In my current WIP the main character wants to die. That is his objective from the start. He's depressed and suicidal. The only reason he breaks out of his anti-social shell to be around the new girl he meets in therapy is because he thinks that doing so will somehow result in his death.
If you want to know why exactly he thinks that, you'll just have to wait and read the book when it's done. *evil grin*
But getting back on point, this novel has an obviously dark theme. So I knew when I started writing that, unless I did something overt to make this character likeable, despite having a hugely depressing viewpoint, and thus, a huge potential to turn off readers from the start, no one would get past the first chapter.
And if that's the case, why should I even bother writing the book?
My solution was to make the main character funny. Not funny to himself, but funny in a way that other people see. Those other people, namely, are the readers (sometimes the other characters, but mostly the readers). We are in his head when we read, so witty dialogue and a humorous narrative viewpoint make a great combination, tossed into the mix of dark and serious.
The book is about death. Specifically, suicide. And reading about suicide isn't likely to appeal to a large audience. It isn't choice entertainment. It's depressing, and wholly depressed characters don't often make for good protagonists.
They lack the hope and positive motivation we crave in a lead character.
But if the viewpoint character has an overarching endearing quality (in this case, a dry humor), something that permeates his personality, then, hopefully, it's enough to make you like him despite his hopeless attitude. It's enough to make you care what happens to him and keep reading.
My first draft is about half done now, and as I continue writing, the number one thing I keep reminding myself is to not go too long in a scene or chapter without having at least a sprinkle of wit. Too much and it comes across offensively shallow. Too little and it has no effect.
Why is this so hard? Because you don't want the humor to overshadow your serious tone, but you don't want the serious tone to bring your readers down and keep them down. Then they decide they're better off not reading any further.
We're not talking fluff-humor, the style you'd find in a romantic comedy, or an Adam Sandler/ Ben Stiller/ Zack Galifianakis movie. It's not that kind of story. But I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like to laugh, even when reading a book (or watching a film) that is, for the most part, darkly themed.
Regular doses of humor in a serious, dark, sad story is why we have an entire niche called dramedy. It isn't something new. It isn't something easily portrayed. But when it's done right, it IS effective.
Do you agree? Disagree? Can you offer any examples of dramedy in literature?