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Today another post from fantasy author Charles E. Yallowitz who has a wonderful blog where you can find stories, thoughts on life, book related posts and poetry. I will be sharing his final post next week. This week a look at the art of ‘Banter’ the exchange between two people… usually comedic.
The Art of Bantering: Not as Easy as You Think by Charles E. Yallowitz
Claw-Man and Web-Dude? 😛
What exactly is banter these days? I know the official definition is a ‘playful or friendly exchange of teasing remarks’. