Friday, July 7, 2017

Guest Post: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Murder by SMFS Member Peter DiChellis

It has been awhile, but SMFS member Peter DiChellis is back today with some thoughts about humor in mysteries…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Murder
By Peter DiChellis

I enjoy reading and writing mysteries peppered with humor. Counterintuitive as it might seem, fictional tales of appalling crimes and their life-crushing consequences are often enhanced by hoots and yuks from humor. How can that possibly be? For me at least, there are several reasons.
1. Humor provides breathing space, a touch of comic relief from the so-often dismal themes in mystery and crime stories. To paraphrase an old political saw, these stories ain’t beanbag. Humor can deliver a welcome break in the tension.
2. Humorous passages give camouflage for clues. This is your brain on humor: Giddy and giggly and distracted, but not focused on rational analysis. Could you overlook an important clue during a bout of head-shaking, eyeball-rolling chortling? Count on it.
3. Humor is just flat-out entertaining. Among the many splendid reasons to read a good mystery, or any engrossing fiction, is simply to enjoy an entertaining diversion. Humor amps up the entertainment.
4. Humor creates likeability. In real life, we tend to like and appreciate good-humored people who can make us laugh. Why wouldn’t we feel the same about fictional characters and stories?
5. Injections of humor might help a story stand out in a crowded field. By definition mystery and crime stories, like all genre fiction, typically incorporate common elements that readers have come to expect. Humor is one way to add a distinctive element that helps a story stand apart.
6. Humorous incidents can erect unusual and revealing obstacles for characters to overcome. Fictional detectives already endure wily suspects, unreliable witnesses, contaminated evidence, and other impediments to success. Frustrate them with some funny stuff too and see how they handle it.
7. Mysteries provide lots of creative opportunities for humor. The cast of characters, from detectives to sidekicks to suspects to witnesses, is rich with eccentric possibilities. Strange clues and weird circumstances abound. Settings range from seedy barrooms to stately mansions, from trailer parks to office towers.
Finally, I hope those who enjoy humorous mysteries will take a look at the July issue of Mystery Weekly, an extra-large humor edition. The issue includes my story (“Darkness, Darkness”) about a blind man who witnesses a murder and offers detectives a peculiar assortment of puzzling clues.

Peter DiChellis © 2017
Peter DiChellis concocts sinister and sometimes comedic tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. He is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Peter,

I always enjoy a mystery that has humor. In my Kim Reynolds mystery series which tends toward the dark side, police detective Mike Gardner cracks bad jokes, lightening the mood.

Herschel Cozine said...

Peter, I wholeheartedly agree. A major portion of my stories have humor in them. I find it fun to write and, as you say, it lends some relief from the seriousness of the subject matter.
I put together a collection of my stories with humor and published it on Amazon. I call it "The Funny Side of Crime". So far I have sold zero copies. Undeterred, I will continue.

Maddy said...

Excellent. All great points, but I especially like number 6.

Peter DiChellis said...

Thank you Jacqueline, Herschel, and Maddy! I appreciate your comments.

Best wishes,