Season 2, Episode 22: Comedic Writing with Molly B. Burnham

In this episode:

Welcome Molly Burnham, Author of the Teddy Mars series!

Thanks and welcome to Molly Burnham! We’re talking kids’ books, and funny kids’ books (& just funny books in general!), and how she (and you!) can get the humor to shine authentically through in your writing.

Can comedy give you power? According to Molly, yes. And comedy is all about power.

“Humor is based on a convergence. Humor is an interaction between people in some form, and power structures make the difference between what is funny and what is not funny.” – Molly B. Burnham

For instance, if you make a joke about someone, that’s you having power over them. But if you make a joke about you, that’s you having power over you. The elements of who has power, and when, controls what is and is not funny in any given situation.

To illustrate this, Molly gives the example of women in comedy – for centuries, women were not allowed on stage, comedy or otherwise. Men had the power, and they often made jokes at the expense of women. When women got on stage and started making fun

When you’re writing a book, especially one with humor, you have to know who has power in your book and how the power shifts between your characters and their environment. Molly’s protagonist Teddy undergoes a lot of physical comedy while trying to break world records, and the reason we can abide his suffering because he has power over himself and is choosing to try to break these world records. He also doesn’t have a fragile ego – emotional strength is huge power, and Teddy has it in spades.

It sounds like a lot of work, right? Molly says her books undergo a lot of revision and the humor comes out in later revisions. She advises writers to “create from abundance” – write more than you need, make lists, and improvise possibilities for scenes – all of this gives you more options and lets you ask the question: Where or how could this be better? Which possibility resonates with you?

The improv concept of “Yes, And –“ is another way to amp up the humor in your writing. How can you escalate a situation? Don’t say no, and don’t stop the action in your scene and let it come to a screeching halt.

Molly would also like to remind us that failure, kids, is part of the process. Sometimes she writes things she doesn’t like, and it feels like a waste – we’ve all been there, right? We’re going to write things that don’t jive for us for one reason or another. Getting into the right mindset after a failure is important and accepting that you’re going to have these days is essential.

The wonderful Teddy Mars books can be found at your local bookstore, library, indie supplier, or Amazon.

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.
Just check the "Mom Writes Podcast" box below!