Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can suspense be mixed with humor?

Humor Among the Suspense

By James Callan

In the Crystal Moore suspense A Ton of Gold, things can get pretty intense at times.  I don’t think they rise up to thriller status, though probably close. But sometimes, when things are intense for a bit, your reader will welcome something a little lighter.  A little humor might come in handy.

One of my favorite characters is Eula Moore, Crystal’s grandmother.  She is seventy-six, lives alone in the middle of a forest and doesn’t let much upset her.  In one very intense scene, something happens that reminds her of a funny incident from years ago.  She tells those around her the story and thoroughly enjoys herself. But once they laugh about it, she can return just as quickly to the somber mood and difficult situation currently surrounding her.  The short scene gives the reader a break and by adding contrast, actually heightens the seriousness of Eula’s predicament.

Crystal is a very serious minded computer science researcher.
And many of the people in the book are not prone to humor. So, it’s important that someone can see the humor in things, even in frightening things.

At another point, near the end of a serious and deadly standoff with two henchmen, the sheriff yells to the thugs that he has two deputies with him and to come out with hands up.  Eula, inside with the bad guys, yells back, “I’m willing to bet my old corset you ain’t got two deputies with you.”  The situation is deadly, but Eula is willing to face it with a little humor.

I just finished reading a good suspense/thriller book.  It was well-written.  The characters were interesting. But they were all so serious, it was depressing.  I don’t think there was a laugh in the entire two hundred and eighty pages.  I enjoyed the book. But I found it tiring. There was never a light moment, a time for the mind to relax.

In my book Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel, I suggest that making the sidekick different from the protagonist is an advantage. This adds contrast, and probably many small instances of conflict, always a good thing in a novel.  If your main characters are very serious, create a sidekick who is a funny woman.  Or at least she can find something to laugh about in almost any situation. This contrast highlights the seriousness of the protagonist, and at the same time, gives the reader a break from too much gravity.

So whether it’s a mystery, a suspense book, or a thriller, take a little break every now and then and give the reader a cause to smile or maybe laugh out loud.  She will appreciate it. And it will tend to make the dangerous scenes seem even more frightening.

My next Father Frank mystery, Over My Dead Body, should be released at the end of April, 2015.  A Christian mystery, it follows the three main characters of Cleansed by Fire, the first book in the series.

Meet James R. Callan

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in Spring, 2014.

Amazon Author page:
Twitter:                                                @jamesrcallan

A Ton of Gold, (Oak Tree Press, 2013)
On Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions: