Friday, August 24, 2007

Kimberly Llewellyn: Secrets of Romantic Comedy

Guest MavenThe Manuscript Mavens are thrilled to announce Kimberly Llewellyn as today's Guest Maven! With her bride-themed books and fabulous sense of humor, Kimberly is a grande finale for Romance Week. Today, Kimberly will be sharing her tips on writing such fabulous, laugh-out-loud romantic comedies.

Known as "the wedding writer," Kimberly Llewellyn. is the author of five contemporary novels. Currently, she writes for Berkley Books. Her recent releases include two humorous comedic women's fiction novels in trade paperback. The Quest for the Holy Veil was released March 2007. Tulle Little, Tulle Late, released August 2006, was a Book Sense Notable Pick, an RCA Cataromance Award Nominee, and an Oklahoma More than Magic Finalist. Prior to that, she wrote three short contemporary romances for Avalon and Kensington.

She has written articles for various publications and fiction stories for the confession magazine market. She enjoys promoting "fiction for women" to the media, as well as to various organizations, such as the arts council, Miss Florida State Pageant for Miss America, and bridal expos. She's made guest appearances on television, including the shows Daytime, Mornings Around the Bay, and Your Turn.

Kimberly Llewellyn is a member of CLW, PASIC, RWA, and TARA. She lives in the Greater Tampa Bay Area. She has one husband, one child, and one dog.

Her web site is:

Here's Kimberly!

One lucky commenter will receive a free copy of the Quest for the Holy Veil. Winner of the free book is chosen randomly, so please comment!

Make 'Em Laugh Is the Name of the Game in Romantic Comedy

Let's face it, comedy is subjective. Sometimes, the reader laughs with you, sometimes at you. Because of this, the good news is you don't have to worry about pleasing everyone. When writing comedy, just have fun and make yourself laugh. If you laugh at your story, chances are someone else with the same bent sense of humor as you will laugh too. (Hopefully that someone will be an editor!) To encourage getting that crazy humor of yours on the page, here are some basic comedy writing tips:

Understand the Reversal Principal

The element of surprise creates the humor. ("I had to shoot my dog the other day." "Why? Was he mad?" "Wasn't too pleased.") Reversal is when characters act or say the complete opposite of what's expected or anticipated. It's when urban goes jungle ( Night at the Museum). Or when adults behave like children (Bringing Up Baby). Or when men dress/act like women (Tootsie) or vice versa. Reversal is especially funny when done in a public place (Sally fakes orgasm in a crowded diner…loudly.)

Take Comedy Seriously

I remember telling my friends about a bad time in my life. The more I ranted, the more they roared! Let's face it, tragedy is funny when it happens to other people. And yes, while the painful stuff happening isn't funny at the time, after a while, we can usually look back on it and laugh. As the old saying goes, "comedy is tragedy plus time." So remember, while your character is going through the terrible trouble in your romantic comedy, make sure they are very serious about it. Even when it isn't an awful situation, your character can still be very sincere. For example, Jack from Will and Grace takes his musical review, Just Jack, very seriously! His seriousness is what makes it so funny.

Kimberly LLewellyn: The Quest For The Holy VeilMake the Characters Suffer

In a romantic comedy, make your characters suffer, especially the protagonist. This is usually the heroine. Make her really miserable. In The Quest for the Holy Veil, Lucy Ladelle has PMS, locks herself out of her apartment, misses an audition, gets nearly hit by a car, is late for a date, gets "caught on tape" by a TV sting operation, is harassed by her overbearing mother, then gets fired...well you get the idea. Lucy's misery doesn't end---ever. Don't be afraid to put your heroine in too much trouble. We will be laughing at her plight because we will be sympathizing and identifying with her. Why? Because we've been there.

It's also okay to make your heroine suffer because at the end of the book, she will come out the other side a stronger person. She will eventually see the humor in all that she's gone through. And after all her suffering, remember, as the writer, you will reward her with everything she's dreamed of achieving (the promotion, the account, the prize), plus she gets the guy in the end.

Other comedy writing tips:

Look to your characters. Does a character have a unique view of the world that you can play up and make funnier in your book? Remember Harry in When Harry Met Sally? He always had to read the ending of a book first in case he died before he finished.

Look at your sentences. Can you make word choices funnier? How about making dialogue and retorts wittier? (A note about dialogue: Some banter can be fun, but unwarranted, undeserved nasty remarks aren't necessarily funny.) Pare down any extra text bogging down a funny line; let that funny line stand on its own. Remove any sentences like the following, "He chuckled at her joke." Can you add a fresh twist to an old cliché? ("If you love something, set it free. If it doesn't come back to you, hunt it down and kill it.") Or add onto an old expression. ("Life's too short---and so are my skirts!")

Double entendres and innuendo. These are great in dialogue between the hero and heroine in a romantic comedy. So? How far do you want to take the innuendo? How far are you willing to go? Hey, come on, you know what I mean! Let's keep this G-rated!

Hyperbole. In my books, I exaggerate everything. Nothing is sacred. Through the perspective of my characters, emotions are put under the microscope and become extreme. When using exaggeration, avoid words like, "feels like," "almost," "practically," etc. After all, if you are going to use exaggeration, you might as well go all out.

Running gag or joke. This is like sharing an inside joke with the reader throughout the entire book. Rum is a running joke in all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that has even spilled into newspaper reviews.

The rule of three. Jokes tend to run in threes. Keep that in mind when writing. Your heroine might complain that bad boys come in three flavors: hot, extra-hot, and three-alarm!

Kimberly LLewellyn: Tulle Little, Tulle LateSo, let's talk about you for a moment and where comedy fits into your writing.

Decide the type of comedy you're writing. There are lots out there, such as dark comedy, farce, parody, and satire. What kind are you writing? This is good to know. It'll keep your writing focused and will come in handy when describing your book to an editor.

Know your voice. Where does comedy fit? Even if you don't write humor per se, a little levity amid gravity is sometimes warranted.

Pay attention to the market. Is there a good place in the market where your humor fits? Do you see a gap in the market that you could fill? Whether it be secret babies, cowboys, werewolves, or vampires, why not add your own funny spin to it? For me, the wonderful wacky world of weddings can be so funny. I love to write about them. It's a great niche I enjoy filling. What niche can you fill? Or better yet, what niche can you create for yourself? (Just don't make it too narrow!)

Two ways to improve your comedy writing are to read your favorite funny authors and keep writing humor til it hurts.

If you are interested in learning more about writing comedy, purchase the book, The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus. By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be on your way to writing so funny that an editor will laugh so hard and be filled with such mirth that she'll just have to buy your next romantic comedy.

For more writing tips, visit the "For Writers" section of the author's web site at

YOUR TURN: Do you write funny? If so, please share your experience using these (and any other!) humor writing tips. Do you have any hilarious friends or favorite authors/books/movies? What makes them so funny?


Darcy Burke said...

Man, I love this post so much I want to marry it! And I so get the tragedy/comedy. Mr. Burke is always saying, "Someone else fall into a manhole - comedy. You fall in - tragedy." So true!

Thanks for guesting with us Kimberly!!!

Vicki said...

Hey Kimberly! Love your post. And for anyone who hasn't read her books, you're missing out. She is great at writing romantic comedy. Okay, so she just plain great at writing. :)

ERiCA said...

Kimberly! Love you, love the books. So excited you're here!

Thanks for such a great post. I read the book you mention (Comic Toolbox) and must admit that running gags and the rule of three have served me well. As did having the characters take themselves seriously. (Nothing ruined my first attempts at funny faster than my characters laughing at their own jokes. *g)

Also, good call re: hyperbole...

*erica suddenly realizes she has a lot of "practicallys" and "almosts" and runs off to exercise her delete key*

C.L. Wilson said...

Kimberly - great blog and great advice! And you are definitely someone who does humor well! Making notes for my own funnier stories in the hopes I'll one day have a chance to dust them off and revisit.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Loved the tips, Kimberly, and love your books. Can't wait to revisit my own work and see what I actually do or don't do;))

B.E. Sanderson said...

Excellent post. Thanks, Kimberly.

I haven't written anything funny so far, unless you count the occasional wry comment made by one of my heroes to break the tension. I do have an idea for a story that should prove to be funny, and I'll definitely be using your suggestions. Thanks again. =oD

Ella Drake said...

