Hello everyone! Time for some initial findings from my journey to the center of the earth! The subject of this post is humor. I was quite surprised to find so much humor sprinkled within the first few chapters of JCE (Journey to the Centre of the Earth). Let’s look at a few examples for analysis. All excerpts are taken from the Collins Classics 2010 edition of Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne.
“His long, thin nose was like a knife blade. Boys have been heard to remark that that organ was magnetised and attracted iron filings. But this was merely a mischievous report; it had no attraction except for snuff, which it seemed to draw to itself in great quantities.”
-Chapter 1, Page 4, Paragraph 2, Sentences 4-6
Verne’s use of humor, though dry, is charming when taken to balance out the more tedious job of description which sandwiches this little joke. And that, my friends, is the key! JCE is rich in historical and geological references and has a deep, almost convoluted, use of description. This, of course, is one of the reasons JCE has become such a well-known classic, but if this were all that it consisted of, I’m afraid it would read much like a dictionary. Verne’s sparing use of humor (I emphasize “sparing”) is what balances out the writing, making it enjoyable to read.
How can you apply this to your writing? First, consider what you are writing and the tone you wish to convey. Let me emphasize: HUMOR IS NOT FOR ANY AND EVERYTHING. No, humor is not always appropriate; don’t use it on a resume. Unless you’re Jim Carrey. What? You don’t think he’s funny?
There’s your first example. I used a bit of humor to balance the mood of this analytical post. Hopefully, it made you grin just a little. That’s what you want to shoot for. When using humor as a means of bringing balance, you don’t want your reader laughing out loud for 5 minutes. If you do that, you’ve just thrown your balance in the other direction and now your work looks like a seesaw.
Another thing to consider is the type of humor you use. Here’s another example:
“Type! What do you mean by talking of type, wretched Axel? Type! Do you take it for a printed book, you ignorant fool? It is a manuscript, a Runic manuscript.”
“Yes. Do you want me to explain what that is?”
“Of course not,” I replied in the tone of an injured man. But my uncle persevered, and told me, against my will, of many things I cared nothing about.
-Chapter 2, Page 8, Paragraphs 4-7
Verne’s use of humor is very unlikely to offend the reader’s sensibilities. This is of KEY IMPORTANCE! Nothing will cause a reader to drop your writing in the garbage faster than being offended. Let me stress this once more; USE NON-OFFENSIVE HUMOR. Typically, a bit of wit is all that is needed to bring your writing into balance.
Use non-offensive humor sparingly to balance out more serious or detail oriented sections of writing when you want to keep the mood lighter. Consider what you are writing and what tone you wish to convey; humor is not for everything. Finally, use light humor. The goal is to make your reader smile, not laugh out loud.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve found something here to help you improve in your writing! Until next time, remember to read what you hate to write what you love!