The Light Side by DiAnn Mills

I write suspense and work hard at plunging characters into one abyss after another. My goal is to have danger creep across my characters’ lives in every scene while adding a spark of romance.

  • Sometimes my hero and heroine are wounded.
  • Sometimes they have to display courage when they’d rather run.
  • Sometimes they have to find logic in the midst of chaos.
  • And sometimes they have nothing but their wits as defense.

But sometimes our readers need to take a breath. After all, if we send them after blood pressure medication too often, they might not purchase our next book. Can’t have that.

Teachers of writing instruct us to slow pacing with internal dialogue, and that works as long as we don’t over indulge and keep the reader devouring page after page of our delicious story. A writer’s mind whirls with creating the unpredictable and unexpected while maintaining credibility. So what fits into those three criteria while writing suspense?

Humor. Not slapstick, goofy, cartoon-like humor, but quirky traits and unique circumstances that show our characters as fully developed individuals who have a funny side. The reader can laugh while urging the character to get the bad guy.

How can a writer accomplish this? Here are a few ways to lighten life in your novels by using character traits.

1. The serious character that has dry wit will be appreciated. Although the other characters may not understand the sarcasm or play on words, the reader will. The situation becomes a private joke, allowing the reader to be part of the creative process of story.
2. Bantering between the hero and heroine moves the reader to appreciate the intelligence of each character while the hero and heroine are developing their relationship.
3. Assigning unique traits to the characters that are unlikely yet convincing endear the reader to that character. In The Chase, my rugged FBI Special Agent appreciates Buzz Lightyear. The agent wears a Buzz Lightyear watch and in the second novel of the Crime Scene: Houston series, the reader sees more of the hero’s light side with his sidekick Buzz. My heroine has too much electricity in her body and can’t wear a watch. She’s been known to destroy headphones . . . which she forgets to tell others.
4. Exaggerate a character trait for comic relief. If a character’s only purpose is to provide amusement, give him/her a purpose in the plot.
5. Using satire to an extreme is hurtful, and the writer will lose readers unless the comments and situations are from the antagonist.
6. Unexpected situations can provide a chuckle. Think about the pest control commercials. An unsuspecting couple opens the door to a low-life roach. We laugh because it’s impossible, but we also understand how unwanted pests can invade our homes. Use humor to ease the character through a tough situation.
7. Don’t overdo verbs that indicate a type of laughter. Too much and your story reads like a comic book.
8. Overdone humor or inappropriate ridicule will cause a story to fall flat. Humor isn’t written to display the writer’s creativity but to keep the reader engaged in the story.

A sprinkling of humor in a novel will cause the reader to recommend the book and look forward to the writer’s next release. Isn’t that what we want?