Great article. Even though I write paranormal rather than "comedy" I like to use comedic elements. The running gag works wonders in paranormal as well. I'll have to check out the book you recommended.

As a struggling unpublished writer, I also tend to use "feels like," "almost," and other unnecessary words. Usually the delete key is all I need. The sentence does stand on its own without those words. I'll be using that lovely key alot in the near future!

Another problem I run into involves "banter" scenes. They sometimes end up being a tennis match. I think a real life banter does have that pacing, but it doesn't work in a novel. Pacing in comedy is tough!!!

Anne-Marie said...

Hey Kimberly. Anne-Marie waving hello. How true about turning tradegy into a comedic venue for gut wrenching laughter. I'm currently writing a romance where I've laced humor all throughout it. I guess more one liners. I just ordered Comic Toolbox so I can add more comedy. Everyone, if you need a good laugh and haven't read Kimberly's books, you're missing out. Like always, your advice is priceless.

Bill Clark said...

Know your voice. Where does comedy fit? Even if you don't write humor per se, a little levity amid gravity is sometimes warranted.

I agree with the first sentence - every good writer I know has a unique voice, to the point where if someone photocopied random pages of books or blogs by my favorite writers, pages as yet unread by me, I think I could sort them out by the voice alone.

But comedy? Bah, humbug! Some of us have serious scribal duties to attend to, and events of grave import to impart. Levity amid gravity is an oxymoron, and has no place in the recording of social history, especially in a town as august and proper as Greenwich, Connecticut. Mindless adulation of the super-rich is permissible, as is dour disapproval of the parvenues and the penurious, but levity? Never!!

*Bill dodders off, muttering "Bah, humbug!" to himself over and over, and wondering what the modern world is coming to*

MsHellion said...

I'm with Darcy! This is the best comedy writing advice I've ever read!

The only thing I do extra is I usually pull stupid stuff that happens to me and put them into my story. So invariably my critique group will say things like, "Wait, wait, didn't you tell us that YOU got hammered, danced on a bar, then fell on that really cute guy from HR? How strange that your CHARACTER, Sally, does something similar...only it's her next-door neighbor..." What? Like other people don't fall off dry bars?

I love this blogspot. Must come everyday!

lacey kaye said...

HAHA! Fab-u-tastic, as advertised. Gems, everything. I particularly fell in love with the "hunt it down and kill it" line. I think I'm getting that put on a tshirt.

Mz H -- LOL, guilty. (Whether of falling off dry bars or stealing my own shenanigans for my life, I'll leave for you to decide!)

Jacqueline Barbour said...

I don't write funny. Or not VERY funny, anyway. Well, except when I'm doing Star Trek parodies for FanLit, but I digress.

Great craft advice, however, and not just for romantic comedy. Even darker stories need a little comic relief now and then.

Thanks for a terrific post, Kimberly, and for joining us here at the Mavens today. It's wonderful to have you!

Chiron O'Keefe said...

Two other favorite comedic authors: Janet Evanovich & Sophie Kinsella. Both should come with "spit take" warning labels.

Thanks for the tips, the book recommendation, and for letting me know I can add another "must buy" author to my list!

*wink* *snort*

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Awesome post, great tips! I personally think Wendy French is hilarious, and I'm always on the lookout for laugh-out-loud funny books.

lacey kaye said...

Keep the recs coming! I can't wait to read all these new authors--a huge dose of comedy is definitely what I need right now!

Katrina Stonoff said...

Great, specific tips. Thanks! My latest novel is a dark comedy, so I'll be looking at the manuscript now to see if I can fit in a bit more humor.

And I'd love a copy of The Quest for the Holy Veil. Great title!

L.C.McCabe said...


The rule of three in comedy also applies to telling a joke three times. It is done all the time on television.

A joke is told.

Later there is a reference to it again.

Then it told a third time, and this is when the joke comes into its full fruition and you get the biggest laugh.

It's not quite a running gag, but a pattern of jokes told three times.

I read that years ago and have noticed it being employed by television writers, especially Aaron Sorkin.

Okay, now one of my favorite quotes about comedy comes from Mel Brooks.

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger.

Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."



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