Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours virtual book tour for Dave Dobson’s Science Fiction Space Opera novel Daros! Today, I am excited to kick off the tour by sharing an incredible guest post by the author about how he goes about incorporating humor in his writing!
You can find the guest post below, along with all of the info about the book, the author, links to purchase a copy of Daros for yourself, as well as an opportunity to win an ebook, audiobook, or a signed copy! Also, be sure to take a look at the schedule at the bottom of the post and follow along to see the stops from our other awesome hosts!
Daros by Dave Dobson
Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera)
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: May 2021
Publisher: Dave Dobson Books (Self Published)
High above Daros, sixteen-year-old Brecca Vereen prepares to unload a cargo of trade goods aboard her father’s ship, the Envy’s Price. Nellen Vereen shows her a mysterious artifact bound for a contact below, one that will earn them a lot of credits, and one that they definitely won’t be declaring to customs.
Materializing out of nowhere, alien invaders fire upon all ships, destroy the jump gate, and knock out communications. The Envy’s Price is crippled, and as her father tries to guide it down from orbit, Brecca rescues the illicit artifact and jettisons in a life pod to an uncertain fate below.
On the flagship of the invading fleet, Navigator Frim tries to persist within the cruel autocracy of the Zeelin Hegemony, under constant threat of death, but wishing for something better. And then she notices a whisper of radiation above Daros – the trail of a cloaked Vonar ship. What are they doing in the midst of all this? And will the captain kill her just for revealing this disagreeable news?
Daros is a classic space opera with aliens, weird technology, an invasion, distant worlds, and space travel. And laser guns, of course. It is humorous at many points, but it focuses primarily on the characters and their adventures rather than the jokes.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World • Space Invaders • I Can’t Hide This Zeelin Anymore
On Humor in Writing
I often look for ways to include humor in my books, and it’s a big part of Daros and also of my Inquisitors’ Guild series and my other writing. For the blog tour, Justin asked me to talk about how I go about incorporating humor into my stories. That’s a really interesting question, because I think I take a few different routes to getting there.
I’ve always tried to be funny. My kids would immediately tell you I try too hard, but it’s something that’s been a lifelong part of me. Whether it’s talking over dinner, or teaching in my geology classes, or playing D&D or other games, I’m always looking for humor in a situation – a chance to make a joke or a funny remark. I’ve been studying and performing improv comedy at my local comedy club since 2006, and I’ve done a little bit of stand-up, too. So, it comes naturally, and it’s something I really enjoy.
As everybody knows, you can try too hard to be funny, and I’m definitely guilty of that sometimes. In writing, I try to rein that instinct in. One of the first and hardest things you learn doing improv is that going for an easy joke often makes your scene weaker, and it often leaves a mess that your teammates have to clean up. That means the joke is often just not worth it. A break in character, a stupid pun, a caustic reply, an anachronism, a pop culture reference – all of that can get a laugh, but it also breaks the narrative that you’re trying to create. It’s much better to have the humor arise from the situation at hand, and from genuine interactions and responses between the characters.
In my writing, like in improv, job number one is trying to tell a good story, one with real emotional stakes, people you care about, and often with pretty serious stuff going on. My first rule is that the humor can’t detract from all of that. Comedy is a little like a spice or seasoning – if you add the right amount at the right time, you can create something wonderful, much better than the bland thing you started with, but if you overdo it, then it becomes the entire focus, and the whole thing can become unpalatable, kind of like a hot dog drenched in mustard, or a taco that’s half hot sauce.
Once you’ve got the story and the characters in place, there’s a lot you can do with them to make the humor sing. In my books, that often comes from relationships between characters, especially when they’re good friends, but also when they’re just getting to know each other. Banter between characters is a great way to add humor, especially if you make it a basis of their friendships and personalities. In my Inquisitors’ Guild books, I often have inspectors in partnerships, and that gives me two people who are friends able to play off each other. There are a lot of ways to get to comedy in that situation, whether it’s changing the status between the characters (a low-status character can be a great source of one-liners), or having one make fun of the other when they’re being too serious, or having both of them react to and make fun of something else going on. The TV show Frasier does this kind of comedy tremendously well.
In Daros, the funniest parts of the book (I think) are the dialogue between Brecca (a human who is thrust into a difficult situation on Daros) and Lyra (an AI who is forced to take Brecca on as a partner). They come from very different cultures and value systems, so their various takes on the situation and on each other provide fertile ground for fun. Both Brecca and Lyra have a mischievous streak, also, which means that their interactions or remarks can heighten their differences. When characters can play little pranks on each other, that can be a lot of fun.
You can pull this dialogue-based or situation-based humor off in a story sometimes with a character who’s designed as a one-scene character just put in there for some comic relief. As long as the scene still moves the story forward, having a funny or wise-ass one-off character thrown in can be a nice break in tension. I did this in The Outcast Crown with a burly jewelry guard, and in Flames Over Frosthelm with an inept carpet thief.
Another source of humor is having unexpected outcomes, particularly with regard to characters’ plans. As long as the story flows naturally and you aren’t forcing it, that can be a great way to create a fun scene, when your characters are sure something is going to happen one way, and then it turns out they’re totally wrong, often with unexpected and really bad results. The longer they keep to their original plans in the face of the actual situation going south, and the more earnest they were in pursuing those plans, the bigger chance there is for comedy. That kind of thing is a natural fit for my detective stories, where people are always acting with incomplete information, and thinking they understand things that they really don’t.
One more way I try to add humor sometimes is by creating a ridiculous situation where someone is acting foolish or strict, particularly in ways sanctioned by law or government, and then having my main characters just react to the situation in a natural, critical, biting way. There’s almost always humor to be found in that kind of situation, and a lot of workplace comedy on TV and in movies comes from there.
Finally, I think it’s also OK to write some scenes that verge on slapstick. It’s tricky to do this in a book, because a lot of the humor in that kind of scene is physical, and you have to describe it well, but I’ve tried it a few times. You have two real and related risks here – one is overdoing it, which makes it look like you’re just going for a cheap laugh, and the other is that you’ll break out of the mood and emotional focus of the story to do something that’s just silly, which can do real harm to the parts of your story that matter.
One last thing I do, which is self-indulgent, but which most of my readers seem to like, is that I make almost all of my chapter titles puns, sometimes based on our modern culture, e.g. Ascent of a Woman, A Game of Drones, There’s No Place Like Foam, Busta Slimes, Everything Happens for a Treason, The Fault In Our Lars. They’re obviously anachronistic and silly, but I think they give the books another bit of fun sprinkled in. So, that’s my approach. As far as literary role models for this kind of thing, I always look to William Goldman, Barry Hughart, and Harry Harrison as great examples. Their books have lots of humor, but it’s carefully integrated into stories that you really care about, with characters who seem real, and exciting, and fun to spend time with. That’s the goal
About the Author
A native of Ames, Iowa, Dave loves writing, reading, boardgames, computer games, improv comedy, pizza, barbarian movies, and the cheaper end of the Taco Bell menu. Also, his wife and kids.
In addition to his novels, Dave is the author of Snood, Snoodoku, Snood Towers, and other computer games. Dave first published Snood in 1996, and it became one of the most popular shareware games of the early Internet. His most recent project (other than writing) is Doctor Esker’s Notebook, a puzzle card game in the spirit of escape rooms.
Dave taught geology, environmental studies, and computer programming at Guilford College for 24 years, and he does improv comedy every week at the Idiot Box in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s also played the world’s largest tuba in concert. Not that that is relevant, but it’s still kinda cool.
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