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Nina Bangs | How To Fiddle While Rome Is Burning Without Setting Yourself On Fire

Humor is a minefield that writers must tiptoe through with great care, hence the title of this piece.

Someone with a warped sense of humor might picture a crazy cartoon character fiddling away while buildings turn to ash and people scatter like ants. On the other hand, Iíd see peopleís lives being destroyed. Not funny.

The bottom line is that humor is subjective. What makes one person laugh might not even get a giggle from someone else. A writer must choose the object of their humor carefully. Refer to above fiddling event. I can imagine some hapless Roman comedian wannabe tossing out a joke about the fire. End of career.

When I first decided to write humorous paranormal romances, I thought that Iíd have to deliver a belly laugh with each line. I soon learned that not only was that plan unsustainable, but it was also exhausting. Oh, and did I mention boring? For me, a good book must strike a balance between light and dark. Iíll throw in a disclaimer here. This is a personal opinion. Iím sure some readers feel differently about humor, and I respect that.

I found that my most powerful love scenes were the ones I wrote without much humor. I also decided to tone down the humor in serious life-or-death struggles. It worked for me. That said, there are authors who can inject humor into any scene and make it work. I love Jim Butcherís Dresden Files series. In Blood Rites, Harry Dresden is fighting a trio of vampires when one of the vampires is felled by a frozen turkey falling from the sky. As the vampire lies on the ground, his chest crushed by the turkey, the timer pops out. Of course, the scene is much funnier the way Jim wrote it. When I read that scene, I lost it. I laughed out loud, and I donít do much laughing out loud.

Now Iím going to take a moment to climb onto my personal soapbox. Humorous romances sometimes seem to get less respect than their darker counterparts. Iíve noticed that major awards rarely go to comedies. I havenít checked the Oscars, but I bet you wonít find many comedies winning the Best Picture award. I also havenít surveyed all of the book industry awards, but I assume the same is true there.

Perhaps Iím wrong, but some readers (not any of you guys) seem to feel that writing humor takes less effort than writing a darker book, that ďlightĒ equals fluffy. Since I write a dark series (Gods of the Night) as well as my humorous books, I can attest that overall the comments for my dark series seem to be more favorable than for my Sparkle and Ganymede books. Of course, my humor might not appeal to some people. I understand that. My belief? Itís tough to write humor. Youíre never sure if youíre hitting everyoneís funny bone, or if youíre too over-the-top, orÖ Well, you get the idea. There are many excellent humorous romance writers out there. Iíd love to see a few of them capture some major prizes.

What do you think (ducking and covering my head)?

In honor of my October release, My Wicked Vampire, Iíd like to award a complete signed set of my books (Wicked Nights, Wicked Pleasure, Wicked Fantasy, and My Wicked Vampire) along with a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card to one visitor.

Please visit my site as well as on Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter. The video for My Wicked Vampire can be found on YouTube or my Myspace page.




95 comments posted.

Re: Nina Bangs | How To Fiddle While Rome Is Burning Without Setting Yourself On Fire

Great post, Nina! Humor is so subjective. A great writer makes her character's sense of humor or her own resonate through her voice for all readers - an extremely difficult taste few do truly master.

I can't wait to read your books! I'm a big paranormal junkie! And a book gift card is always a coveted prize. Count me in ;)
(Amber Leigh Williams 12:37pm October 20, 2009)

I read both dark and humorous romances and the spirit moves me. There are times when you need a good laugh. You, Sandra Hill (I own a well worn copy of Truly, Madly, Viking) and Charlene Teglia are three authors who meet that need well for me. And you are right, humor is difficult to get just right.
(G. Bisbjerg 12:41pm October 20, 2009)

Comedy writers get the least respect
or accolades of all writers and I guess
that applies to romance too. I agree
it's hard to write comedy to the
masses and you're working on mental
level on paper. So you're missing the
physical visual side of comedy with its
element of surprise.

Karen Kelley is an author that writes
with humor.
(Sue Ahn 1:50am October 20, 2009)

Excellent post, thank you! I agree that humor would have to be much more difficult to write. As in real life, if you try to be funny all the time, you just seem like a goof, whereas a well placed humorous line can life the spirits of the reader.

