I tend to write in specific genres: fantasy, dark fantasy, horror and young adult. One of the hardest things to do when writing in those pillars of literature is being able to inject some humor into your work.
Some of the best novels I’ve ever read are the ones that inject humor in the middle of heavy drama or between scares. A good punch line or a well-timed bit of irony, either in dialogue or description, can add good pacing to your writing.
But comedy is tough in general, not to mention in the written word. Much of it has to do with timing, just like it does in film and television. It takes a bit of work to cleverly craft your prose to lead up to a good one-liner or to accurately describe a funny situation when the crux of the story is centered around a more serious tone. The wrong wording, the wrong placement, the wrong usage can make a joke fall flat and become disruptive to the reader.
The last thing you want someone saying when they read your work is “where did that come from?” in a negative way.
As with anything, the best advice is to practice. What is funny in your head might not translate to paper, but just because it doesn’t immediately read back as funny doesn’t mean you should scrap the joke. Rework it, switch things around, play with what comes before and after the punchline and see what does work.
Your best help does come from friends and family. Never be afraid to show them your work. They know it’s in progress and they’ll often give you good suggestions. They can also be good sources for funny material as well. Take notes, observe, remember and apply.
Comedy is a big part of any genre if you use it correctly. Don’t be afraid to use it. Even in the most serious or most dramatic works of fiction, humor has a role – often an important role – in fiction.