Cheap Medicine

Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine

George Gordon Byron

This month we talk about laughter, and I’m so excited! I love to laugh. I’m not at all funny, and I can’t tell a joke to save myself, but I adore things that make me laugh, and books within my favorite genres that make me laugh? Those are my FAVORITE favorites.

The Bobbie Faye series by Toni McGee Causey is one such favorite.  While some consider the series a comedy caper, I argue there’s plenty of serious content: relationship angst, crime, heartbreak, and more. The main characters have depth and dimension, the community is diverse, and the stories are deliciously twisty. Sure, the action is over-the-top, but that just makes these stories even more tasty.  However, Causey also weaves in these moments that cause the reader to laugh and connect with the protagonist, Bobbie Faye, as though she’s a friend or favorite cousin. We cheer for Bobbie Faye on every step of her journey because Causey has given us a character with weaknesses, foibles, strengths, and yes, one who makes us laugh. It’s a killer combination that invites the reader to connect on an emotional level with a character.

In a 2005 Psychology Today article, Hara Estroff Marano wrote, “Laughter reduces pain, increases job performance, connects people emotionally, and improves the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain.” That emotional connection, when achieved between characters and readers, results in a truly special reading experience.

Of course, I’m not always in the mood to laugh; sometimes, I like my reading a bit darker or more serious. But I love knowing that there are amazing writers out there that can write rich, robust characters and stories that do make me laugh, right along with the characters.  Darynda Jones‘ Charlie Davidson series (paranormal mystery), Amanda M. Lee‘s Aisling Grimlock series (paranormal suspense), and Deanna Raybourn‘s Veronica Speedwell Mysteries (historical fiction) are some of my other favorites.  These writers have found that magical sweet-spot where well-rounded characters, twisty-turny stories, and a healthy dash of humorous writing converge into an amazing dessert buffet of books.

We’ve all heard the saying that “laughter is the best medicine.” The website Helpguide.org explains: “Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.”All the more reason to read more books that make us laugh, right?

I wonder if I can get my doctor to prescribe my favorite books as medicine….

 

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

14 thoughts on “Cheap Medicine”

  1. I need comedies to get me through the nightmare of political news I wake up to everyday. I’m loving Grace and Frankie on Netflix. Laughing helps the soul.

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  2. I admire writers who can get that magical combination of engaging characters, great plot, and a dash of laughter. If I try to hard to write funny, I’m sure not to be. I’m working on a short story right now that is supposed to be humorous and it’s harder than I thought.

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  3. Liz, YES! Sometimes my critique group will love a piece that brings a little humor, and I’m always a bit in shock that I made it work. I find it much harder to write humor than the darker stuff (although, dark has it’s challenges, too).

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  4. Great post, Pam. I like to think I’m funny walking around IRL but when I sit down and think “OK, be funny now” I freeze up. I have so much admiration for those who can make it work on the page.

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  5. What a great prescription! Humor is super hard to write because we all have different funny bones. I just finished a Chet and Bernie mystery by Spencer Quinn and laughed all the way through. Feeling good!

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  6. I can’t imagine going through a day without laughing. I’ve been blessed by clumsiness, forgetfulness, and a mouth that can blurt out seemingly random thoughts at inapproriate times. I amuse me.

    While I write darker crime fiction, I like to think that the lighter moments I’ve written work. No one’s ever complained so I guess I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. But there are books that had me snorting… Billie Letts is the author of more than one I hooted in. Not crime fiction at all, but totally fun.

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  7. Becky, I’m sooo envious! Would love to meet Darynda in person.
    Sam, I haven’t read Lisa–will check out her books! Thanks.
    Peg, I love it! “I amuse me.” Heh. Sometimes I don’t realize how little laughter I’ve had until I laugh, feel better, and then the lightbulb over my head lights up and I realize there wasn’t enough of it in my day. (Kind of like getting hangry, only different.)

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