BTW, I read both, depending on my mood. =)
(Janece Suarez 3:04am October 20, 2009)

I love Humor Whit Drama one of my Fav Movies is Die hard and That has some funny spot in the mist of some action Drama.And I love your Books have not got them all but the one's I have I love.
(Stacey Smith 3:10am October 20, 2009)

I haven't read many humorous paranormals. I agree on the importance of finding a balance between the light and the dark. I appreciate humor even in the darkest books.
(Jane Cheung 5:11am October 20, 2009)

I tend to like movie and books that have humor mixed in. Hate how underappreciated comedy is when it can be so difficult to write.
(Leslie Davis 6:29am October 20, 2009)

I think that you are so right. Humor is so "funny". People probably are more picky about funny than they are about non-humor.
(Joanne Reynolds 6:32am October 20, 2009)

great post. I love to be able to sit and read a book and laugh. My husband says Im odd because I laugh more when I am reading then I do when I watch a movie.
(Sara Hurt 9:10am October 20, 2009)

Hi Nina,
I like to have a few laughs when I read, as well as a few crys. I agree that I think it would be harder to write humor than something darker and more dramatic. But I do like to have both in the same it is in life sometimes you need a laugh to get you through the hard times. Can't wait to read My Wicked Vampire...and congrats on what looks to be another great book!
(Carrie Divine 9:37am October 20, 2009)

Hi Nina. Great post. I agree that it would be harder to write humor. I enjoy humorous books. There is nothing better than a good laugh. :)
(Crystal Broyles 10:40am October 20, 2009)

I personally believe humor is a gift which you share with the rest of us. Thank You!
(Yvonne Kagen 10:43am October 20, 2009)

I LOVED your Makenzie Vampire Series! I am sooooooo looking forward to reading "My Wicked Vampire"!
Thanks for having this great contest!
(Stefanie Finn 11:24am October 20, 2009)

Great post. Depending on my mood I like to read both humor and dark novels. But I do think humor writers need to get more recognition. Just because the books are funny doesnt make them any easier to write and in some cases can even be harder.
(Donna Simmonds 12:01pm October 20, 2009)

Nina - I absolutely adore your books. The humor is great, but I also love your darker, more dire situations as well. I guess we are simply on the save wavelength. And the gift sounds great, even though I already own that whole set - but hey, I wouldn't pass it up!
(Erika Murphy 12:02pm October 20, 2009)

I love humor in a book. But I think humor has a time and a place. In a serious situation a nervous character might blurt out something silly, that's O.K. but not too much. In real life I try to find the funny side of things, so some humor can make the story more real.
(Theresa Buckholtz 12:03pm October 20, 2009)

First of all though I do agree that the Gods of the Night series is darker, I actually prefer the humour of Sparkle and Mede. I prefer the dripping sarcasm and bite of Holgarth. And the playful and sexy banter between each novels main couple.

I just finished reading My Wicked Vampire a couple days ago and loved the side stories between Asima and Cinn's creations lol... in this readers eyes, I would think that writing a darker story would be easier than one that has humour merely because we live in a predominantely darker society what with all the wars, and natural disaters etc. Kudos to you Ms. Bangs for bringing fun and laughter to your novels. One of many reasons I will continue to be a loyal fan!
(Mel Mirka 12:05pm October 20, 2009)

Amber, thanks for your kind words. I agree, gift cards for books are my favorites.
(Nina Bangs 12:06pm October 20, 2009)

G, Sandra Hill is a great lady, and some of her covers for Dorchester were hot, hot, hot. Not that I noticed. Ahem. :)
(Nina Bangs 12:09pm October 20, 2009)

Sue, I'm getting the names of some new authors to read. I can't wait. I don't know if you wrote the paragraph above, but it's very true. Humor protrayed on the screen is easier because the visuals enhance the impact.
(Nina Bangs 12:12pm October 20, 2009)

Exactly, Janece. Too much of one thing tires the reader. Just my opinion.
(Nina Bangs 12:15pm October 20, 2009)

Stacey,I think that when a humorous moment pops up unexpectedly I appreciate it even more. As someone commented above, the surprise enhances the experience.
(Nina Bangs 12:17pm October 20, 2009)

Jane, I agree. A touch of humor in even the darkest story provides a welcome contrast.
(Nina Bangs 12:20pm October 20, 2009)

Leslie, I tend to enjoy TV shows with a touch of humor. Damon in the Vampire Diaries is as evil as they get, but he always has that snarky humor going on. He's my favorite character on that show. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer has that same kind of humor.
(Nina Bangs 12:23pm October 20, 2009)

Joanne, that's because people's tastes in humor are so different. Also, so much of humor is in the phrasing. One word too many and it isn't funny any more.
(Nina Bangs 12:25pm October 20, 2009)

Sara, me too. I don't do too much laughing out loud, but there are a few authors that can make me howl. Janet Evanovich's characters do that for me.
(Nina Bangs 12:26pm October 20, 2009)

These days, I welcome a laugh or many. I want to read books that are light, funny and romantic. It sounds like you are writing what I would most love to read. Life is too serious if you can not laugh everyday.
(Barbara Ryan 12:28pm October 20, 2009)

These vampire stories are becoming more and more enjoyable. Good for you!
(Marjorie Carmony 12:39pm October 20, 2009)

I haven't read any of your books, thought I would love to. They look very intriguing.

Thanks for the great post!
(Freda Mans-Labianca 12:41pm October 20, 2009)

I love humor in books. Every romance needs a little humor. Can't wait to read the books.
(Annetta Stolpmann 12:51pm October 20, 2009)

I have just started to read paranormal books and yours sound great. I can't wait to read them. Thanks for your posting.
(Robin McKay 1:01pm October 20, 2009)

Carrie, I like your thought. Yes, sometimes we do need a laugh to get us through the hard times.
(Nina Bangs 1:06pm October 20, 2009)

Crystal, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree completely.
(Nina Bangs 1:07pm October 20, 2009)

Yvonne, what a beautiful thought. Thank you.
(Nina Bangs 1:08pm October 20, 2009)

Stefanie, Sparkle and Ganymede thank you. :)
(Nina Bangs 1:09pm October 20, 2009)

Donna, yay for you! I love when someone's opinion meshes with mine. :) Thanks.
(Nina Bangs 1:12pm October 20, 2009)

I like humor in books. Maybe not on every page, but here and there in the story.
(Patsy Hagen 1:15pm October 20, 2009)

I really appreciate humor, I do think it is more difficult to write humor with a broader appeal. I love to read books where I laugh out loud. I apparently have a dry humor that not everyone gets. But hey, it is always good to amuse yourself.
(Vikki Parman 1:46pm October 20, 2009)

I personally think your Dresden Files scene (w/the frozen turkey)is very funny. The recession, job losses, buget making are all depressing. I find myself loving humor more now than ever. I want to be entertained and love to laugh. Think that is actually harder to write books w/humor.
(Donna Petrilla 1:54pm October 20, 2009)

Erika, I wasn't sure how my Gods of the Night series would be received since up to that point I'd only written humorous books. But I was pleasantly surprised that many of my readers accepted my darker voice. I thank them for that. Thanks for buying my books. That's why I threw in the gift card. :)
(Nina Bangs 1:59pm October 20, 2009)

Theresa, I agree. Humor has its time and place. I enjoy authors who essentially write dark books but can insert humor in the right places. Karen Marie Moning comes to mind. On TV, True Blood's Eric (Alexander Skarsgard)can be doing something totally wicked while making me laugh. An example: he goes down into his dungeon to kill someone with highlight foils in his hair. After the gruesome kill, he asks if he has blood in his hair.
(Nina Bangs 2:06pm October 20, 2009)

Mel, thanks so much for your compliments. I'm trying very hard to make sure that my continuing minor characters like Ganymede and Sparkle don't remain static. I don't want them to become merely mouthpieces for one-liners. So in One Bite Stand I had Ganymede experience a character crisis. In My Wicked Vampire Sparkle wrestles with her own demons (in a funny way, I hope). I don't want my characters to become one dimensional. I hope that I've succeeded.
(Nina Bangs 2:12pm October 20, 2009)

Barbara, you have the right idea. Real life is tough for many people right now. Laughter is healthy.
(Nina Bangs 2:14pm October 20, 2009)

The fact that humor is subjective can be proven easily by looking at what is considered funny in the stand up comics--I find that many things my grandchildren laugh at just make me a little sick. In books, I prefer some humor with the story--in many cases, it can be what is called 'black humor', or satirical, often with a fairly light touch. If the author tries too hard, it usually is not effective.
(Carol Gowett 2:16pm October 20, 2009)

Works that have humor in them definitely don't get the credit they deserve. Just look at the Oscars. Humorous movies are never in the running for the top prizes. And I think humor is extremely hard to write because of people's ideas of humor, therfore when you come across a good one you need to get the word out.
(Jody Faltys 3:05pm October 20, 2009)

