- Characters who view the world in an offbeat yet believable way
- Situations that are honestly motivated but get out of hand
- The author’s and/or character’s voice
- Surprise coupled with recognition—the unexpected that nevertheless rings true
- Fresh situations that are engaging and clever.
- Characters who act stupid or clumsy in ways that the author has manipulated just to try to juice up the humor
- More than moderate amounts of embarrassment. Embarrassing a character that the reader or viewer identifies with quickly becomes uncomfortable.
- Cruelty—lines or scenes that belittle people and situations that might really hurt someone. Fat jokes are an example.
- Overwriting and excess verbiage. Funny writing is tight and pointed, and cuts away fast.
- Vagueness. Funny writing is on the mark and self-explanatory. If it isn’t funny on first reading, it doesn’t work.
- In humorous fiction, people still need to care about the characters and what happens to them.
- There’s no substitute for story. Writing a series of goofy situations will wear thin quickly. The story needs real conflict, a series of evolving obstacles, characters who grow and a resolution that’s emotionally satisfying.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’ve lived a lot of places—born in Texas, raised in Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee, spent a year in Italy and France, and have lived most of my adult years in Southern California. After working as a reporter and editor at several newspapers and The Associated Press in LA, I’ve written and sold more than 95 novels. These include romantic comedies, Regency romances, mysteries and fantasy.
Tell us about your book. How did it get started?
Designer Genes is an offbeat romantic comedy that was originally published in Harlequin’s now-defunct Duets line. I revised and updated it, and recently issued it as an ebook with a new cover. The concept was developed with a friend and fellow author, Charlotte Maclay. We had a lot of fun writing books for Duets set in the make-believe town of Nowhere Junction, Texas. We didn’t coauthor the books, but we did share secondary characters and town locations (such as the Nowhere Nearer to Thee O Lord Church). I’m sorry to report that Charlotte died recently, and I miss her.
How do you create your characters?
I think about what kind of person would be involved in the situation that I have in mind. What childhood factors still resonate with him or her? What are her goals and fears? What issues keep him from finding love? While I’m answering these questions, a person forms in my mind, and I find a photograph in magazines or on the Internet that further clarifies this character. Ultimately, though, the personality emerges in the writing.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
I knew from an early age—around four—that I was meant to be a writer. Studying playwriting in college and working with a terrific critique group have helped. There were a lot of rejections along the way, and although I’ve sold more than 95 novels, I’m still learning. My favorite novel, by the way, never sold because it’s very offbeat, so I published it myself as an ebook. It’s called Out of Her Universe.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
Coffee helps! I have a home office, and I like peace and quiet. When people interrupt me, I bite them.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
Ideas come from everywhere. My mother, Sylvia Hyman, was a world-renowned ceramic sculptor, and she was still getting ideas at age 95, just before she died. I don’t know how not to get ideas.
What do you like to read?
Very widely. I lose patience with books that are too much on the beaten path. I also get bored with literary novels that lack narrative drive (there are notable exceptions, such as Anne Tyler and Anne Patchett, whom I admire). I love the Harry Potter books. Other favorites include Enlightenment for Idiots and WebMage. Anything by Jane Austen is beloved. She inspired the first novel I sold, Lady in Disguise, which is a Regency romance set during her era.
What would your advice be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Get feedback on your writing from people whose opinions you respect. Push your characters outside your comfort zone. I’ve posted free writing tips and articles on my website, www.jacquelinediamond.com, and also wrote an ebook, How to Write a Novel in One (Not-so-easy) Lesson (priced at 99 cents).
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m a better writer than I was 20 or 30 years ago, so when I update and revise a book like Designer Genes or One Husband Too Many, it’s funnier than the original.