The part about writing Charlotte I find the trickiest is maintaining the humour while dealing with stuff like murders and mayhem. Partly because one can only be funny for a limited number of hours per day (I have to go back after hours and insert funnies that I think Ms12 might find amusing), but also because it’s hard to know when to drop Hilarity and opt for Serious.
I have discussed this at length with various folk (writers, parents, random bystanders), and we all agree it’s a tricky one. On the one hand, you don’t want to desensitise kids so they become immune to appropriate emotional responses (‘yawn, another murder’) but, on the other hand, some of our natural reactions to stressful situations involve humour because it’s a coping mechanism.
When writing Charlotte, I let the characters’ emotional radars guide the gags. When Charlotte is in strife and it looks like there’s nothing else to be done/no way out, she often opts for humour. Lyla, on the other hand, enjoys Charlotte’s gags, but she’s a much more serious character in general.
Then there’s the saying: ‘Many a truth is told in jest‘. And I tend to agree. I heard an interview with Terry Pratchett on the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s) wonderful ‘The Book Show’, during which he defended the fantasy and sci-fi genres because he believed them to be great vehicles with which to discuss serious real-world issues.
It brings up (yet more) questions about writing, namely: Why do we write? Is it to deliver a political message? To entertain? Both?
In the past few years in the world of advertising, branded content has become a Thing. Branded content blurs the line between entertainment and advertising. As the writer of this article on the Wikipedia points out, though, it is difficult to do well, and:
The process is truly more art than science.
I’d like to ask: how do we know when to call something ‘art’ or ‘literature’? And when is it ‘branded content’? Aren’t we all, as writers, branding our content in some way… even if it’s just with our own voice?
More delving on this topic this another time. In the meantime, let me know if you can think of a book that brings serious issues to the fore via humour or any other device.