Tips on Writing Humor, Part II

"You're mad, bonkers, completely out of your head.
But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
                                                                        ~Lewis Carroll
By Linda Wilson   @LinWilsonauthor

This month, Part Two of "Tips on Writing Humor" takes a peek at how farce and sarcasm are used in fiction.


In my search for humorous reads, I picked up the perfect book: The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs,  from the hilarious trilogy about Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld, author of that great triumph of Germanic scholarship, Portuguese Irregular Verbs. The book is by Alexander McCall Smith, the prolific and illustrious author of many other series, including the popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I enjoy all of McCall-Smith's books, though I found the Von Igelfeld trilogy the most delightful. Anyone can take these books at face value and enjoy them. But I had to keep my wits about me, for I was on an important comedic quest. So, hang on. Some of what I found may not seem to pertain to writing, but as I quickly learned how LARGE the subject of humor is, I realized I wanted to learn as much as I could in order to use humor effectively.

Von Igelfeld goes to America

In his article, "An Anatomy of Farce," Michael Arditti helped me make sense of the premise behind Von Igelfeld's shenanigans. "The action of a farce is propelled by panic, with characters lying to save face, which compounds their troubles since they now have to deal not only with the original problem but also they lie and hence they behave even more bizarrely."

Not to be outdone by his colleague, Printzel, who had been invited to America, Von Igelfeld connived to obtain an invitation to visit America himself, and leave before Printzel had a chance to go. He believed he better represented German philology, his area of expertise, far better than the inferior Printzel. Off Von Igelfeld went, not to prestigious-sounding New York or California, but to the University of Arkansas in the Ozark mountains. Upon arrival, Von Igelfeld is flummoxed by his host's insistence on visiting his hog operation before anything else. The professor  " . . . sniffed the air; it was distinctly malodorous." Arditti writes, "In farce, after the first ten minutes there’s no time to make jokes because they’re so busy running around;  the laughs come from character and situation. The biggest laughs in farce are on lines like “what?”

Von Igelfeld is equally confused by the farmer's questions on doses of vitamin C, B, potassium. We soon realize Von Igelfeld's dilemma when he finds he has been mistaken for Professor Martin Igelfold, author of Further Studies of Canine Pulmonary Efficiency, and the world authority on sausage dogs, from the University of M√ľnster. While Von Igelfeld has come to America to discuss verbs, he finds that he is expected to lecture to an audience of scientists, veterinarians, and dog breeders on a subject he knows nothing about: sausage dogs. (He didn't know that sausage dogs were first brought to America by German settlers in the 1890s and bred  here ever since). And so the lies begin. And grow to monstrous proportions in the professor's attempts to save face. Even later he maintains his cool when confronted by a guest who pulls him aside to tell him how sorry he was to read about his death. But no worries, professor. The guest assured him his obituary had been a glowing account.

Satire 101

Satire can be directed toward an individual, a country, or even the world. It can be serious, as when used as a protest or for exposure. In humor it is used to make fun of something or someone. At its best, satire is used as a vehicle for improvement. Here is as example of how Mark Twain used satire:

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written shortly after the Civil War, in which slavery was one of the key issues. While Mark Twain's father had enslaved people throughout his childhood, Twain did not believe that this practice was right in any way. Through the character of Jim, and the major moral dilemma that followed Huck throughout the novel, Twain mocks enslavement and makes a strong statement about the way people treated enslaved people."

Verbal and Dramatic Irony: In irony, words are used to show the opposite of the actual meaning. An example of verbal irony is when a friend shows up for dinner and the host says, "Look who the cat dragged in." Described in several ways in the article "Types of Irony," dramatic irony is:

Considered by many writers as a potent tool for exciting and sustaining readers' interest

A plot device used to create situations where the reader knows much more about the episodes and resolutions before the characters

Involves the reader, raises expectations, intensifies episodes, and propels stories forward.

