I have trouble avoiding being silly. I’m a silly silly person. It’s what I do.
I’m also a person who wrote a masters thesis on John Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’m prone to depression. I’ve been through a divorce. I’ve been attacked by a knife-wielding carjacker. I tried to watch Sucker Punch in the theater.
See that? That was supposed to be my “look, I can be serious too” paragraph, and I didn’t quite get through it without throwing in a bit of silly (not that I don’t legitimately count watching half of Sucker Punch among my most difficult moments).
The point is, when I think about building a three dimensional character, especially when I go first person pov, humor always figures heavily into the process. It’s a big part of who I am. So, when I try to write uber-serious or maudlin characters, I worry that they feel too constructed. Inorganic somehow.
This fear becomes more pronounced when I’m writing horror. All fiction relies on tension, but especially with horror I feel like I need to keep turning up the anxiety dial. Tossing in a fart joke, however hilarious, might work against my overall goal.
As Jeff Strand writes in “Adding Humor to Your Horror,” if you’re writing horror, the odds are that you’re not trying to write a big wacky splatter comedy -you probably just want to sprinkle occasional touches of humor.”
That certainly makes sense. Strand mentions benefits of judicious application of humor including: realism, empathy, and relief of tension.
I’m on board. I just fear that my habit of defusing tension with humor, in my own interpersonal relationships, etc, will sneak its way into my writing and leave me with a finished product that stops short of inspiring real anxiety/terror.