Kirsty Eyre studied on our three-month Writing Your Novel course in 2017. Two years later, she won the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award with her debut novel Cow Girl – which she developed on the course. She has gone on to write further romantic comedy novels under a pseudonym, Ginger Jones. Her latest work You Had Me at Halloumi is out now.
Read on to discover Kirsty’s advice for writing romantic comedies and scroll to the end of the blog for details of an exciting giveaway we’re running on Twitter!
Where do you start with writing comedy?
I first started writing comedy for the stage. Live theatre is a fantastic way of learning what makes people laugh and what bombs, especially when you are amongst the audience. Writing stage plays also trains you to think up a series of scenes in which you can eek out comedy. It is a discipline which involves plotting a tight storyline allowing for a comic tone.
Try it as a writing exercise… Craft a two-act stage play with six scenes in each act and see what sizzles and what fizzles!
How do you write a comedy character?
When you consider great comedy, it is rarely the characters themselves who are funny and more their reaction to the environment and the people around them. Flawed characters with a lack of self-awareness and a deep desperation to please are normally where I start. Pepper with a string of misunderstandings and the odd language barrier and you’re on a roll. It’s worth studying some great comedy characters. I recommend Maria Semple’s Where’d you go, Bernadette? (waspy) and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project (endearing).
It’s also important to allow the reader to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions about what might be funny. Sometimes comedy is about what is not said as much as what is. This is where the old ‘show, don’t tell’ adage comes in. No reader wants to be told something is absolutely hilarious. It’s up to them to decide…
I have a funny idea, but can’t seem to make it work on paper. Any tips?
Writing comedy is harder than it looks. The more of it I write, the greater appreciation I have for the complexity of humour on the page. Of course, there is a fine line between funny and cringe, but it’s more than that… For starters, humour is subjective and what you find funny may not be what somebody else does. Then, it’s how a funny scene or situation translates into prose. Just as a joke told badly is basically a bad joke, what might seem like a hilarious idea may not translate to the page. Usually, this is a point of view or timing issue.
Top tip: If it’s not working, try writing the scene from a different character’s point of view.
Now that you’re a ‘Comedy Woman in Print,’ are you tied to this genre forever?
Never say never, but… since winning the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award in 2019, I have found that there is this overwhelming expectation for my writing to always be funny. Obviously, it’s a darned good problem to have, but there are plenty of days when I don’t feel the slightest bit good humoured and the work I produce is ‘lacking that lightness of touch.’*
I also find it difficult to be funny on the spot. With all the dairy play on words in Cow Girl, I think people were expecting me to be a walking, talking pun machine. For me, writing comedy is a craft and it can take a few runs at it to get it right.
*Industry speak for keeping it light-hearted and commercial.
Some of your stuff is a little ‘spicy’. You Had Me at Halloumi has been described as the rom-com that will leave you horny and hungry. Do you have a sense of self-censorship?
Ha! When I submitted the manuscript to my publisher for You had me at Halloumi, I actually wrote a note in the margin saying, ‘Is this too smutty?’ And the response was, ‘No. More of this, please!’ Again, you have to be careful. There is a sex scene in the opening chapters of the novel which involves cheesecake and when I wrote it, I was worried what my friends and family would think of me, but then I figured Ginger Jones is more of a minx than I am and just went for it! That’s the beauty of a pseudonym! As it turns out, this is the scene that I am always asked to read and was selected as an audio snippet to promote the book.
Any final advice to anyone wanting to write comedy?
Yes. At some point, your humour will probably offend someone. Think of all the stand-up comics you’ve seen over the years and I’m sure that you probably found some material offensive. Be considerate and self-aware, follow editorial advice and try to use comic tone over comic content!
Get your hands on a copy of You Had Me at Halloumi.
We’re currently running an exciting book giveaway on Twitter (@cbcreative). We’ve got three signed copies of You Had Me At Halloumi by Ginger Jones to giveaway!
All you have to do to enter is retweet and like to competition post. Comment with your favourite comedy character. And make sure you’re following @cbcreative and @GingerJ53270983. The competition is open to UK entrants only. Closes Mon 16 May at 10.59am.
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