Using Humor in Dramatic Fiction.
I saw the movie Winter's Bone with my mother some time ago. We were quite impressed by the movie but it was super intense and my mother said, "There just wasn't any comic relief."
I had never thought about the role comic relief plays in dramatic stories before. However, I realized that I had been using it all along in my writing and that most dramatic fiction does too. Like a lot of things in life, we act out of instinct or perhaps in reaction to things we've picked up on subconsciously.
My novel "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe" is a dramatic tale of a man struggling to be himself in a world that doesn't want to have to accept who he is. After hearing me read many passages from my book, a fellow writer's group member said to me once, "I really enjoy your humor."
I especially appreciated the compliment as the humor in my book, despite being pervasive, is quite subtle. I was glad to see that I was successful in getting it across.
The humor is needed in my book; it's necessary to break up the tension, to prevent the reader from getting bogged down in the character's problems. As my novel is written in the first person, the humor is really that of my main character, Jim. Accordingly, the humor in his narrative also serves to gain the reader's empathy and allegiance. Everyone likes a good chuckle, and if Jim, despite all his problems, can get a little comic relief from the drama in his life, perhaps so can we when the going gets tough.