JOAN BARTH ON: LAUGHTER
When was the last time you had a belly laugh? Was it when you saw that diner scene in When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan pretends to have an orgasm and a customer says, “I’ll have what she’s having”? Or was it when you saw the two naked old men bicycling in Ned Devine? Or when the homosexual butler walks in high heels in The Bird Cage?
What funny scene do you remember in a book?
Have we forgotten how to laugh? After 25, do we frequently laugh? Is laughter only for the young?
Above my desk, I have a sign: THINK FUNNY. I try to reread my work to see if I’ve included anything funny in it.
A novel doesn’t have to be deadly serious. It can have funny anecdotes here and there. In life, parts are humorous—not entire issues. We do not have to write a funny book, we can simply add a funny sentence sporadically.
In writing my book, Wild Pigs in Snow, I’ve learned a lot about pigs. In Candide, Voltaire writes a very funny paragraph about pigs, but his book would never be said to be funny or about pigs.
You may mention something of passing importance in your novel. It does not have to focus on it.
Maybe your protagonist jogs or plays tennis. You do not have to depict her jogging each day or playing tennis daily.
Like a good stew, a novel is made up of lots of parts—some large and others small.