Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finding the funny balance

There aren’t a ton of authors writing romantic comedy, which is a damn shame.

I have a handful of idols in my genre, and one of them is Kristan Higgins. She’s a
two-time winner of the RITA (the Academy Award of romance writing) and a USA Today and New York Times bestseller. She makes me laugh and cry and even pee myself a little when the two reactions happen to coincide.

Her seventh book, My One and Only, hit shelves recently and like the devout fangirl I am, I ran out and bought it.

I’m just a couple chapters from the end, but I can confidently say I adore the book and rank it as one of the top three she’s written.

But here’s the thing – my VERY favorite book she’s written is Just
One of the Guys. On the humor spectrum for Higgins books, I’d argue that one is her funniest.

My One and Only – while charming and engaging and entertaining – isn’t as humorous. There are plenty of scenes that made me laugh out loud, but the overall tone is more somber.

But still, I love the book. It’s sweet and funny and I adore the characters so much I want to pat them on the head and stuff them in the trunk of my car. Adding more humor wouldn't make it better because it's nearly perfect the way it is, and tossing in more laughs would likely cheapen the book's emotional oomph.

In a way, it’s a relief for me to realize I can love two books from the same author when there’s a fairly significant difference in the humor of the two.

It’s something I’ve fretted about in my own writing for sure. The three books in my contract have a lot in common in terms of humor and style, but they’re not carbon copies of each other. Where my debut, Making Waves, feels more like a comedy with added romance and drama, the book slated as my August 2012 release (currently dubbed Let it Breathe) feels more like a romance with added comedy.

I’ve been working to bring them more in line with each other and worrying about what will happen if I fail to do it well. Will readers get to the third book and assume I’ve developed a crack habit? Or perhaps they’ll like the third one best and wonder why I didn’t write the other two exactly the same way.

I honestly don’t know.

Much of this will be up to my editor in the long run, and I trust she’ll raise any concerns she may have about continuity and crack habits.

But for what it’s worth, I love Making Waves just the way it is.

And as I edit my way through Let it Breathe, I realize I’m pretty happy with the tone of that book, too. They aren’t the same, but is that such a bad thing?

What’s your opinion on authors whose books fluctuate with humor or heat or tension or whatever else you’re looking for from that author? Please share, I’m truly curious.

And please check out Kristan Higgins if you haven’t already. Gotta give some love to the romantic comedy genre, know what I’m sayin?


Matthew MacNish said...

Humor in books isn't like humor in TV or film. It's much harder to pull off, but when it's done just right ... there's nothing quite like it.

Sarah W said...

It's the author's voice that matters to me. If I like an author's style, I'll gladly follow them across genres.

I liked One of the Guys, too. The ending made me laugh and cry -- and smack not a few clueless alpha males upside the head. What's not to like?

Michelle Wolfson said...

I don't think we've discussed this although clearly we should have, but I think the humor definitely doesn't need to be exactly the same or the books sound formulaic. Hers don't and yours don't. For what it's worth (for the record?) my favorite Kristan Higgins is the ex-con and the history teacher. I can never remember the title.

Linda G. said...

You said it in the title of this post -- it's all about the balance. Too funny ALL the time desensitizes the reader, I think. You need a little contrast to heighten the effect. (Of course, I'm one to talk. I have to keep reminding myself that not every one of my scenes has to go for the laugh.)

Delia said...

I've been known to give up on an author whose work was too cookie cutter. I don't have enough time in my life to read the same book over and over, particularly when there are so many others waiting for me. So, from a reader's POV, I would say please don't make them too similar. It's boring. And darlin', that ain't you.

danielle spears said...

So going to check her out! I think I saw her books at Walmart (aka the only bookstore in town).

Jason said...

I agree with Delia - I don't want all the books by the same author to have the same tone and same amounts of humor/romance/violence/whatever. They NEED to be different, otherwise I'm going to get bored (yet I keep reading Patterson and Grisham...go figure).

The most important question is only this: is it entertaining? Write good characters, good plot, and be all over the map with the rest. A good story trumps sameness for me every single time. A good author will always come through, no matter the story's mood.

Rochelle Barlow said...

I agree with the previous posters. I like the variety, otherwise the books would all start to sound like a boring mad lib. With Kristan Higgins (I love her!) her books are all clearly hers. By the way, I loved Just One of the Guys. I just read another one that I was very very pleased with. I can't wait to read My One and Only!

Gabriela Lessa said...

No one wants to read the same thing over and over again. The authors with successful careers are the one who can reinvent themselves with every book. That being said, I highly doubt you'd write anything less than hilarious, Tawna! Can't wait to read your novels!

Oh, and thanks for the recommendation. I havne't read anything by Higgins but I certainly will now!

Judy,Judy,Judy. said...

I love romantic comedy. I'll have to check her out.
Like another commenter, the only thing I want to be similar in books by the same author is voice. If I really like an author's voice I'll read anything, even their grocery lists. (Yes, it was me in your trash the other day.)

Patty Blount said...

Trying my comment again!

I understand the desire to become a brand but you don't want to people to put your books back on the shelf, saying, "Read one, read 'em all." That's why I stopped buying Nick Sparks books.

I think you should follow your gut. You're happy with the way your stories turned out and I'm sure we will be, too.

Patrick Alan said...

Oh Sweetie...

It won't take us until the third book to think about your crack habit.

Kim Mullican said...

I just blogged about a book from my favorite author. The book was disappointing for me. It just lacked the muchness I've come to expect from the author. It was still a great book, but it felt forced. Perhaps maybe the author's heart wasn't in this one as much as his past books - which I've read over and over.

LTM said...

I totally have no problem with it! I think it's the writer's style and voice... his/her ability to create scenes and characters and draw you in that appeals to you.

Sarah Dessen has done this--sort of morphed from darker YA to a more lighter, romancey style.

It's great~ :o)

angelina said...

In general I don't want a favorite author's books to be too similar to each other. Like most of the other commentors have said, the voice is what holds them all together for me, that inimitable style a writer has will come through no matter how light or dark their story is provided the writer is being true to him or herself. I think about this a lot as a writer myself. I'm not very funny in general but have periodic funny moments. If I try to purposely be funny I fail every time. If you're a humorous author I think even if you write a darker story than usual it will still have humor.

Claire Dawn said...

You know, outside of series, I don't really read that many 'authors'. I'm more into individual books.

But this is something I worry about, because my ideas are all over the place. They're mostly YA, but smoe are darker, some brighter, some more philosophical. Will an audience sit through that?