Friday, January 28, 2022

Don't Forget To Add Some Humor

As you may or may not know, I like to write mystery novels. Most of the time, these novels drift toward the dark side of genuine whodunits--the classical novels of the past which offered up deep puzzles to solve filled lots of red-herrings, false clues, multiple suspects, and dead bodies splayed out across the landscape like some madman's midnight garden of murder.

Okay. Dark and grim. But what about inserting a little humor into these nightmares? Not the aching belly-laughs of slapstick comedy. But maybe the kind of humor that might only make you smile suddenly and without warning. Or the kind of humor that offers up a chuckle or two as you tag along with a couple of characters who interact with each other in unpredictable ways. Humor designed to make either the protagonist or the antagonist more human. More interesting to the reader.

Below is the opening few paragraphs of another Turner Hahn/Frank Morales police-procedural novel (yes, I know; I talk about these two characters far to often. I actually DO write about other characters.) The novel will be called Two To Worry About. It'll be the fifth book in the series. And you'll instantly note I've broken one of the cardinal rules about writing. Never open a book fiction novel about the weather (this will lead into another discussion about The Rules of Writing Fiction at a later date).

Here's the opening. Two characters interacting with each other. See if it elicits a smile and stretches your
lips back just a little bit. And consider the thought about how the opening suggests how the entire novel is going to be like.





It was raining. And no, pilgrim—not just the polite, early summer rain most prefer to see. This was a hot summer’s rain. A late August thunderstorm with jagged flashes of billion-kilowatt lightning strokes and teeth-rattling claps of thunder. It was like watching the one-eyed Odin opening the flood gates in Valhalla and stepping back and laughing hysterically at what was about to come. It was a biblical deluge straight off the fingertips of a pissed-off Old Testament god.

It was raining. And it wasn’t going to let up until it was damn good and ready.

Standing on the top step of the apartment building, eyeing the rain and the growing Venice-like canals beginning to build in the streets, I was beginning to think maybe I should add a WWII Army amphibious duck to my collection of Muscle Cars from the 60’s through the 90’s. But the cautious opinion changed to a firm commitment when my partner-in-crime stepped up on the top step with me and shook off the rain like a wet husky shaking the water out of his furry coat.

“Just got the word, buddy. There’s a report out a house boat sank on the Patterson bypass near 123rd street. Sixteen people and two monkeys had to be rescued by fire department rescue helicopters. The city’s Emergency Preparedness Office said no one should drive their cars unless they have diving gear in the car with them. You do have life-preservers and a couple of pairs of aqua-lungs in the Shelby GT's trunk, don’t you?”

I half turned and eyed Frank and grunted noncommittally.  

Frank thinks he’s a comedian. And most of the time he can be with his odd, twisted sense of humor. But hard to imagine a six-foot-four, three hundred pound red-headed genetic freak to be humorous. Scary as hell, oh yeah. But funny? His brand of humor—and even the man himself—are acquired tastes. You either like the guy. Or you don’t. I happen to like the guy. Most of the time.

But maybe not today.