characters / humor / writers resources

How to Add Humor to Dull Characters

Dull often means boring, so spice them up with some humor. Think of your

favorite books. They always include one of three elements:

  • humor
  • intelligence
  • insider knowledge

I am not by nature a humorous person, but I listen to people who are, and I study how it comes about in everyday conversation. People say the funniest things without intending to. Keep track of those witticisms. When your plot bogs down or your character becomes predictable, toss one (or more) in.

Here are classic insults. Tweak them to fit your characters:

When Insults Had Class

These glorious insults are from an era before the
English language was reduced to 4-letter words.

Exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said:
“If you were my husband, I’d give you poison.”
He said:
“If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

Member ofParliament, to Disraeli:
“Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.”
Disraeli’s Response:
“That depends, Sir, on whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.”
-Walter Kerr, theatre critic, NY Times

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
-Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
-Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
-William Faulkner, about Ernest Hemingway

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I’ll waste no time reading it.”
– Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral but sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
– Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends . . .”
-Oscar Wilde

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill:
“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend . . . if you
have one.”

Winston Churchill in response:
“Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there
is one.”

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.”
– Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man, and worships his creator.”
– John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”
Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.”
– Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”
– Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.”
– Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”
– Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”
– Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”
– Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”
– Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts; for support rather than illumination.”
– Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”
Billy Wilder

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”
– Groucho Marx


5 thoughts on “How to Add Humor to Dull Characters

  1. Pingback: How to Talk to a Writer | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: 10 Hits and Misses for 2015 | WordDreams...

  3. Pingback: How to Talk to a Writer | WordDreams...

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