Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Weight of the Dead

Dead people put on weight, it seems to me; both in their flesh and in our minds, they put on weight.
-- From Stephen King's novel Bag of Bones

At the end of my Laughing all the Way to the Morgue workshop at the Surrey conference I encouraged participants to email me with any questions they might have and I've decided to answer them on my blog this week.

TODAY'S QUESTION: If you crack jokes when you're writing about the dead, won't you get letters? Won't some people think it's in bad taste?

ANSWER: Is it in bad taste to crack jokes about the dead? At someone's funeral, yes! In fiction? Not so much. But my point during the workshop was that we should consider writing moments to lift the reader up and offer a glimmer of light after a particularly dark scene. I don't think a pie in the face or other slapstick humour is necessary but, in my opinion, sometimes morbidity mirth is necessary to move the plot forward and bring emotional depth to a story.

I used Stephen King's above quote in the workshop to illustrate how even the master of horror can offer a sad, poignant thought in one moment while discussing the death of his protagonist's wife and then offer relief and/or levity to the reader by contrasting that line further in the scene where he seems to wiggle his ears at the reader by writing, "...elementary, my dear Watson. My wife died getting a sunburn."

So write the dark stuff. Make 'em afraid and make 'em cry. But it's okay to give them a reprieve too.

Keep those questions coming :)

Reminder: At the end of the week I'll be having another draw to win an Advance Copy of Remains. You enter by signing up for my mailing list here. I won't spam you but you will receive occasional news about my book releases :)


B.E. Sanderson said...

I think humor and funerals aren't always mutually exclusive. It depends on the person you're mourning, and the people who loved them. My father was a hoot, and when he passed, telling his funny stories (and funny stories about his life) was a way to celebrate his memory. Personally, I like the idea of an Irish wake (or at least what I've heard about them, since I'm not Irish). Mourn the dead by celebrating the life they lived. =oD The same goes for the story you're writing, I guess. If the funeral calls for humor, use it.

Damn, I wish I'd been able to catch your seminars, Wendy. *sigh* Maybe someday.

Wendy Roberts said...

I agree about humour and funerals. Almost every funeral or wake has the moment when someone recalls a funny story and everyone laughs. It's a relief. I wish you could come to my seminar too. One day I'm sure I'll be attending one of YOURS!