I am delighted to welcome author Matt Mikalatos to the blog today to chat about his newest book The Crescent Stone – and why being funny can inspire change!
SERIES: The Sunlit Lands #1
GENRE: Inspirational Young Adult Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: August 7, 2018
A girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .
Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price.
When a mysterious stranger name Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.
Y’all know how much I love laughter, so I’m really looking forward to what Matt has to say about humor in writing!
5 Reasons to Be Funny: The Power of Humor to Inspire Change
by Matt Mikalatos
While I was writing the first draft of my fantasy novel, The Crescent Stone, it became clear that something was missing. My editor, Sarah Rubio, sent me a note saying she wanted to see more humor. It wasn’t a strange request (my first two novels were comedy), but this was a fantasy novel about coming to grips with one’s personal responsibilities in an unjust fantasy world. Was humor the right approach?
But I started again, adding a new point of view into the text: an Asian American named Jason Wu, who had made a promise never to tell a lie. The book came to life! Jason’s commitment to always volunteering the truth—no matter the situation or the consequences—brought increased tension as well as a delightful new enjoyment to the text.
Here are five things I love about reading Christian comedies (or books with a lot of humor):
1.Humor gets past your defenses.
Who hasn’t had a moment when you’re about to break some bad news to someone, and you soften the blow with a joke? It’s the “spoonful of sugar” method of delivering hard truth. I often experience well-done humor as a kindness in my own life: a way to laugh about things I need to grow in, rather than feeling attacked about them.
2. Humor can exaggerate something to show it more clearly
Think of it as a magnifying glass. This is something satire often does well—taking a well-meaning theological statement and exaggerating it to an extreme to show its flaws. For example, I knew someone who was telling everyone that physical illness was a sign of an accompanying spiritual illness. So someone with bad eyesight was reflecting spiritual blindness. Someone who needed a pacemaker had “hardness of heart.” A friend of mine heard this teaching and was distressed by it. Rather than launching into a lengthy theological discourse about the poverty of this view, I just said, “God must be so disappointed in old people!” We had a good laugh over that, because it highlighted a problem with this particular theological construct: we all experience increasing physical issues as we age.
3. Humor makes tragedy more tragic.
Even Shakespeare’s darkest plays often have comic relief. For instance, in Macbeth there’s a drunken gatekeeper whose entire purpose is to add some jokes into an otherwise grim play full of murder, witches, and vengeful ghosts. When a book hits the same emotional beats over and over, we start to become numb to them. Unrelenting tragedy is not sadder than a book with some bright spots in it—it’s less sad. Adding in a moment of relief for the reader makes those tragic moments stand out more. The highs are higher and the lows are lower.
In my novel, one of the other characters is dealing with a fatal lung disease—not exactly great joke material. But Jason’s goofiness offsets that and makes the more painful, serious scenes more effective.
4. We can find joy in the truth.
I love 3 John 1:4, where the apostle says he has “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (NIV).
In my experience, the best humor is rooted in truth. Note how comedians often base their routines in pointing out common experiences we all have (“Wow, there’s not much legroom on a plane”). Sometimes just speaking the truth is a radical act of humor, and there is beauty in that. Sometimes, when we stop to notice the things that makes us laugh, we can see ourselves participating in the joy that comes from recognizing and embracing truth.
5. Humor can be prophetic.
This leads us to the idea of humor as truth-telling from God.
One of my favorite books of the Bible is Jonah, which I have always found immensely funny. There’s humor in the idea of a prophet who refuses to do his job (speak the truth about God) when everything else in the entire world—the wind, the rain, the pagan sailors, the fish, the evil Ninevites and their cows, the plant, the sun, the wind (again), and the worm—are all doing exactly what God tells them.
For me, in this book God is saying, “Isn’t it ridiculous that my own people aren’t able to follow me in sharing my Good News with other people when every other thing in the universe, including the cattle, are all responding to me?”
Meanwhile, Jonah is outside the city, pouting, saying, “Well if you’re not going to kill them, you might as well kill me.”
That’s funny! And it reflects my own life, too. Maybe not to the extreme of Jonah, but it reminds me of those times when I struggle to love and share the Good News with broken people around me, stubbornly telling God that he is too forgiving. So I can laugh at Jonah—and then see myself in the mirror he’s holding up. Uh oh.
I found in The Crescent Stone that humor brought all these dimensions and more—it made it a more enjoyable read. It also brought us a unicorn named Delightful Glitter Lady, and who doesn’t want that in their fantasy novel?
Who indeed? 😉 Thank you so much, Matt! I love finding humor tucked within the books I read – and I love how that reflects God’s own sense of humor too. Great post!
Matt Mikalatos writes books (surprise!). In the past, Matt worked as a high school teacher and a comic book clerk, but currently focuses on nonprofit work devoted to helping people love one another despite their differences. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, three daughters, two unicorns, a gryphon, a dragon, and three brine shrimp.
Tyndale House & Matt Mikalatos are offering a print copy of The Crescent Stone to one of my readers! (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? Which of Matt’s points about humor most resonated with you?