re: Choosing When to Chuck a Joke

posted 5/16/17

Dear Editor…

I’m seeking confirmation. If a joke/gag doesn’t advance the plot/story, is it best to chuck it? As I revise my middle grade fantasy manuscript, that’s what I’m inclined to do, especially if the gag/joke, while possibly funny enough, stalls the advancement of the story. Got to keep things moving, right?

The Jokester


Dear Jokester…

I say that’s mostly right. Plot advancement is a crucial gauge for keep-it-or-chuck-it choices. Just don’t let good intentions regarding plot advancement take you on some joke-axing rampage that squelches your humor in service of brevity and focus. As with all things writing, revising humor is about finding balance. A joke that doesn’t directly advance the plot can stay if it’s organic to the story, evolving from the character or situation. That contributes to the personality of the project, which is essential, too. Be tough with these criteria. The jokes that don’t pass the test with room to spare—the funny-for-funny’s-sake gags—should get the ax.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Creative Process, General fiction, Narrative Voice, Teen/Middle Grade Fiction
Comments to "re: Choosing When to Chuck a Joke" | Add a Comment
    1. Mary Malhotra wrote (on 05/16/17 at 10:41 am) :

      “That contributes to the personality of the project” — well said, and applies to many details we may edit out in our enthusiasm, not just humor.

    2. Edith Hope Fine wrote (on 05/16/17 at 10:50 am) :

      One of the coolest things about Dear Editor posts (besides your insightful responses) is the specificity of the queries!