Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Humour, wit and character conversation: Number 7 Sandra Giles

Alrighty then. Humour. An interesting topic, and one that doesn’t really go hand in hand with novels that have elements as dark as my own. Not that it stops me. Humour creeps into most, if not all, of my novels. Accidentally, of course. I never intend to be funny. In fact, most of the time I’ll read through one of my novels and find it surprising that there’s so much humour. Okay, so most people probably don’t see it. My sense of humour has always been a bit…odd. It makes me a bit apprehensive about finding and sharing pieces that I deem amusing, as you could well find yourself scratching your head, wondering why I chose these pieces. I wanted to take portions from each of my narrators and demonstrate how each of them can be humorous, then realised I shouldn’t introduce the narrators that aren’t going to hit the shelves for quite some time. So I instead chose a short piece from Aled, and a longer piece from Jared. The one below is from A Lost Fantasy, and demonstrates the light banter between the characters. They’re closer than family and like to make fun of one another a fair bit. It might not be laugh-out-loud funny, but I like to think it’ll bring a smile to a reader’s face. If it doesn’t, can you just humour me by smiling anyway?

“You went into labour and decided to come here?” Mark said, outraged. “And you think I’m slow?”

“Hey, don’t blame me. It was our baby who started all of this. Actually, technically it was you who started it.”

“How did you figure that out?” Mark asked.

“Well, I distinctly remember that just over eight months ago there was a particularly fun night involving cream and-”

“Okay, that’s enough detail. It takes two to tango.”

“Yes, and it takes one to put on a condom. I trusted you.”

“You trusted me to use protection when you’re on the pill? That’s a new one.”

“Well you know I’m always forgetting to take it.”

“Then we were bound to have a baby at some point. I can’t use protection when I’m a wolf.”

“No, but you pull-”

“So what are you two going to call your child?” I asked, cutting through their discussion much to the aggravation of the others.

“I was enjoying that!” Dylan said. “Tell us more about that wild night.”

“It was the last time he went anywhere near me,” Ella said indignantly. “After that, he seemed to think that getting too intimate would hurt the baby. What a ponce.”

“I seem to remember you saying that it didn’t matter because you could please yourself better than I ever could,” Mark said. We all laughed as he realised what he had said. “That didn’t help me look good, did it?”

“Nope,” Ian said. “And God knows you need all the help you can get.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“I was thinking of Anita,” Ella said.

“Not good, mate. You’ve turned her gay,” Ian said. Mark hit him.

“I meant for the baby.”

The following piece was taken from Proving Negatives. I should say there’s quite a big spoiler for anyone wanting to read the book, but it’s all in the names. Just…forget the names, okay? This piece has been chopped up to keep it as short as possible while still keeping the general plot. If you’ve been following these posts, you might recognise the setting from my part on love scenes. This precedes part of the sample I gave then, so Jared is trapped in a location unknown to him, and with company he’d rather be without. I chose this as I found myself laughing a fair bit when editing it recently. Since then I’ve read it through too many times to see much humour, but I hope I didn’t cut it all away. It mostly shows Jared’s sense of humour, which is more like my own than any other character’s. Warning: this piece may cause the occasional eye-roll and exasperated sigh.

“Hey,” I said abruptly, causing Andrew to jump a foot in the air. “Impressive. You’d do well in the Olympics. Hurdles, long jumps…Can you run fast?”

I made to chase him and he skirted around the cage, yelping as he ran into me. It was truly pathetic. This man is definitely more human than supernatural. I don’t know why anyone was bothering to hunt him.

“What?” Andrew asked hysterically. “You make me sick!”

“I was only going to ask you something. You didn’t have to go berserk on me.”

“Well I’m finding it hard to stay in control when you’re prowling about the place and shouting out.”

“I’m standing perfectly still, not prowling. You need to get a grip if you ever want out of here.” Just to make him more comfortable, I lowered myself to the ground in one slow movement. It would take a millisecond to jump back up again, but at least the illusion of safety was there.

“That’s okay for you to say; you can’t die of starvation.”

“You think you’ll die of starvation before I become crazed with thirst? Interesting.”