Examples of dramatic irony include Shakespeare's plays, such as Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet; Animal Farm by George Orwell, where the reader is aware of many more facts than the animals. O. Henry's short story, "The Gift of the Magi" is an excellent example:

  • A poor couple, very much in love, want to give a Christmas gift to one another. "She is very proud of her long, beautiful hair and he is equally proud of his pocket watch. The irony comes in to play when she cuts and sells her hair to buy him a chain for his watch, and he sells the watch to buy her combs for her hair." 

Parody: Directly mimics a subject for a humorous effect. A well-known example is how Saturday Night Live often parodies movies, commercials and television shows. As described at, in literature Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, parodied, " . . . in the style of Spanish romances of the 16th century to mock the idealism of knights in the contemporary romances." When combined with satire, parody can make satire more effective. It adds flavor and helps keep the reader's interest. In order to be successful, the original subject must be thoroughly known. 

Sarcasm: Sharp or cutting remarks get their meaning across with sarcasm, but need to be made with a light touch in order to be humorous and not hurtful. Some of the most famous funny sarcastic remarks were made by Groucho Marx: "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception," and ""Marriage is the chief cause of divorce."

For Kicks and Giggles

Screwball Comedy: Now I learned something here. At first, movies like Dumb and Dumber immediately came to mind as examples of screwball comedy. But according to the Wiki definition, Dumb and Dumber is an example of slapstick comedy, the type of comedy portrayed by absurd situations and physical antics. Screwball comedy originated in Hollywood, and lasted from 1934 to 1942. Like Some Like it Hot and The Philadelphia Story, this type of movie offered up romantic comedies with farcical situations; such films provided escape and offered hope during the Great Depression. The romantic comedy Date Night, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, is noted as containing some screwball comedy elements. Goodreads provides a short list of current screwball comedy books at

Dark Comedy: Takes an otherwise serious subject and makes it humorous, such as in HBO's True Blood series about vampires living among the residents of Bon Temps, Mississippi. Examples in literature include, Kurt Vonnegut's books, Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, and A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess.

More Ways to Exercise your Funny Bone

Amuse yourself and take honest pleasure in your amusement. Dinty Moore, from How to Be Funny, edited by John B. Kachuka

Be honest. Characters need to make choices that feel real in the context of the world that you've created. Dinty Moore, from How to Be Funny, edited by John B. Kachuka

Your humor must move the story forward or illuminate your theme. Justin Halpern

Surprise Yourself: Take the world as it is and show it to us upside-down. You must surprise yourself first. You must be . . . a bit of an anarchist, someone who doesn't mind shouting a bit, or telling ani-knock knock jokes. Robin Hemley, "Relaxing the rules of Reason," from How to Be Funny, Kachuka.

Keep a Humor Log: Collect funny names and incidences. When you find yourself laughing at something, or something funny occurs to you, write it down. If writing for children, note what age group the humor might appeal to. "Writing Humor--But, Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alpern, Writer's Digest, January 1982.

Listen to humor in TV shows: Go into another room and listen to television comedies; listen for the plot development, the setup, placement and rhythm of funny lines and the building to a climax. "Writing Humor--But, Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alpern, Writer's Digest, January 1982.

Read humor analyses by such comics as Jack Benny and Johnny Carson. I've begun by buying, How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba, which is a compilation of essays by humorists and is chock full of good advice.


A Packrat's Holiday won first
place for fiction, ages 3-8, in the
New Mexico Press Women's
2022 Communications Contest, and
went on to win first place
in the National Press Women's Contest

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at the links for free coloring pages and a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

Connect with Linda: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram  



Five Ways to Find the Inspiration to Write

by Suzanne Lieurance

Sometimes it’s tough to start writing, or to finish something you started writing weeks, or even months, earlier.

You just don’t have the inspiration needed to get any work done.


Fortunately, it's easier than you think to find a source of inspiration that will motivate you and keep you on the right path towards your writing goals.


Here are five quick and easy ways to find the inspiration to write:


1.    Use motivational quotes and affirmations.


It seems that no matter how many times you read or hear your favorite quote, it resonates with you almost as much as the very first time you heard it. 


Adding to your collection will bring you an ever-flowing well of new inspiration.

