There are people who claim they don’t suffer fools gladly. We think those people are probably lying. April Fools’ Day is a 24-hour window where it’s socially acceptable to test the limits of our own comedic tomfoolery - and shed light on those who spread laughter the rest of the year, too.
Since humor is one of the most searched for categories on Wattpad, we spoke with Andrew Shaffer - a comedy writer who uses Wattpad to showcase and beta test his own writing, as well as to supplement his existing social media presence.
We wanted some tips and insight into how he uses Wattpad as a comedy writer specifically - and possibly to get some ammo for our own humor writing arsenals.
“I was already a published author with two nonfiction books, and one novel [Goodreads Choice Awards-nominated parody, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey],” says Shaffer, who joined Wattpad in 2013.
“But I saw a different readership on Wattpad from the one I could reach with paperbacks or ebooks—an international audience, reading stories from around the world.”
Shaffer initially began by posting some previously published material, just to test the waters. Soon, he found himself posting fanfic for Sherlock and Guardians of the Galaxy.
He discovered what an increasing number of already-published authors have found with Wattpad - a platform for stories that otherwise wouldn't have found an audience, and a way to test reactions to new story ideas.
Shaffer will be the first to tell you that to deliver laughs through fiction is not an easy task. “It's often difficult to know if I've written something funny until someone else reads it,” he says. “Like a stand-up comedian, an author needs to test out funny material to see if it works.”
Which is why he sends some of his work to beta readers, some to his editor, and, other times, tries some of his bits out on social media (including Wattpad).
“I'm currently serializing a rough draft of a parody [Catsby: A Novel] on Wattpad to get a feel for what works, and what I need to revisit on my next draft,” says Shaffer. “Feedback is essential for comedy writing. The more eyes on it, the better.”
Like many comedy writers, Shaffer finds that humor can be a great way to spark conversation about otherwise more serious topics.
“Nobody likes to be lectured to,” he says. “Especially with important issues, it's very easy to get heavy-handed. If you have a point to make, humor helps the medicine go down. Comedy is the cherry flavoring.”
We wanted to know if Shaffer had any tips for crafting a solid punchline… possibly for our own personal research, but also for science.
“I think it's fairly easy to write a good punchline,” Shaffer tells us. “People who aren't writers do it all the time on Twitter, for instance. However, it's more difficult to craft a good punchline that works within the context of a story. Does it fit the tone of the story? Does it ring true for the characters you've created?”
“The other thing about punchlines,” he reminds us, “is you need to throw out the first couple you think of. Don't take the most obvious route—go in a different direction. The bigger the left turn, the funnier the punchline.”
Definitely some noteworthy intel.
As for what Shaffer finds most useful about Wattpad specifically, he points to the ability to serialize his work, and connect with readers through comments as he posts.
“When you're writing a novel, you might spend a year or more alone with these characters in your head,” he explains. “But if you're serializing something, and readers can comment directly on the work-in-progress, the writing process takes on an entirely new dynamic. It's both fun and scary to hear from readers as a work is in progress! Wattpad has the ability to radically alter the drafting process.”
Shaffer, of course, is not the only comedy writer who’s found success on Wattpad. Kevin Fanning, for example, has garnered a huge following thanks to his hilariously creative writing, as well as YouTuber Grace Helbig. Because ultimately, comedic prose can take many forms.
“Humor can be sweet or it can be snarky,” Shaffer reminds us. “The only thing that really matters for me, though, is, ‘Is it funny?’"