I have always thought that books with humor have to be the hardest to write. I wonder how authors can know what will work and what will be too extreme. I imagine it is a difficult balance to maintain. I have alot of respect for authors who can make me smile and yet not go over the top so that the humor slips into being stupid.
(Cherie Japp 3:14pm October 20, 2009)

Humor is the best medicine. Happy birthday to me
(Pat Wilson 3:15pm October 20, 2009)

I prefer humor in my romance novels rather than darkness. Reading is an escape for me & there is enough darkness in every day life that I don't need to have it in my reading.
(Cheryl Snyder 4:05pm October 20, 2009)

I'd rather have a laugh over a book than a cry. Different authors appeal to different people so it's all about finding one or two that fit you.
(Cathie Veres 4:25pm October 20, 2009)

I love a romance story that gets me smiling. Especially enjoy a dry wit and a bit of sarcastic humor.
(Cathy MacDonald 5:07pm October 20, 2009)

Hey Miss Nina!

I have to say I am always up for a Sparkle-Ganymede laughfest!

With that said there are not very many authors who can give the perfect amount of humor in their books. Sometimes I need to laugh when books get to intense. Plus who doesn't need a good laugh or two a day? I heard its good for the heart :)
(Amanda Boyd 5:23pm October 20, 2009)

Marjorie, let's hear it for sexy (and funny) vampires.
(Nina Bangs 5:59pm October 20, 2009)

Freda, you're welcome.
(Nina Bangs 6:00pm October 20, 2009)

Annetta, I hope you enjoy them. Let me know.
(Nina Bangs 6:01pm October 20, 2009)

Robin, what a wonderful journey you have ahead of you. There're some awesome paranormal books out there.
(Nina Bangs 6:02pm October 20, 2009)

Patsy, humor can lighten things when a story gets too tense.
(Nina Bangs 6:04pm October 20, 2009)

Vicki, I love dry humor. It's hard to do well.
(Nina Bangs 6:05pm October 20, 2009)

Oops, Vikki, I spelled your name wrong. Sorry.
(Nina Bangs 6:09pm October 20, 2009)

Donna, yes, the turkey scene was hysterical. You mentioned the recession. I'm surprised that I don't see more humor on the shelves.
(Nina Bangs 6:12pm October 20, 2009)

Carol, you touched on something I haven't mentioned. For me, humor has to be instinctual. I can never force it. It either comes or it doesn't. There are times when I have to walk away from the computer because nothing seems funny to me. Sometimes I can make something funny just by rearanging the words. Timing is everything.
(Nina Bangs 6:16pm October 20, 2009)

Humor is subjective. I can well believe it would be harder to write. I do know that when an author hits just the right tone & connects, I return for more laughs. So, well done. You make me come back.
(Mary Preston 6:17pm October 20, 2009)

Jody, I totally agree with you. Let's hear it for getting out the word. The problem today is that with money so tight, many people are reluctant to spend it on an unfamliar author. So I suppose that a new writer has a more difficult time building a readership. Sad.
(Nina Bangs 6:21pm October 20, 2009)

I love your books the scenes between Sparkle and Ganymede are always so great she really makes me laugh out loud. To me there's nothing better than a romance story that makes you laugh. Your books are always on my to buy list.
(Sherry Strode 6:54pm October 20, 2009)

I love to read any novel with a 'humorous interval'-these are the struly strange happening that make life fascinatin
(Dawn Raymer 6:54pm October 20, 2009)

I love reading the paranormal and really enjoyed the Jim Butchers Dresden Files series. I am looking forward to reading My Wicked Vampire soon!
(Teresa Ward 7:17pm October 20, 2009)

I like to read both books with humor and some on the dark side! I would love to read your books! I can see why humor would be hard to write because we all see things differently.
(Gail Hurt 7:17pm October 20, 2009)

I love your books Nina, in fact just picked up your latest on though haven't read it yet; I love reading paranormal be it humorous or serious, dark or light, so long as there's a good story
(Diane Sadler 7:27pm October 20, 2009)

I am just starting to read paranormal and would love to read yours. Please enter me!
(Lisa Garrett 7:37pm October 20, 2009)

I have to agree that even the darkest writing needs a leavening of humor and the opposite is also true. One of my favorite authors, Linnea Sinclair, has a very deft touch when it comes to weaving humor throughout the darkest story line. (the parrot flock on the space station in ACCIDENTAL GODDESS, the furzels & fidgets ((cats & kittens, to us)) in GAMES OF COMMAND)for example. Your books are right up there and climbing steadily towards Spike's snark-alicious humor.
(Susan Driskill 8:15pm October 20, 2009)

Cherie, LOL, I think I've slipped into over-the-top a few times. What makes people laugh? I watch TV and read other humorous books. Then I trust my instincts.
(Nina Bangs 8:34pm October 20, 2009)

Pat, is it your birthday? If so, Happy Birthday to you!
(Nina Bangs 8:35pm October 20, 2009)

Cheryl, I agree. I read to escape, but I don't always want to escape to a dark place.
(Nina Bangs 8:37pm October 20, 2009)

Cathie, yes, it's all about the fit. I read both dark and humorous books. It depends on my mood and how much I like the author.
(Nina Bangs 8:41pm October 20, 2009)

Cathy, sarcastic humor is always fun.
(Nina Bangs 8:42pm October 20, 2009)

Hey Amanda! Glad that you enjoy Ganymede and Sparkle. They send their love.
(Nina Bangs 8:47pm October 20, 2009)

Mary, aww, thanks for the kind words.
(Nina Bangs 8:47pm October 20, 2009)

Sherry, thanks a bunch. Sparkle is the woman that I never had the nerve to be.
(Nina Bangs 8:48pm October 20, 2009)

Dawn, humorous interval is an interesting turn of phrase. I like it. When things the forest of life gets to thick, it's always a relief to rest in a sunny meadow. Wow, talk about flowery metaphors.
(Nina Bangs 8:52pm October 20, 2009)

Teresa, ah, another Dresden Files fan. I'd love to spend a day in Harry's world. Only a day. More than that would kill me.
(Nina Bangs 8:54pm October 20, 2009)

Gail, exactly. So much has to do with your life experiences.
(Nina Bangs 8:55pm October 20, 2009)

Diane, I'm with you. As long as it's a good paranormal story, I'll read it. And thanks for the kind words.
(Nina Bangs 8:57pm October 20, 2009)

Lisa, good luck and thanks for stopping by.
(Nina Bangs 8:58pm October 20, 2009)

Susan, snark-alicious, I love it. Thanks for turning me on to Linnea.
(Nina Bangs 9:00pm October 20, 2009)

My favorite books are those that strike a balance between the drama and humor. Even the most serious story line can be helped along with a humorous scene or even better, some nice, funny banter between characters.
(Kara Conrad 9:38pm October 20, 2009)

Kara, exactly. I love a hero who can laugh.
(Nina Bangs 10:41pm October 20, 2009)

As everyone has already said, to the point that it could be considered "ad nauseum", humour is most definitely much, much harder to write than drama, although admittedly, drama ain't that easy either!! You re-telling of the vampire fight and the turkey attack, made me laugh, even though you admitted that you were just giving us the bare bones of someone else's story. Good humour travels well. Bad humour doesn't.

Being able to laugh in the middle of heartbreak shows that you will survive, and grow.

Thanks for an interesting blog!!


(Lynn Rettig 1:03am October 21, 2009)

congrats ont eh books
a balance between humor and supsnese is perfect
please enter me thanks
(Kim h 3:00am October 21, 2009)

i personally find your books to be laugh out loud. and i love it. this world is dreary enough everyone needs a good laugh
(Jennifer Mathis 9:25am October 21, 2009)

Lynn, Thanks for taking the time to comment. Laughter is healthy. Haven't scientists done studies on that?
(Nina Bangs 12:57pm October 21, 2009)

Kim, thanks for commenting. Everyone seems to agree that a balance is necessary.
(Nina Bangs 12:58pm October 21, 2009)

Jennifer, thanks for the kind words. I'm so glad that you enjoy my books.
(Nina Bangs 12:59pm October 21, 2009)

I've never read your books but would like to!
(Brenda Rupp 6:48pm October 25, 2009)

Brenda, let me know when you do.
(Nina Bangs 10:24pm October 25, 2009)

I love humor in books. I like to laugh which may be why I do love humor..LOL... I have just discovered you so I am adding you to mey list of authors to expand my reading. I retired last Dec and have more time to read and I am enjoying every book I read...Keep on writing with humor..
(Brenda Hill 10:11pm November 8, 2009)

REal life is serious enough. When I read, I love humor!! I am sure it can't be easy to write, although you do a wonderful job!!Maybe award giver are like movie critics. Thay take themselves to seriously!!
(Denise Elrod 6:24pm November 16, 2009)

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