There’s an old saying that if you are not a humorous person, don’t try to write humour.

Well, it is only part-true. It is certainly the case that a straight-laced, humourless person might well struggle to write side-splitting comedy but if you are an author, that might not be a good enough excuse.

Why? Because humour is vital to creating good fiction. Even if you are not writing an out-and-out comic piece, humour has a role to perform.

For a start, it can create light against the dark. Take an example: you are writing a sinister piece with the tension building as the tale unfolds. You might decide to keep the tension going right to the end, which would be one way of writing it.

However, you might decide that a flash of humour, a single line of dialogue by a character, could momentarily ease the tension, cause the reader to relax slightly, and provide an even greater impact when you suddenly strike with the next piece of drama, or horror or fear. Ghost and horror writers know that trick well - they are past masters at toying with their readers.

Humour also works well with novels because a relentlessly heavy theme in a story can benefit immensely from the odd break for something a little lighter.

There is another good reason for using humour in your writing because it reveals things about your character and can show another side to them that the reader might not have seen before. Or it can reveal in a brief conversation the depth of two people’s relationship.

And it does not need to be side-splitting humour, that is not the intention: it has other roles to perform.

As one critique of the great William Shakespeare said: “Humour is a tool that allows us to see the subtle details of their minds; a glimpse at the inner workings of each character’s personality. It is through the humour that Shakespeare employs that we are able to see “roundness” in characters that could be otherwise doomed to exist as “flat” characters. Shakespeare uses humour to give his players new life, to help them expand beyond the bounds of mere characters and turn into real people.”

And look how well he did!

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