“See? You’re mental! I want out of here!”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I just did,” he said, alarmed. “We’ve only just started talking. When did you expect me to bring it up? I was hardly going to tell you when I was working against you. Now the only person I’m working against is Lance, but don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not siding with you. Not permanently, anyway. If you can get us out of here, great, but I can’t trust another vampire.”

“News flash, I’ve never done anything to you, it was the other way round.”

“You still going on about that?”

I opened my mouth, closed it, and settled for shaking my head in disbelief.

I got up off the ground and studied the cage we were in. It didn’t look too tough, but apparently was. I charged at it, hoping to bring it down, yet only managed to bring myself down. I fell heavily to the ground and was dazed enough to need a moment to recover. When I had, I tried a series of kicks to each plastic wall, hoping to find a weak link. That didn’t work so I moved onto punching, and then pushing, and then swearing at it. Not that I expected that to get me anywhere.

“Lance has the key,” Andrew said unhelpfully.

“Thanks, I know,” I muttered.

“He could let us out.”

I spared him an irritated glance before turning back to the walls. “I don’t think he’s going to help us somehow.”

“No, but maybe someone else would. We need a key, and there are two strong vampires out there who would want to help you. They’ll take him down and unlock the door.”

“You truly are an idiot,” I said.

“Or I’ve learned to think outside the box.”

I ignored him and traced my fingers along the edges of each wall, searching for a fissure that could be our only ticket out. Anything to be away from this lunatic. When I could find nothing of use, I sighed and spoke through gritted teeth. “If you have any ideas, I’d be happy to hear them.”

“If you were murdered, wouldn’t you want your killer to be trapped with you for eternity so that he could suffer?”

“I can’t be murdered so it’s a moot point.”

“I’m talking figuratively.”

“You’re talking nonsense.”

“If you’re going to be like that, I won’t tell you how to get out.”

“And if you don’t tell me, you’re going to die a slow and painful death. By the time starvation takes its hold, you’ll be begging me to bleed you dry.”

“Then I’d be dead.”

“That’s the general idea.”

“And I’d be a ghost.”

“If I murder you, yes. Or even if you blame someone. I guess you’d blame Lance, seeing as he put you in this cage. But it’s all very complicated and I’m not really sure what makes a ghost.”

“So if I die, I’d be another lost soul wondering the streets, waiting for my chance to take vengeance on the one responsible.”

“Vampires can’t die.”

“I know that, but humans don’t.”

“What are you-?” A light switched on in my head and I managed to figure out what he was getting at. “If there are ghosts around here, how will they get at Lance?”

“Through us, of course.” He smiled and looked crazier than ever. “If they help us, we can kill him for them. They’ll have his ghost to play with forever. I’m sure they’d help us for that.”

He hummed a little, and I felt a strong urge to hit him. Not to dominate him or any vampire crap, but just because he was bugging the hell out of me. If he ends up dying, it won’t be due to starvation. I was sure of that. “So what’s the plan once one shows up? It’s not as though they can get the keys from him. They’re dead.”

“Thanks for stating the obvious. I thought you had a plan?”

“You heard my plan. Now it’s your turn, genius.”

“Well, you said it yourself; we need vampires. Emilia and Ezra live a couple of streets away, according to you. If we can get one of the ghosts to pay them a visit, they can help us.”

“See, I’m not just a pretty face.”

“You didn’t even come up with it!”

“No, but the idea was there. It just needed formulating.” I slammed both of my fists against the barrier in frustration, and he jumped once more. “No need to get aggressive.”

“Oh shut up.”

He did, which was surprising.

“Jared?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m sorry.” He sighed heavily. “I underestimated you. I jumped to conclusions after seeing you take down James, and I really wish I hadn’t.”

“You would say that; you’re in a cage with me.” I smiled slightly anyway.

“There is that, but I am genuinely sorry. I was too fixated on my own problems and seeing you acting so strong, well, I was jealous. I thought if I could beat you, for real, I could prove something to myself as well as to those trying to collect me.”

“If it helps, you never would’ve won.”

