Judi Fennell — Going with the Flow

I have an exciting day ahead of me today. I am a guest on Judi Fennell’s blog talking about mermaids and mountains, and Judi is here talking about mermen and humor. Judi is the author of  In Over Her Head, the newly-landed Wild Blue Under, and the soon-to-be-netted Catch of a Lifetime. As you will see in the following article, Judi writes fairy tales with a twist:

Thanks, Pat, for having me here today. 

As some of you may know, I write a paranormal romance series about Mermen. Yes, Mermen. I figured if there were mermaids in stories, there had to be Mermen, right? Otherwise how would you get more little mermaids… 

I didn’t really start out to write a series about Mermen, though. That’s the funny part. I was writing a series about modern twists on fairy tales: Cinda Bella, Beauty and The Best, and Fairest of Them All. For my story, I chose The Little Mermaid, and figured the best way to twist that was to make him the Mer. So I did, made the Human a female, stuck her under the sea, tossed in some stolen diamonds (literally tossed them into the sea), added a sucker-less remora fish named Chum, a mafioso-type great white named Vincent, the mother of all sea monsters (Ceto from Greek mythology), stirred in some other mythologies, a couple of pop cultural references, manipulated our language to be sea-appropriate, and voila, In Over Her Head was born, the title a play on so many things having to do with the story I don’t think I can remember all of them. 

I had such a blast writing this story and laughed to myself the whole time. 

The funny thing is, I hadn’t exactly been planning to write humor. It wasn’t until Chum showed up and opened his mouth, that I realized this could be a comedy. And once I made that realization, I figured, what the heck. Whatever pun or silly comment I came up with… in it went. That’s when the story started flowing. (And, yes, pun totally intended.) 

Actually, there are a lot of puns in the story. On purpose. I mean, you can’t write a sea-themed story with a whole civilization and not play with the language. That’s it in a nut shell becomes That’s it in a conch shell. I think you might want to sit down becomes I think you might want to rest on the bottom, Son-of-a-bitch! becomes Son-of-a-Mer! and so on. There’s a line about Johnny Depp in there that got me my agent and readers have told me I hooked them (see? they just keep coming!) with the heroes’ names in the first two books – they’re twin brothers, one is the Heir to the throne, the other is The Spare, and their names are Rod and Reel. Yes, you are supposed to role your eyes, and go with the flow. Not quite campy, but the stories don’t take themselves too seriously. 

 Now, I’ve always had a wacky sense of humor that either gets some chuckles or some eye-rolling. Never would I have said that I’d be writing romantic comedy. I still scratch my head at that. Me? Funny? Hmmm… But, for whatever reason, it’s working for me, so you can bet I’ll keep swimming with it. Or, actually, in my next series about genies, I’ll keep flying with it. (Ah, to have a real magic carpet…) 

So here’s some of the fun from Judi’s latest release: Wild Blue Under excerpt.

And if that’s not enough excitement, I’m Reading at the Beach with Vicki Newell. (We have a theme going here! Vicki even provides the proper sound effects.) So please stop by and say hi: We Are Story

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And the Tension Builds . . . Yawn

Alfred Hitchcock is often referred to as the master of suspense, but I find some of his movies dreary. The tension rises at a leisurely pace and there is nothing to relieve the single grey note of suspense. By the time I am halfway through one of his films, I hope that everyone dies and gets it over with.

For me, the problem with these movies is that they have no sense of humor. A bit of comic relief would give the films color, would make the suspense more surprising by comparison and the revelations more shocking. Anyone who is familiar with color knows that this works. Yellow is brighter in the presence of purple, its direct opposite on the color wheel, than in the presence of any other color, and purple is more vibrant in the presence of yellow.

I am trying to cultivate humor so that I don’t turn out to be a single-grey-note writer. I’m not planning to add slapstick to an otherwise serious story; nor am I planning to use a lot of clever quips and one-liners. They get annoying after a while, and overshadow the plot. A touch of quiet humor works just as well and makes readers (or film watchers) let down their guard so they are more susceptible to deadly thrusts.

There are many ways of being humorous. One can juxtapose different character types as I did in Daughter Am I. I did not intend for the book to be humorous, but parts of it ended up that way because of Mary’s relationship with the old gangsters. The humor did not come from the age difference but from value differences. The old gangsters had no problem breaking the law, and Mary did.

One can also have a character say or do the opposite of what is expected. The classic Lou Grant remark from Mary Tyler Moore is a good example: “You’ve got spunk,” a pause, then, “I hate spunk.” Or one can have a character struggle to come up with a witty remark and finally come out with a simple “Hi.”

Humor does not come naturally to me, but then, even funny people have to work at it. Agents and editors have rejected me because they say they don’t fall in love with my characters. Maybe a bit of humor will make my characters more lovable. It will certainly make writing them more fun. At the very least, they (and my books) will not be colorless.