling girls in Gone With the Wind, make Scarlett that much more full of herself as she peppers her flirtation with well-timed smiles and withheld laughter.
What is it about giggling and tittering that makes a character seem shallow or dull-witted? Even in real life, we've encountered the type of person who finds everything funny. It kind of makes you suspicious. Are they laughing with us or about us? No one is that happy that often. Maybe it's like a nervous tic, in which case we have to wonder what they're so skittish about. Is it all fluff, or is it deception?

When I write, I like to have my characters laugh in appropriate spots. If something strikes me as funny, I will probably share my laughter with the character I'm writing. I think that's natural, and more realistic. Rarely do I use laughing as a device to make someone look foolish, though that is certainly a useful trope; it certainly worked for Margaret Mitchell. 

I find that well-written books which portray themselves as "comedic" rarely have the characters laugh at their own jokes. They rely on the readers to supply the grins and guffaws. It's almost ironic. And yet, who can resist laughing with a happily squealing baby in a video? There must be some autonomic relationship between real life giddiness and a similar reaction in the viewer. Humor is infectious, though less so in books for some reason.

Have you ever read a book where the laughter (not yours, the characters') was non-stop? How did you feel about it? Did it make you laugh along?

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