Why I Write Funny/Sad Novels
Hi, my name is Brian and I write funny and sad novels. This mix is at the heart of any story I tell, no matter what else is in the story. I don't write comic novels, though I want you to laugh when you read my novels. I don't write sad novels, though I want you to experience the emotional roller coaster of my characters as they struggle through their stories. Both humor and sadness are in my novels and that's a big part of what makes them mine.
I see the world as funny and sad. People laugh at funerals and cry at weddings. Sometimes they laugh and cry at the same time. We're complicated, we humans. Surgeons make jokes when they're operating on patients. Cops joke at crime scenes. Are they doing this because they enjoy other people's pain? Of course not. Are they less serious about their jobs than someone who never jokes about anything? NO. They have difficult jobs dealing with life and death situations and humor helps them handle the things they must handle. There are many moments in life when funny and sad are side by side like this. For me it seems perfectly natural that funny and sad can both be in a novel, sometimes in moments right next to each other.
I've written novels that are mostly realistic (MY ROADTRIP TO THE PRETTY GIRL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD) and speculative novels (ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES) and realistic novels with supernatural elements (the upcoming UTOPIA, IOWA—February, 2015) and my last recently finished WIP told from the POV of a dead boy in a library between life and the afterlife (again, mostly realistic but with supernatural elements), but what they all have in common is the mix of humor and sadness. Of course there are writers far more successful than I who also have this mix at the heart of their work: Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gabrielle Zevin, and Neil Gaiman, come to mind. If you're a writer who is forcing your writing to be either serious or comic because you think it must be one or the other, I'd ask you to consider the success of these writers.
I know I didn't really find the voice for my fiction until I began to work toward a balance of funny and sad in my work. Now I can't imagine writing fiction that doesn't have both.