Wednesday, November 10, 2010

T2T Guest Post: Leila Sales!

Boy do I have something special for you today. As part of her Traveling to Teens tour, YA humor novelist Leila Sales, whose debut novel Mostly Good Girls was recently released, is visiting my blog today to give some advice about humor writing. Welcome, Leila, to Steph Su Reads!


I’ve already been over my big rules for humor writing: agreement, using gifts, the rule of three, callbacks, and being careful about digressions. I have one last tip for you! If this doesn’t work, nothing will! Ready for it?


This is probably my favorite of all humor-writing techniques. In practice, for me, it means “write in all caps,” or, “use a lot of exclamation points,” or, “include extreme adverbs that don’t necessarily make sense.”

An example from Mostly Good Girls, that epic tome (“Epic tome”= making things extreme. It’s not actually an epic tome. It’s like 350 pages, and it’s got some substantial margins.):

“Hey, do you want to go out some time?”

“Um.” I was already halfway out of the vehicle. “What?”

“Go out,” he said. “Some time.”

“Like on a date?”

“Sure,” Raymond said. “Yeah. I guess. Like on a date.”

“No,” I answered quickly because, like, why would I want to go on a date with Raymond? Not that there’s anything obviously wrong with him, but he is just some guy, and merely being a) male and b) my age is not reason enough for me to date someone. What I wanted to say to him was, “Are you honestly so delusional as to believe that we have anything in common? Did you consider your fifteen minute-long soliloquy about sports to be a successful conversation?”

But I couldn’t say that aloud. Because that is mean. So instead what I said, to soften the blow of my rejection, was, “Thanks for asking, but I’m actually not allowed to date.”

What makes this passage funny? One, the italics. I love the italics, not as much as I love the CAPS LOCK, but I have found over the years that copyeditors tend to get annoyed when you write in caps lock.

The second thing this passage has going for it is the phrase “to soften the blow of my rejection.” Violet’s rejection of Raymond is not a “blow.” He will not be devastated. He will forget about it by tomorrow. But the overstatement works.

Of course, the reader doesn’t bother to parse sentences like that. All a reader notices is whether something is funny, or boring. They don’t care why. But the writer sometimes has to care.

The best way to write is to learn from example, so in the next post of my blog tour, I’m going to share with you a selection of my favorite humor writers. See you then!


Thanks for this Leila! I'm no good at humor writing so I've been learning a lot. Be sure to follow the rest of Leila's T2T tour to find out more about her, her book, and her writing tips!


  1. This was cool. I really enjoyed reading it. And Mostly Good Girls sounds like fun.

  2. Nice! I liked these guest posts and Leila is hilarious!

  3. I loved Mostly Good Girls and I remember laughing reading that little exchange between Violet and Raymond. And I agree, I never really stopped to figure out exactly why it was funny, I just knew it was.

    Thanks for stopping by Leila!



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