Writing Funny: A guest blog post from Kate Wiseman, author of Gangster School.


It’s an honour to be part of the Gangster School blog tour today, so I’m delighted to welcome author Kate Wiseman!

kate Wisemn

Gangster School is Kate’s debut novel, and is now out in the UK with ZunTold following the success of its publication in Germany with Piper Verlag.


Paperback £6.99 Published by ZunTold  Cover by Isla Bousfield-Donohoe

Gangster School is set in Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, which has been described as a Hogwarts for criminal kids! I love Kate’s history of Blaggard’s on her website, so do have a read 🙂

There’s lots to love about this world: for a start there’s the main characters, clever Milly and her ally Charlie who take on Pecunia Badpenny and her sidekick, an electronic dog called Wolf. Then there’s a bunch of weird teachers at Blaggard’s to amuse us  including a scary headteacher, Griselda Martinet, plus a criminal amount of mischief and giggles as the story unfolds.

This is how the publisher ZunTold describes the book:

Milly and her new friend Charlie have just started at Blaggard’s.

But what’s it like to be in a school that teaches lying, kidnapping and stealing instead of Maths and English? Their parents and teachers are master criminals and want them to follow in their footsteps…but are Milly and Charlie just too…dependable?

In this funny and exciting adventure, smart Milly and super-hacker Charlie face some of the worst villains around, including the cold-hearted Pecunia Badpenny and her sidekick: Wolf the evil electronic dog.

Can Milly and Charlie beat Badpenny and her demonic plans? And are they criminal enough to keep their place in a school they’ve come to love?

As part of the Gangster School blog tour, I couldn’t resist asking Kate if she could share her tips for aspiring writers on how to write funny for kids, because as many of us who have tried will know, it is not as easy as you think! Kate has a wonderful sense of humour and plenty more stories to come I am sure of it, but I’d like to know just how do writers get that humour across in books for children?
 Kate tells us how she has approached it in her writing of Gangster School…

WRITING FUNNY by Kate Wiseman

Of all the topics I’ve been asked to write about for this blog tour, this is the hardest. Humour, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What sends one reader in convulsions will draw looks of blank incomprehension from another. The best I can do, I think, is to identify some things that work for me. So here are my top tips for writing comic novels for kids:

Follow your own sense of humour

This probably sounds obvious. And yes, actually, that’s exactly what it is. There are some types of humour that I just don’t get. For instance, I don’t understand a lot of modern ‘cringe’ humour so I don’t try to write it. Having said that, Borat is just about the funniest thing ever. But on the whole this doesn’t work for me so I steer well clear of it. I know – what a loss to the world!

What I do find funny are plays on words, ridiculous situations and the slightly surreal. I feel confident to write these kinds of comedy, because I understand them and because they make me laugh. So – that’s my number one tip – write what makes you laugh.

Choose a setting/situation in which funny stuff is likely to happen

Why make it harder for yourself? Some situations just have more potential for humour than others. I write about Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, a school full of weird teachers, unusual students and bizarre lessons. If I couldn’t get some fun out of that situation, there’d be no hope for me.

Handle your humour with a light hand

When I was entering writing competitions, one piece of feedback that resonated with me was the importance of not being heavy handed with comedy. Sometimes less is more and knowing when to stop could be the difference between a brilliantly funny scene and one that goes to far and ends up being tedious. Don’t overdo it.

Know when to leave it to the imagination

This follows on from the last tip. Sometimes comedy hinges on what you leave unwritten. Here’s an example: in Gangster School 2 there’s a character who used to be in advertising, but he got in trouble for always being completely, horribly honest. When he confesses that he was responsible for the Wipe-Ease toilet paper tv ads, Milly and Charlie clench their bum cheeks and say ‘ew’. We then learn that the Wipe-Ease ads traumatised that nation and telephone hotlines were set up to help those affected by them. I felt that going into detail about the content of the ads would diminish the comedy. Better to leave that for the reader to imagine. Well I think it’s funny, anyway.

Decide which of your characters will be funny

In the same way that you can have too much of even the most amusing situation, you can have too many comic characters. Every funny character needs a straight person to bounce off. What would Morecambe have been without Wise? (I know – I’m showing my age). Tom without Jerry? Scooby Doo without Shaggy? If you have a whole book of bonkers characters, bonkers becomes the norm and your potential for comedy trickles down the drain.

Dark and flawed is often funny

Think about the characters you find funny and you’ll probably find that they have a dark side. They may not even be likeable, like Basil in Fawlty Towers, or Ronnie Barker in Porridge. One is a manic, bullying snob and the other a snide, perpetual thief. They are funny because they aren’t good and because they’re a bit damaged. You end up on their side, wanting them to win and wondering why. It’s often the characters who are less appealing on first glance, who end up offering the richest potential for comedy.

Play to your strengths

As writers, we all have things that we do really well and they tend to be the things we most enjoy about writing. Make them the lynchpin of your comedy. Are you good at writing dialogue? Base your comedy around what your characters say. Do you love building up vivid descriptions of your characters? Give them some funny characteristics – not too many or they’ll get lost. Are action scenes your forte? Centre your comedy around them.

I think that’s it and I suppose what it boils down to is knowing yourself and your strengths as a writer, and trusting your instincts. And just remember – you won’t please everyone.

Start by making yourself laugh and that’s a great beginning.


What a great note to end on 🙂 Thanks Kate! So many brilliant points to bear in mind, especially the part about knowing your strengths and playing to them. I for one will be thinking about how the comedy works as I revise my WIP!

Want to find out more about Gangster School?

Find Kate on twitter as @KateWiseman and do visit her website at https://katewiseman.uk/

And here’s a review on Gangster School from BookloverJo

Many thanks to Kate and ZunTold for inviting me to be part of this fantastic blog tour, it has been a pleasure x

GS Blog tour

Happy reading and writing! Thanks for visiting.

Pippa Wilson

24th May 2018

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