My favorite quote comes from Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, either way, you're right."

But you should probably start with the affirmation, “I am a writer.”


It’s simple and direct and signals to your subconscious (when repeated over and over, daily) that you are already who you want to be—a writer!


2.    Find inspirational imagery.


Sometimes you come across inspiration by spotting something in nature, like a beautiful sunset or freshly fallen snow. 


Other times you may be inspired by a photograph, an image in a book, or a painting at an art gallery. 


An image can also remind you of your destination, which will motivate you to work ever more swiftly with laser-like focus to reach your goal.


For example, if your goal is to earn enough money as a writer to one day live at the beach, then find a beautiful photo of the beach and tack it above your writing desk, where you will see it each time you sit down to write.


Once you find an image like this that inspires you, rely upon it during stressful or difficult times as a visual reminder to keep moving forward.


3.    Confide in strangers.


It might seem surprising that a source of inspiration can be to talk to strangers when out and about. 


There's an understood confidentiality clause with strangers. 


Because of the anonymity factor, people may become comfortable with someone they may never see again.


Plus, someone you meet by chance can bring you a new perspective on old challenges. 


The next time you're out, try striking up a friendly conversation and share your thoughts about writing and the fact that you are a writer.


4.    Let your neighbors inspire you with their stories.


When you hear someone's story of personal triumph or hardship, while you’re standing in line at the neighborhood post office or sitting in the waiting room at your local doctor's office, you just may be able to relate to this person.


Because you are neighbors or friends, it's as if you have an instant connection. 


Their story could very well be yours, with a few different details. 


Seek out their stories and let them inspire you!


5.    Watch motivational videos.


Websites like YouTube offer a plethora of motivational and inspirational videos. 


Some videos, such as the late Randy Pausch's poignant "Last Lecture," has inadvertently inspired millions, even though it was originally intended for a much more personal audience.


People often use YouTube to tell their stories, share successes, and offer advice or encouragement. 


When facing a challenge, or if you need some words of wisdom from someone who's "been there, done that," you'll surely find inspiration here.


The next time you feel like you need some extra inspiration, try these sources. 


You may be surprised at how well they can help to get you working towards your goals and being the writer you’ve always wanted to be.


And, for more tips, articles, and other resources for writers, subscribe to Coaching Monthly magazineThe July issue is all about Inspiration.

Suzanne Lieurance is the award-winning author of over 40 published books, a speaker, and a writing coach who 
lives and writes by the sea on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Learn more at 




How To Create a "Blook"


By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin)

After working with hundreds of authors on their books for decades as well as writing more than 60 nonfiction books for traditional publishers, I understand every book (of any type) has challenges to complete. The challenges are on multiple levels whether your book is for young readers or adults.

Last month I wrote about why I’m still blogging. Writing a blog is a fun way to capture your thoughts and also build an audience to attract publishers. Since 2008, I’ve been blogging and have a massive amount of content (over 1,600 entries). Years ago, I was aware of the large volume of content in my blog. I decided to take this writing, organize it into themes (or chapters) and create a nonfiction book. I did this creative process on my own initiative. After the fact, I discovered it was something others have successfully done with their blog content. Within the publishing industry, someone created a word for the process: Blook—where the content of a blog becomes a book.

A Bunch of Blog Posts Do Not Mean You Have a Book

It’s wonderful to have pages of content but that alone doesn’t mean you have a book. There are a series of questions which need to be answered:

Are these posts focused on the right audience? Is it an audience you can reach or are reaching? Every book needs readers. Thousands of new books enter the marketplace every day. Your book must be for a particular reader because no book is for “everyone.” New writers often include the “everyone” audience in their pitch—and if you have it, eliminate it because the editor or agent will probably roll their eyes and be likely to reject.

Can you organize the posts into themes (or chapters)? I looked at the various chapters as a long magazine article. Each chapter needs to have an interesting title, a solid beginning, middle and ending with a singular focus for the reader.

Create A Distinctive Book

Can you create some distinctions with your book to make it stand out from others? 

