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Thread: A spoonful of wit helps the medicine go down?

  1. #1
    I'm a monster. I'm a saint. Missus Akasha's Avatar
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    A spoonful of wit helps the medicine go down?

    Okay, so I am back to writing one of my older stories. It's older YA paranormal set in Victorian era France. As I am re-reading some chapters, I realize that there is a lot of sacrasm, wit, dry humor, and bantering. Like heavy, heavy doses of it. So heavy, I'd say a horse could choke on it. Most of the characters has a clever line every once in a while, but I have three characters who always have something witty or sarcastic to say. They are my lead character who is a girl, an Irishman, and a demon.

    The lead character and the demon primarily shoot sarcastic things out to each other and there is lots of playful (sometimes, sexual innuendo) banter. The Irishman always has something funny or smart to say and he also has a tendency of arguing with a non-talking demonic dog (...yeah, I know).

    I know a lot of readers out there hate lots of sarcasm and the like in stories. I remember reading plenty of recent reviews of books complaining of too much of it. Too many characters were like that, no originality in characters, etc. These reviews have definitely made me start wondering if this habit of mine can be a mark against my story. However, I honestly can't see myself writing just one witty character. I was raised around sarcasm (Thanks, Mom and Dad) and British comedy dry humor.

    When I see that one designated witty person slew out snappy comebacks and clever lines throughout the story, it sometimes makes me think how boring and colorless the other characters in the story are (no offense to those that do).

    The story is very dark and my characters are very serious when they need to be. They aren't cracking jokes to each other when they discover someone's decapitated head with demonic symbols craved on the victim's face. The dark humor never takes away value from the actual feel of the story and that is something I strive to preserve.

    Anyway, I have to ask. How much wit/banter/sarcasm/dry humor is too much? How much do you use in your stories? Do you have a designated witty character in your stories?

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  2. #2
    I love banter and zingy dialogue, but I find that I have a lower tolerance for it when it's mean spirited or sarcastic. This is particularly true for narrator voices: I struggle with endless snark and eye-rolling. But fun, whimsical humour full of puns and clever chit-chat? Bring it on.

  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin SunnyE's Avatar
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    That's hard to answer for me. It's one of those "I know it when I see it" things. Would you consider posting an excerpt for people to look at? Might be easier to comment that way. I agree that it's more troublesome when it's mean-spirited, but otherwise...it depends. Sorry that's not very helpful. :/

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    _ SomethingOrOther's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Missus Akasha View Post
    Okay, so I am back to writing one of my older stories. It's older YA paranormal set in Victorian era France. As I am re-reading some chapters, I realize that there is a lot of sacrasm, wit, dry humor, and bantering. Like heavy, heavy doses of it. So heavy, I'd say a horse could choke on it.
    If a horse could choke on it, a pony certainly could, so for my own safety I hope not to encounter this story.
    Stop what you're doing and give me some short story recommendations in this thread.


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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW eparadysz's Avatar
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    You've gone too far when your characters bring a halt to the action to bask in their own wittiness. Otherwise, bring it on.

    I'm reading A11ie C0ndie right now--it's like wandering in a humorless desert. I want to slap all the characters for being so unrelentingly sincere.

    It's always darkest before the bottom drops out.



  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW JFitchett92's Avatar
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    I love witty humour and sarcasm, and if you have a demon involved in it, you can have so much fun with it. However, it can take away from the moment if you use too much, so you need to write responsibly.

    I've put a few witty, humourous lines in my story, even in the first chapter which has a huge buildup to an impending disaster. It helps break down the tension and makes the book easier to read

    That's my opinion anyways.
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  7. #7
    You can't sit with us! missesdash's Avatar
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    I can see two witty characters as always witty (maybe that's why they get along, don't get along, are friends, are banging) and I can see a couple one-liners from everyone else.

    I honestly think the sarcasm on top of wit on top of dry humor is one of the more annoying PN/PNR tropes. I was raised around witty people myself, but unless all of the characters are related, that isn't really justification for all of them being witty. One of the reasons we love witty people is because they (ahem, we, *straightens bow tie) aren't all that common. Witty people are the exception, and throwing too many in an MS seems self-indulgent or even like wish fulfillment.

    I also think that close groups of friends can all be witty. But unless your story is a cast of siblings and best friends, it's a believability issue.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW zeragon7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by missesdash View Post
    I can see two witty characters as always witty (maybe that's why they get along, don't get along, are friends, are banging) and I can see a couple one-liners from everyone else.

    I honestly think the sarcasm on top of wit on top of dry humor is one of the more annoying PN/PNR tropes. I was raised around witty people myself, but unless all of the characters are related, that isn't really justification for all of them being witty. One of the reasons we love witty people is because they (ahem, we, *straightens bow tie) aren't all that common. Witty people are the exception, and throwing too many in an MS seems self-indulgent or even like wish fulfillment.

    I also think that close groups of friends can all be witty. But unless your story is a cast of siblings and best friends, it's a believability issue.
    Pretty much this. I definitely think that the value of humor, especially when it's dry and witty, is that it comes in at random moments to amuse us. I love the humor laced within Harry Potter; however, it's not used every single page. Food for thought...

  9. #9
    Hello? Eat my tarts? johnhallow's Avatar
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    I say keep it for now and then ask your betas how they feel later. I like a lot of wit, and (more often than not) a lot of wit makes the stories I read more fun. Just make sure that you characters actually have normal conversations every now and again or the "wit" will start to grate.

    ATM I'm reading the second book in the Horngate Witches series. I really enjoy it, but the banter can get annoying because it feels like there's no real substance to the relationship between the MC and her subordinates. We're constantly reminded of how loyal they are, but all they really do is alternate between risking their lives for each other and making "Don't make me hurt you" quips. IRL there'd be regular conversations mixed in with that stuff too.

    As I said, it's an enjoyable series so it's not a killer but I do think you should make sure you have a decent amount of regular talk. Without it, things can feel a bit contrived.

    Summary: Do it the way you originally planned to and ask your betas. They might not even notice.
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