Posted in Events, Writing

The Role of Humour in Crime Writing

Photo of Debbie smiling in a graveyard
Grave thoughts about humour in crime writing (photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

A post about striking a balance between crime, humour and optimism in fiction

I often describe my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries as “feel-good fiction”, which may seem odd in a series whose titles all feature the word “murder”. But I discovered long ago that I find it much easier to write fiction if I’m allowed to be funny, and this applies to my crime writing too.

Comic Relief amidst the Crime

As with any story involving tension and perhaps fear, a touch of humour provides balance and light relief – think James BondIndiana Jones and the Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes.

But in my own mystery books, I use a much larger dose of humour because the underlying purpose of my stories is not to frighten or thrill, but to be life-affirming, celebrating the positive features of community life in the village of Wendlebury Barrow.

Crime at the Castle Commendation

logo for Crime at the Castle
Coming soon to Glamis Castle…

So I was particularly pleased to hear this week that Sophie’s getting a special shout-out at the Scottish crime writing event, Crime at the Castle, in the splendid setting of Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the Queen Mother.

Scottish novelist Wendy H Jones will be citing it as part of a workshop about injecting humour into crime fiction, and she’s told me she’s using the opening line of Murder in the Manger, third in the Sophie Sayers series, as an example:

“Does your Baby Jesus need a cuddle, Mrs Virgin?” said a small sheep politely.

head and shoulders shot of Wendy H Jones
Scottish crime writer Wendy H Jones

“I’m going to use your line because I  laugh every time I think of it,” Wendy told me. She’s also kindly shared it on her radio show since she interviewed me live on her programme last year.

But much as I love laughing at my own jokes, my books aren’t all about comic effect. I embed serious themes about the value of community life and the importance of tolerance and understanding, and about love, loss and consolation.

There’s the odd moment when I’ve even moved myself to tears:

  • In Best Murder in Show, Sophie is overwhelmed with unresolved grief when she comes to Wendlebury to take up her inheritance of her late Auntie May’s cottage.
  • In Trick or Murder, she finds solace in an All Souls’ Day service in the village church.
  • In Murder in the Manger, she attends a poignant Remembrance Day service in the village school.

I’m endeavouring to keep a healthy balance in each book, but always with the emphasis on the upbeat. Like Wendy, I’m a committed optimist, and that’s our take on life.

Even if we do have to commit the odd murder along the way…


  • If you’d like to read the rest of the opening chapter of Murder in the Manger on my blog, click here.
  • For more information about Crime at the Castle, and to reserve tickets for the event, click here.
  • You can also meet Wendy H Jones south of the border at her Novel London event on 2nd February.
  • To find out more about Wendy’s crime novels, visit her website: www.wendyhjones.com

 

Author:

Author of warm, witty and gently funny fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, beginning with "Best Murder in Show", inspired by her life in an English Cotswold community, short stories and essays about country life. As Commissioning Editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advice Centre, she writes guidebooks authors. She speaks at many literature festivals and writing events, and is part of BBC Radio Gloucestershire's monthly Book Club broadcast. She is founder and director of the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which takes place in April, a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and an ambassador for children's reading charity Read for Good and the Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

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