I have no idea if this is a real term or not, but I heard it used by a customer of mine, while we were chatting about the lifestyle differences between England and Holland, and it stuck with me. I cannot think of a better term to describe it, so we will run with it for now.
When writing, there are several things that are important. The setting is a prime example. Your locations need to be real. They need to catch the attention of the reader and pull them into the world you are creating. You can read a great post on this over at Shannon Thompson’s blog.
Another thing that is important is characters. You need strong characters to be able to carry the story you are writing. They are the readers’ eyes and ears on the pages. They are the ones that we will live through, and if they are bland, or one-dimensional, than the end experience for the reader will resonate this.
Yet, what a lot of people often forget, is that this characterization applies not just to the main characters, but all of the sub-characters too. I am not just talking about ensuring you tell the reader just how blue their eyes are, or how the lines of their jaw make for a perfect living embodiment of Desperate Dan, but rather their interactions.
It is through interaction that we get the best reaction, and this applies in fiction just as it does in life.
The one thing that always comes to mind here, is the aforementioned, Joke Culture.
Growing up in the UK, this was a very common thing, but travelling as I did, it was seldom encountered. Not to the level I was used to. That is starting to change. My office is a prime example of how multiple cultures combining bring with them traits from each culture which become commonplace to the group.
Joke culture is one such thing.
I keep referencing this phrase, but what do I mean by it, and how will it strengthen your fiction? Allow me to explain.
Whenever you go somewhere new. Whether it is a new town, a new school, job, or even something as simple as hanging out with a new group of people, there is always a period of nervousness. A trial period, if you will, where your acceptance into the group, or somebody else’s acceptance into yours, is not complete.
In the UK, the common moment when your acceptance was confirmed, was when joke culture become applicable. This is the moment when you can make fun of the others in the circle, or they can make fun of you, without any offense being taken.
This ranges between groups, from gentle insults to some serious slagging matches, but the premise is the same. The moment you can partake in this and nobody gets offended is the moment you have been fully accepted into the group.
How does this translate into Fiction?
Incorporating joke culture, or at least the concept behind it, adapted to other circumstances, you can add an extra layer of depth to your fiction.
The way your characters interact with each other, especially highlighting the difference between their interactions with friends and with others, colleagues, family, etc. bring that important three-dimensional structure to your characters, and will serve to hook the readers into your fiction.
One of the best stories I have read recently, was written by an author I know. I was lucky enough to be able to act as a beta reader for her, and while the storyline was strong, and the main characters were fleshed out and realistic, it was the supporting cast that really added the depth I always look for. It was the way they acted in the background of scenes, and the way they were with one another, which served to highlight the difference between the two characters.
Think about it, we interact differently with different people, in different settings, and your characters should be just that. Joke culture will help you develop this, because you will have different degrees of joking, even between the same group depending on who is involved in the conversation, dominant sub-characters, the group alpha-male, and the setting. Are they in the pub, at work, on the streets, it all plays a role, but understanding the culture that the interaction is built on will stand you in good stead.
Thanks for reading.
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