Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond series, published by DAW Books. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made the “Year’s Best” lists of Publishers Weekly and Voya. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at http://www.LauraResnick.com.
Writing Humor: Laugh, and the World… Doesn’t Necessarily Laugh With You
If I may extrapolate from a favorite quote attributed to W. Somerset Maugham (who is also the author of one of my favorite novels, The Razor’s Edge): There are three rules for writing comedy; unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
I wrestle weekly, daily – nay, hourly! – with this knotty problem. Not only have most of my 60 published sf/f short stories been written as humor, but I also write a comedic urban fantasy series, the Esther Diamond novels.
However, despite the tragic dearth of handy rules, I can at least readily identify the two key challenges of writing comedy in fantasy:
Laura Resnick is the author of the Esther Diamond series. You can find Laura on the Web at LauraResnick.com.
Dread of the Retread
Just as someone writing traditional fantasy (which I have done: In Legend Born, The White Dragon, and The Destroyer Goddess) faces the challenge of writing a book about guys with swords, misfits with quests, awesome sorcery, and life – altering prophecies without making it read exactly like a whole lot of other fantasy novels that use those same standard genre features, an urban fantasy writer faces the challenge of using familiar paranormal and supernatural tropes without writing a book that isn’t exactly like someone else’s book.
I didn’t really struggle with this when I wrote the first couple of books in my Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, Disappearing Nightly and Doppelgangster, because the fantasy premises I used in those two books (accidental supernatural vanishings and paranormal perfect doubles) weren’t common, let alone ubiquitous. My next two Esther Diamond books, though, brought my dread of the retread into my writing life front-and-center, since Unsympathetic Magic was a zombie novel and my most recent release, Vamparazzi, is about vampires.