I asked Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul to write the foreword. In fact, I drafted a foreword for Mark to read and approve (which he did). As a writer, you have to make it easy for the person you are asking to say, “yes.” I have more detail about this process of getting endorsements in this link

I created a button on the front with $84 of Free Ebooks of additional value for the reader. 

I selected and purchased cartoons for every other chapter to add to the interior appeal. 

I created two reader applications sections at the end of each chapter: Dig Deeper and Awaken Your Dreams. 

These features are only a few of what I built into the fiber of this book.

There are numerous questions that you as the author have to answer in this process. Originally I self-published Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and sold several thousand copies. I worked through a number of other questions in the self-publishing process. I made sure I created a high-quality product which I would compare to anything from a traditional publisher (an important distinction). Then a few years ago I released an updated edition with Morgan James Publishing. The book continues to help many people. Recently a reader sent me an image where he had marked his book as he read it. 

Without question, blooks take work to organize and pull together. My friend editor and writing coach Nina Amir gives a lot more detail in her book, How To Blog A Book (Writers Digest Books). 

Every kind of book takes careful effort and creativity to pull together into a single product.  Making a “blook” is another way to accomplish this process. Have you used this technique? How did it work out for you? Let me know in the comments below.


Are you looking for a different way to create your book? This prolific writer and editor tells how to make a “blook. Learn the details here. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. To download a free copy, click the book link or the image. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Grow Contract Awareness for Magazine Work


Grow Contract Awareness for Magazine Work by Deborah Lyn Stanley

As we grow writing skills and expertise through magazine submittals for publication, we must be contract wise.

Magazine work is a great way to earn money and to promote various topics to gage readership response. The online world has made it possible for the rapid growth of digital magazine publications. So, be sure to research the magazines that catch your interest for the right fit for you and your audience. Plus, a topic focused specialty is attractive to a publisher.

Once you land a deal with a publisher, a contract will follow. If for some reason, no contract is sent to you, create your own. Don’t work without a contract describing all conditions.

Contracts cover all pertinent information and must be considered point by point. Take it slow and break it down item by item. Be thoroughly aware of the publisher’s expectations and your commitments. For example, the delivery date must be doable.

The Contract’s main and subsections include:
1.    Payment method and rate
       a.    Payment upon acceptance or on publication, but typically between 30-90 days
2.    Rights and responsibilities
       a.    First North American Serial Rights,
             1.    Provides the publisher exclusive rights to be the first to publish your article. Note the time   period for this exclusivity, commonly 90 days.
       b.    One Time Rights,
              1.    Gives the publisher the right to publish your article one time
       c.    Second Serial Rights or Reprint Rights,
              1.    Grants the publisher a nonexclusive right to publish, one time, a piece already published somewhere else.
       d.    All Rights
             1.    You are selling all the rights to your article to the publisher—this takes careful consideration. What if you want to publish the article somewhere else? And, what if they rework the piece so much that it’s not yours any longer?
       e.    Electronic Rights
             1.    This means all forms of electronic media: CE’s, DVD’s, games, apps, etc.
3.    Deadlines, format for delivery, and Word count
4.    Magazines often have their preferred contract format; However, I have included two links that might help you get acquainted with a couple.

Basics Tip: An essay is all about the writer; whereas, an article is all about the reader. An essay is an analytical or interpretative composition, and an article is informational non-fiction prose.

Helpful Resources:
Writing for Magazine - Is It the Perfect Job for You?  By Suzanne Lieurance

Contributor’s Agreement Sample  — 

Memorandum Agreement Sample —   

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at:   
Visit her caregiver’s website:

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:

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Grow Your Skills with Magazine Publication

Grow Your Skills with Magazine Publication by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Grow your writing skill and expertise with Magazine Publication. It is a great way to monetize your writing and to promote various topics for readership response.

The good news is the online world has made it possible for the rapid growth of digital magazine publications. Be sure to research the magazines that catch your interest, for the right fit for you and your audience. Also, specializing in a particular genre is attractive to a magazine publisher.

