In my Writing 4 Children column this month, I interview children’s book writer Mo O’Hara about writing comedy for middle grade series books. I have previously interviewed and blogged about Mo O’Hara before when I interviewed her for Papers Pens Poets. Take a look at: An Interview with… Mo O’Hara
She explained that she was inspired to start writing children’s books after she took a course in writing for children. Now My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series are bestsellers here and in the US and her new series My Fangtastically Evil Vampire Pet is doing quite well too.
Mo told me:
“I definitely draw on my own experiences for all my writing – comedy included. Remembering all your embarrassing moments is a great place to start.” (Mo O’Hara)
In the feature, Mo explains how written comedy is different to stand up. For Mo the story and the characters come first and then the jokes come out of the situation. She always starts with characters that are funny.
She did this for her graphic novel launching this year – Agent Moose. Originally the main character was a mouse who is a master of disguise. But the idea wasn’t working and did not seem funny at all She put it away and one day it hit her – a 7 foot tall moose that can hide anywhere is just more funny. The comedy just fell in place because of the character.
Mo’s writing tip for other writers who want to write comedy is to write with a knowledge of the vocabulary of the age range of your reader. Kids are capable of getting the meaning of a word through context and they love funny words too – ‘Discombobulate!’ for instance. Also repeated words that are explained through context are funny sometimes.
“If you get a kid to laugh it’s because at that moment, they had a genuine reaction and thought it was funny. That’s the emotional response I want. That’s why writing funny for kids is more rewarding for me.” (Mo O’Hara)
Her most important tip is ALWAYS read all comedy aloud. She explained that sometimes what you think is funny when it’s written loses something when spoken. It pulls up the flaws in timing.