Last year, I wrote my first-ever funny story for publication in Total Quack Up Again, an anthology of funny stories in support of Dymock’s Children’s Charities. Regular readers might remember this post about the experience.
One of the editors of the anthology was Adrian Beck who, along with Sally Rippin, did a brilliant job of assembling a line-up of some of Australia’s top children’s authors to donate a story for the project, as well as writing his own.
So when it came time to find someone to write me a guest post full of amazing tips for kids who want to write funny stories, Adrian was my go-to guy.
As well as his work with Quack Up, Adrian writes funny action-packed adventure stories for kids, the latest of which is Derek Dool Super Cool: Bust A Move, the first in a brand new series, illustrated by Scott Edgar, about a kid who is desperate to be SUPERCOOL.
If anyone knows how to find the funny, it’s Adrian Beck.
Just read his tips and you’ll see…
HOW TO WRITE FUNNY STORIES AND DOMINATE AT LIFE
Okay, so you’ve decided to write a comedic masterpiece. All of us are funny in our own way, right? As an added bonus, some of us are also funny looking (I’m a redhead, for instance), so this whole thing should be a cinch!
But also NO!
But also YES, especially if you follow my nine and a half tips for FINDING the FUNNY!
1. Reveal your deepest darkest secrets! And use them in your stories. That’s the thing about writing – you can pretend that you just ‘made it all up’, when secretly it’s based on reality.
Did you know that Jacqueline Harvey is actually a seven-year old-girl in boarding school, or that Hazel Edwards keeps a hippo on her roof or that Andy Griffith’s bum really does go psycho?
Think of the most embarrassing things that have ever happened to you. Remember how they made you feel. Then exaggerate!
2. Put yourself in a funny mood. Read other funny books, listen to funny music and watch funny TV shows.
When I was writing the first Derek Dool book, I listened to 1980s band Madness nonstop. Their songs like, ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘House of Fun’ always get me in a silly mood. (Well, sillier mood).
Plus, I binge-watched some of my favourite 1990s British sitcoms. All just to stay in the ‘funny zone’… And so that I can claim Netflix on tax.
3. I’ve come up with a totally original theory that I like to call the Big Bang Theory. I should trademark it. The gist is, you’ve got to start with a big bang! Set the tone early with a strong joke that indicates the style of the story to come. Forget all the flowery scene setting stuff.
Then, once you’ve started with a bang, keep the jokes coming. Most sitcoms try to include around six jokes a minute. I keep this in mind when rewriting and I try to maintain regular laughs. As most doctors will tell you, it’s good to stay regular.
4. Don’t be too cool for school. Funny stories don’t tend to get the praise that other stories get. So abandon all ambitions to win prizes. You’ll probably never be seen as the literary genius you truly are. But that’s okay. This means you can loosen up!
Therefore, why not embrace sound effects? Here are three hilarious noises you can use free of charge: Pffffffft! Rrrrrrreeep! Ffffwhoooooootha-plop!
5. Avoid bad adult advice! I call that BADult advice. Most adults are BORING! They wear long pants and think too much about mortgages and avoiding carbohydrates. Sometimes it’s best NOT to listen to them. Adults don’t have the same sense of humour as kids.
So go straight to the source and test your work on your target audience. They are always refreshingly honest.
6. Read it aloud. To kids if possible (see tip 5). There’s no better way to check if something is working than hearing it with your own ears. If possible, it’s even better to get someone to read it to you, like David Walliams. Although he can make most things sound funny so always take his performances with a grain of salt.
7. Create a kooky character. Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. Whatever that is. But, trust me, it will make your funny story easier to write if you come up with an extreme character.
Then use the tried-and-true device of a putting your character at odds with their situation. Make it the opposite to the norm. Eg a doctor who hates the sight of blood, a teacher who can’t stand kids, or a writer who makes lots of money.
8. Steal. Your friends have probably told you a story or two about the funny things that have happened to them. STEAL THESE STORIES!
But… and this is a big BUT (cos I like big buts and I cannot lie) change the story enough so that you make it your own.
Have a think about why their anecdote made you laugh and try to use that formula again and again.
9. Trust your first reaction. Once you’ve read something over and over you can begin to forget that it’s funny. You start questioning yourself: ‘Is this joke actually making me laugh?’ ‘Am I funny at all?’ ‘Would I like fries with that?’
These questions are not helpful. You ARE funny. Accept it. And you WOULD like fries with that.
9.5. Lastly, always – and as a redhead I cannot stress this enough – always wear sunscreen.
Now you have my nine and a half tips for FINDING the FUNNY, go forth and write your masterpiece! All I ask is that you please spell my name correctly in your dedication.
Derek Dool Supercool: Bust A Move by Adrian Beck (illustrated by Scott Edgar) is out on 3 March through Puffin Books.
More writing tips for kids:
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here. If you’d like to learn more about writing from me, have a look at my Creative Writing Quest For Kids, an online course that takes you through the process of writing a great story from start to finish.