“I know, but it’s a nice thought.”

“My head on a platter’s a nice thought? Thanks for that.”

“You know what I mean.”

I did, which probably made me no saner than him. Ah well, who needs sanity anyway? It’s highly overrated.

[Queue the arrival of a much-needed, albeit useless, ghost]

Undoubtedly bored with the goings-on of the living world, the ghost walked back through the wall she’d come through and we were left alone once more. I informed Andrew of this, and he slumped in agitation.

“How long until the next one?” he asked.

“How am I supposed to know? I don’t have a timetable!”

“Well just don’t mess the next time up, okay?”

“You try talking to the mentally unstable, it’s not exactly easy.” And I was having plenty of practice.

“You forget that I’ve seen inside your head when you’re at your most vulnerable. I know exactly what a disturbed mind looks like.”

“Thanks for that. And I can hardly forget.” I kicked the wall in frustration and ignored Andrew as he jumped into the air again. He got slowly to his feet and started pacing the enclosure.

[Queue the arrival of a second ghost, this one deaf]

“Has he gone to get help?” Andrew asked excitedly.

“No, he’s still here, looking at me in puzzlement. I don’t know how to get rid of him.”

“Where is he standing?”

I pointed towards the ghost, and Andrew tried to pinpoint his location before performing some very intelligent sign language of his own. He gave him the middle finger, a clear ‘fuck off’, and I tried really hard not to laugh. It wasn’t funny, not really, but I’ve always had an inappropriate sense of humour. I tried to apologise to the ghost, but gave up and let him walk off. I kind of wished he didn’t go, because even a deaf ghost was better than being with just Andrew.

“He’s gone,” I said, as Andrew moved on to more obscene sign language. He didn’t leave his spot by the invisible wall, too immersed in finding new ways to be immature. He was breathing onto the wall and writing rude words, along with drawing some imaginative pictures. When he wrote SOS in large letters, I realised this would have been an adept way of communicating with our deaf friend. It didn’t make me like Andrew any more.

So where did this leave me with Andrew? Well, maybe he’d prove himself useful. I tried not to laugh at that, especially when the man in question was standing hunched over and calling ‘here ghosty, ghosty’ to thin air. I know one thing for sure; I’ll take no pleasure in killing him. Well, unless it comes down to needing to feed. There is always pleasure to be had then.

“Can you please tell him to shut up? He’s driving me crazy!”

I jumped at the sound of the voice, which was close to my ear. I’d been so close to sleeping this time that I was more annoyed than happy with the appearance of a seemingly-sane ghost. This one was younger than the last, with a plain face that most people would forget in an instant. His attention was on Andrew, eyes narrowed as the call to all ghosts was still being attempted.

“Andrew, shut up, one’s here,” I said.

“It worked!” he said triumphantly. “Where is it? Is it sane?”

“Should I be insulted?” the ghost asked me.

“Nah, just ignore him, I try to,” I said. Andrew looked affronted but I tried my best to take my own advice. It was hard. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see a dead person.”

“Ditto,” he replied, smiling.

[The ghost] continued chuckling to himself as he left through the wall. I decided that, rather than face Andrew, I’d act a little unhinged myself. I continued to talk as though a ghost was present, just to put off talking to my actual companion. The problem was that I couldn’t keep up the stream for long.

“Just tell him to get on with it,” Andrew said in annoyance.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, staring at nothingness. “He’s a pain like that.”

“Hey!” Andrew said, jumping in front of me so that I could clearly see his frustration.

I couldn’t ignore him when he was so close, and had no idea what to say to my invisible friend, so had to settle for saying my final goodbyes to Mr. Nobody and actually acknowledging the fact that Andrew was in front of me.

“He’s gone. Happy?” I said angrily.

“Will he bring someone along to help?”

“Who knows? Maybe.” He looked as though he wanted me to say more, or he wanted to say more, and I just wasn’t up to any long conversations with the likes of him. Not when I was so exhausted. “Listen, do you mind if I go to sleep for a while? Hopefully our next caller will be Emilia, and you’ll have no problem seeing her.”

“Fine, if you must.”

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