The list of Genres/Categories for magazine writing is extensive but here are a few for your consideration:
•    Consumer topics
•    Trends
•    Local news, highlighting merchants or events
•    Interviews with notable people in a field or industry
•    True crime
•    Sports
•    Parenting
•    Trade Journals
•    Health & Safety, Alternative Health
•    Aging, Seniors
•    Retirement
•    Travel
•    Humor
•    How-To
•    Arts & Crafts
•    Food & Cooking
•    Personal Essays
•    Writing to Inspire
•    Business to Business
•    Seasonal and Holiday pieces
Tip: An essay is all about the writer; whereas, an article is all about the reader. An essay is an analytical or interpretative composition, and an article is informational non-fiction prose.

Uncovering New Topic Ideas:
•    Do you have a notable vacation spot in your area?
•    Do you like to Travel?
•    Do you have specific or specialized knowledge for a certain topic? Write about it.
•    Are you into car repair and maintenance? Write tips and money-saving ideas.
•    Start a clipping file of articles, columns, newspaper/journalistic reports that have captured your attention, interest, or imagination.

Helpful questions to evaluate each selection you research:
•    Use a Marketing Guide to select the periodicals you want to study.
•    Would you be proud to promote the magazine and your writing included there?
•    What is the magazine’s specialty? Will your work fit?
•    How long is its typical article—300-500 words and an occasional 1,000-word piece?
•    Do the articles include the advice from experts? Is it an interview?
     What are the expert’s qualifications? How many quotes are included?
•    Which magazine would increase your byline influence?
•    Would the periodical send readers to your website or blog for more?
•    Does the magazine have a good reputation?
•    What is its readership base?
•    Would you consider working with a smaller magazine?
•    Does the magazine offer online and print subscription? Where would your work run—online and print?
•    Check your market guidebook and the magazine’s website for detailed submittal requirements.
•    Are the submittal requirements doable for you? Make detailed notes of the submittal process conditions missing no requirement, as the process varies from magazine to magazine. Don’t let a missed detail in your submittal be grounds for dismissal of your piece.
•    Does the magazine accept simultaneous submittals?
•    Consistently double check found information to confirm it as a credible resource.
•    Disclose your sources of information.
•    Use your personal experience, & be your own expert!

The “Writer’s Market” is an excellent resource to find the magazine that fits for your piece or interest.
•    Contact information for departments for freelancers
•    What they are looking for
•    Conditions for query letters
•    Word count requirements
•    Pay rate
•    Tips for landing an assignment.

Links of Interest
• 21 Magazines for freelance writing jobs:

• Robert Lee Brewer: Writing Submissions for Magazines: How to Submit Writing to a Magazine


Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at:   
Visit her caregiver’s website:

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:


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Featured Productivity Tool: Get Organized

Want to be productive? First, get organized!
When you are organized, you spend less time looking for things and more time writing, working, or making progress on one of your numerous passion projects.
Last month, I talked about getting organized on #GoalChatLive with Molly Beran, Projects By Molly, LLC; Deborah Thomas-Nininger, DTN Productions International; and Stacey Soleil, Follow Up Boss. We had a rapid-fire, advice-packed conversation. Molly, Deborah, and Stacey share why they love being organized and how they do it, as well as why people find being organized a challenge, organization tips, and much more. 

Goals for Getting Organized

To be better organized, start by setting goals. I say, set appointments for all your activities, including the time you spend getting organized time. Also, categorize your projects and put them in separate folders (electronic or actual).  

  • Molly: Make a todo list on a post-it note. It’s small, so just enough room for things you can do; this helps you build momentum
  • Deborah: Prepare on Friday for the following week
  • Stacey: Start your day before looking at your phone

Final Thoughts 

Everyone does "organizing" differently. See what's out there. Do more of what works for you and stop doing what doesn't.

  • Stacey: Start where you shine!
  • Molly: Use Trello for home projects
  • Deborah: Put personal tasks on your todo list

* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin! 

* * *

What's your best tip for getting organized? Please share in the comments. 

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

A Call for Writers to Find Balance

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Within the publishing world, I’ve often heard it is harder to sign with a literary agent than to locate a publ...