Lesson Five – Humor with Bite. (Don’t get your Butt Bit)

Today’s lesson revolves around Snarky humor. So, let’s get the definitions out the way and we can slap this bad boy around a bit. Just for reference don’t refer to this type of humor as snark. The snark is an imaginary animal Lewis Carrole created for his stories (i.e. The Hunting of the Snark) and has nothing to do with humor at all, well, except for the fact the poem is rather funny.

Adjective: Snarky
1.(informal) irritable, crotchety, impertinent, critical

Miriam Webster – Online
Main Entry: snarky Pronunciation: \ˈsnär-kē\
Function: adjective
Etymology: dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
Date: 1906
1 : crotchety, snappish
2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

S.J. Willing’s Fictionary of Words
Adjective Snarky
Being mean to someone while making others laugh (hoping the victim isn’t mean back.)

Snarky humor really hit the romance world big time a few years back when it was almost impossible to find a chick-lit novel who didn’t have a brassy, snarky heroine taking the world to pieces while she did her thang. Here’s a couple to peek at:

They Wear WHAT Under Their Kilts? by Katie Maxwell (A young adult read, teens seem to particularly enjoy the snarky romance heroine.)
Pandora’s box by Natale Stenzel (a debut novel well worth the read.)

Snarky humor is most particularly suited for, and is used a lot, by professional critics. There are numerous sites and blogs online that utilize this form of humor. Mrs Giggles and The Smart Bitches to name but a few. If you are a victim of any of these online sites what they say can hurt.

So, snarky hurts. If it hurts, why do we like it so much? According to psychologists and humorists this all boils down to the basic instincts of preditor/prey and a desire to protect ourselves from those we perceive as more powerful and successful than us. If we can’t rise to their level it is so much easier to try and bring them down to ours by a thorough case of belittling.

If this is the case, that snarky is damaging, how can we write snark to make it funny without turning all the readers off.

The answer is, you’ll never successfully please 100% of the people with this kind of humor. We all love to laugh at others in this unfortunate position but if you make one slip and become snarky about, say, overweight people, there will be some readers who will be able to empathize with the character the hero/heroine is attacking and suddenly the humor isn’t there any more. So you have to find a character who is the most universally disliked.

Examples of these are managers, (even most managers have managers); politicians; if you don’t mind upsetting the lawyers, they tend to be popular victims too along with the taxman and other government workers; military figures can take a few hits too. Parents are always a good subject for snarky in Young Adult books.

Most importantly, whichever character you pick on as a victim in your work, make sure that character has made it obvious why they are the victim, and give us, the readers, a sense of justice when the snarky gag is being played out.

Of course, the best victim for snarky jokes out of all the choices you have is…

…your main character.

Having your hero or heroine pull snarky comments about themselves, (if they deserve it) can be the funniest and the safest way to make your readers laugh. Just don’t overdo this too much as your leading lady/man will diminish in the readers mind everytime it happens. But keep the gags fresh, impress on the reader between gags how good, bold, strong your character is, then pull another gag and you’ll have them in stitches. Here’s a examples of self-snarky.

“So I did what any Witch who harbored the dark Goddess Lilith within her would do; I shrieked like a girl.”
Garnet (on seeing a wild dog) – Romancing the Dead, Tate Hallaway.

Snarky humor can be the most powerful form of humor and is frequently one of the easiest to write, after all most of us have practiced one form or another of this since we were children. If you want to make it snarky humor and still have people like you, though, pick your subjects very carefully. Otherwise you will greatly reduce your market.

In summation then. Snarky humor consists of:

1. Being critical, judgemental or otherwise pointing out someone’s faults in a manner to make other people laugh.
2. Is one of the easiest to write and conversely one of the easiest forms of humor through which you can offend.
3. Making yourself, or your main character, the victim of snark can ease the “bite” on the readers.
4. Is most popular for forms of writing where criticism, or comment, is the main objective of the piece, such as book reviews or social commentary.