Bubba, Trailer Parks, and Fish-Blood-Drinking Vampires: Adding Humor in Urban Fantasy

To be funny, or not to be funny, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to be overt or subtle. Writers Eric Asher, Delilah S. Dawson, Tina Glasneck, John Hartness, Faith Hunter, and Kimbra Swain waxed poetic about the noble and virtuous art of humor in urban fantasy Friday at 8PM on the Urban Fantasy YouTube channel.

At its core, humor can be broken down into general categories: overt and subtle. Asher, Dawson, Hartness, and Swain fall into the overt camp with wholesome fart jokes, dad jokes, puns, and general ridiculousness.

Puns, pirate parrots, and pushing the limits of what’s considered tasteful are all important ingredients in Asher’s books. He even once exploded perfectly good pigeons with wedding rice and likely won’t be doing that particular series of events again. He did, however, make a dead parrot housing the soul of a pirate a recurring character after the audiobook narrator gave the character a parrot voice.

Violence and sexiness and puns fill the pages of Dawson’s books. When she first started writing, Dawson was worried that her books consisted of too much humor, but humor, for her and many of us, is what we turn to when life gets too extreme, painful, or intense. That humor can break up a scene and give the reader a moment to recover.

Ever hear something completely insane and improbable at a convention*? Hartness takes inspiration from those overheard conversations and then stretches those ideas even further to see how abjectly ridiculous you can get. His vampires are not the typical strong, sexy, and brooding clothing droppers; they’re comic book nerds. The hero isn’t the embodiment of Hercules and Thor having hero babies, but a bit of an idiot with a high pain tolerance and really big gun. Don’t forget about the dad jokes either.

Swain’s trailer park fairy tales include Cletus and Tater, two humans who have a knack for failed experiments with hilarious results, as well as an abundance of Southern idioms that will have you smiling like the cat that ate the canary.

On the other hand, Glasneck and Hunter use the characters’ points of view and experiences to drive the humor in a more subtle fashion.

The way women really talk is often portrayed—ahem—much more reservedly than how they talk in real life. Glasneck has characters in their thirties who have experienced some stuff and talk to each other unabashedly. One of her characters is a writer making all the biggest errors writers make, and the results of those crimes against publishers are cringingly hilarious.

Hunter takes a different approach to writing humor in that the humor in her books doesn’t evolve organically. Her first drafts are extremely dark and focus on having a strong plot foundation before softening the characters and stories through the characters’ humor. All her characters are accidentally funny, except for Beast, whose humor is always on purpose and with torturous intentions.

While not the only trait, humor is often a distinguisher between urban fantasy and horror. Here’s to having more humor every day.

*Reporter’s side note: If you’ve never heard something completely asinine at Dragon Con, please follow the Daily Dragon’s #OverheardatDD or visit the Peachtree Food Court, now available on Discord.

Author of the article

Not everyone can say they watch television for homework, read novels for inspiration, and are paid to follow what’s trending. For Alicia Pack, it is all part of life as a writer and media enthusiast.  When she isn't lost in the world she is trying to create, you can find her with her nose in a book or catching up on her favorite supernatural shows.  She has a Master’s degree in Mass Communications and a Bachelor’s degree in Radio, Television, and Film.  Her nine years of diverse media experience include news writing, copywriting, website content management, social media, promotions, television production, and teaching.

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