Different Types of Fear
Of course, not every type of fear has comedy value. My husband was very ill a while back and I was terrified – and there was nothing remotely amusing about that. But certain other fearful situations can be hugely comedic, if you have the ability to distance yourself emotionally and take the role of a casual observer.
Strangers in the Night
I remember one time, way back when I was in my twenties, believing there was an intruder in the house. Turns out it was my cat being noisy, but hey, you know what it’s like in the middle of the night when common sense takes a tumble out the nearest window, right?
I’ll never forget that feeling; pacing softly down the stairs, breathing fast, clutching a book. Yes, the only thing I had to hand was a novel, and it wasn’t even a hardback. Unlikely to be much defence against a hardened burglar, but I hadn’t really thought it through to be honest.
It was only when I’d explored downstairs, realised that the source of the noise had been my cat knocking a drying saucepan off the kitchen unit, that I realised how silly I’d been, and started to laugh. I mean, clutching a book, in my pyjamas, hair poufing over my scalp like a half-risen loaf of bread… I must have looked pretty ridiculous. And there it was – the comedy of the situation. Fear really can be funny!
What Makes it Amusing?
- Our reactions. This is an aspect of fear that I think Stephen King addresses marvellously. When we’re frightened, we react in all sorts of different ways. Some coping strategies make good sense. However, some are just downright weird; and there’s a lot of humour to be generated from these oddball reactions.
- The misplaced anxiety. Have you ever had the fright of your life, thinking there’s someone in the room with you, only to realise it’s your own reflection? These sorts of situations can generate plenty of humour in writing, providing you handle them well.
- Embarrassing responses. I remember being on a boat in Vietnam (I know – I was very lucky!) and everyone jumping off into the waters below. Except guess who couldn’t jump? The same person who was quivering like a leaf on the deck, clutching the railings and muttering ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it,’ over and over, until eventually slipping by mistake and plummeting into the water with all the grace of a slug falling from a great height? Yep, you guessed it… it was me! It hadn’t felt funny at the time, but afterwards, I could see the humour in the situation.
Is it Okay to Mash Up Genres?
There are some readers who are quite anti- the mash-up, but I’ve never been one of them. There are plenty of terrifying horror novels out there, and several wonderfully funny books. Why not blend the two genres to create something new? In fact, there’s loads of fun to be had from mixing up all sorts of different genres, as the film Shaun of the Dead proved – a Rom-Zom-Com of epic proportions.