By Melodie Campbell
“I had the flu once. It was terrible. I couldn’t eat a thing for three hours.”
I hope you giggled at that line. I think it’s one of my best. And yes, I am a tad fond of eating. In fact, you could list it as my major hobby.
My name is Melodie Campbell, and I write comedies. (This is a self-help group, right?) Sure I’d like to kick the habit and write a ‘real’ book with literary merit.
Okay, so that’s a lie. Leave The Goddaughter’s Revenge behind? Not write a sequel? I’m starting to hyperventilate. Actually, I love writing comedies. It’s in my blood.
A GREEK MASK
Some people are born beautiful. But most of us aren’t and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life. Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask. That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.
As a means of self-preservation in the cruel world of teenagers, I looked for the ‘funny.’ More often than not, I made fun of myself. This was easy to do. I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material. And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.
When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side. I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.
So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode’. Write it funny.
IT’S AN ADDICTION
Worse than chocolate and foreign Counts… Comedy writers take a situation, and ask themselves ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen now?’ And then, what’s the funniest?
THE RULE OF ‘WORST THING’
What’s the worst thing that could happen to TheGoddaughter when she is reluctantly recruited to carry hot gemstones over the border in the heel of her shoe? Predictable would be: she gets caught at customs. But I don’t want predictable. I want funny.
Instead, the shoes get stolen. By a complete amateur! It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. How is she going to keep this from her new boyfriend Pete, who thinks she’s gone clean? And what the heck is she going to tell her uncle, the crime boss?
Nothing, of course. She’s going to steal them back. Or die trying.
And hopefully the audience will die laughing.
FINDING YOUR COMIC ELEMENT
Here are two ways to add comedy to your books:
1. Make your basic plot funny.
The Goddaughter books are an example of that. In THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE (out Oct. 1) Gina must retrieve a number of fake rings from her best clients, before anyone finds out they are fake. This means masterminding a bunch of burglaries that go…well…wrong.
The basic plot is funny.
2. Make a secondary character in your book funny.
In Rowena and the Dark Lord, Val is a hereditary wizard who really wants to be a couturier dress designer. This leads to lots of zany comedy, as the book is set in a medieval land at war. “Oooh dear. Whatever have you done to your gown? It’s simply rags. And you should never wear that color. Not that I blame you, with all that Sargonia has to offer. Barbarians.”
But why do it? Why does an otherwise sane individual write zany and some might say silly comedy, and risk the inevitable hit from critics who say your book is without great literary merit?
We do it for readers. Hopefully, we’ve lightened their day with laughter, and in some cases given them a story they can escape into, over and over again.
Melodie Campbell has over 200 publications and was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer, and both the 2012 and 2012 Arthur Ellis awards. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.
Library Journal says this about Melodie's third novel, The Goddaughter (Orca Books): "Campbell's crime caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans. Wacky family connections and snappy dialogue make it impossible not to laugh."
When Gina is reluctantly recruited to carry hot gemstones across the border, the worst happens: they get stolen. By a complete amateur! It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. Pete and Gina have no choice but to steal them back, even though philandering politicians, shoe fetishists and a trio of inept goons stand in their way.
It’s all in a day’s work, when you’re The Goddaughter.
Short Excerpt from THE GODDAUGHTER
Follow her on Twitter @MelodieCampbell