I am about to start writing a fantasy-comedy novel. A problem I found in 1-2 books of this genre is that the plot becomes weak, and the story starts to slow down.

The reason I believe this happens is that there is no big struggle or evil villain. Since there is no tension in the plot (as it is a comedy book), the plot soon loses focus.

The story breaks down to "Hero goes to place A, does something funny, then goes to B, does something funny" etc.

How do I avoid this problem?

  • 3
    Why can't a book have both a real plot with a villian, and humor? Nov 25, 2013 at 17:17
  • 1
    Every story in every genre needs tension and conflicts :) A lot of humor even stems from conflict as well. Nov 15, 2017 at 7:15
  • 1
    Comedies don't need a real Thanos (Avengers) level villain, or even an Umbridge (Harry Potter) type antagonist. In Comedy, it is the scenarios that people care about. Villainy is totally optional. You could have a villain, who is just another knight trying to win the same tourney as the hero. the antagonist may not be a villain at all ... And maybe in the end, the hero lost, but all his friends made a bunch of money because they all bet against the hero..and there was much rejoicing. Sep 10, 2019 at 14:05

10 Answers 10


This is a misconception. Interesting plots are hard to write. Some people think "Oh, I put in some funny jokes to hide that I totally suck at the real story."

Therefore you find humorous books out there, which story is boring. But that has nothing to do with the humor in the book, it has to do with lazy writers.

The way to an interesting plot is paved with conflicts. There must be (at least) one huge conflict and several minor ones along the way. And it doesn't matter if there is any humor, sex, tragedy, or Pokémon dragon slayers in that book.


Write a plot with tension.

As an example, Christopher Moore writes incredibly funny fantasy novels (demons, angels, vampires) with real plots, rounded characters, and genuine tension.

So figure out a good story to tell first, and then figure out how to make it funny.


Here's where I think you're going wrong. You say:

Since there is no tension in the plot (as it is a comedy book), the plot soon loses focus.

Why would a comedic novel not require tension? Every novel needs tension. There must be a reason that the hero goes to place A and place B, something driving him, something urgent and important or scary or wonderful. (Remember the movie Galaxy Quest? Funny, and with a strong plot.)

I recommend you locate comedic novels and read them to see how the humorous tone of the novel can work with a strong plot. I don't see any reason why you should limit yourself to reading only comedic fantasy novels.

Also, I think the best comedic novels aren't made up of one funny event after another. A little pathos thrown in, something heavy and serious to provide a contrast to the humor is often a good idea.


I well remember this happening to one of my one-time favorite series, Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures. The early books, with real villains and consequences, were the strongest. But soon, the resolution to every book was just "let's ask them to join the team!" With that said, the overall problem of a book where nothing is ever at stake isn't just found in comedy. Writing is a ruthless art, and if you aren't willing for your characters to suffer, it shows. This is especially a problem in comedy, since bad things happening to the characters can bring down the happy mood (unless you're writing really bleak comedy).

One approach to avoiding this is to do a loose parody of an original with a strong plot but little humor. A really well done parody of this type (Airplane!) can rival or even surpass the original. Another solution is that the characters can experience minor events as major disasters. Think of the comic strip Peanuts. Plotwise, nothing ever happens in the strip, but from the perspective of the characters, heartbreak, humiliation and catastrophic failures are daily events. Similarly, in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, the title character doesn't hurt, kill, or destroy anyone, but she still serves effectively in the role of villain --it's all psychological.

In summary, don't write a comedy book --write a substantive book, and make it funny. That's how Terry Pratchett managed to keep it fresh over the course of a very prolific and successful career.

  • Dr. Strangelove!
    – Cyn
    Sep 9, 2019 at 17:05

In the end it depends on your style. If you are a Douglas Adams you can make every paragraph downright hilarious. Voltaire, on the other hand, wrote satire of the society he lived in, so did Mark Twain.

Can you give us more clues as to what you're writing?

  • 1
    See, I agree with @Lynn's comment. You haven't said what you're writing, but in Voltaire's "Candide" he was making fun of the concept that we lived in the "best of all possible worlds" and "everything happened for a reason". Despite all the horrible things that befell poor Candide, he was incredibly happy and upbeat because he subscribed to Doctor Pangloss' view that we lived in the best possible world. It was funny because it made the idea overblown.
    – David Good
    Sep 6, 2011 at 20:54

why can't it have action as well? some of the funniest things i have read are action packed. the humor comes from what the characters say and how they relate to one another. does that mean they can't be doing serious things in the process? NO!!!! as long as they continue to be amusing -- both to the reader and yourself -- i feel it can be counted as a comedy book.


I would suggest reading Terry Pratchett's Disc World books. They are fantasy and pretty funny.

As a general rule, fantasy writers first create their fantasy world which is kept separate from the writing and used as a reference. You put the kind and nature of creatures, trees, prominent species, interplay and history between species, culture etc. And then you create the plot using elements from the fantasy world. Finally adding the humor as dialogue and situations.

Hope that helps


Just to disagree with everyone else, you can write a book that is driven by humor instead of plot. I've seen it done.


Heroics for Beginners has the lousiest most simple minded plot that I have seen since Bud Abbott and Lou Costello met their first monster. The plot is completely predictable. The only reason it works is that the plot is another joke, and the book is short enough that it is over before you can't laugh anymore.

I tried to duplicate this method. It is not as easy as it looks. A good plot is so much easier to write.

  • Heroics for beginners has a great plot. I was continually turning the pages to find out what would happen Nov 25, 2013 at 16:41
  • I've seen bad James Bond knockoffs with better core plots. (It had interesting subplots and great storytelling) but the fact that its core plot was completely trite and predictable was amazingly funny in context.
    – hildred
    Dec 18, 2013 at 1:33
  • Literary Fiction is typically character driven rather than plot driven, and tons of those books are funny. Look for stories by Lorrie Moore, Aimee Bender, and George Saunders. May 10, 2016 at 20:00

I think the key to writing a comedy is in the dialogue. Make sure that the dialogue is real. Read over your character's conversations and if it doesn't sound smooth and like a real conversation then you have a problem. Make sure your characters talk like real people talk. Then have them say funny things.


If the goal is to write a comedy novel then a strong plotline is a must, as it would be for any novel.

If you are bent upon using humour as a genre out of the framework of a novel then you could consider writing memoirs or travel stories. But even these dogs would not hunt without a series of big and small conflicts and a dash of drama and irony. Think along the lines of Thurber or Jerome K Jerome.

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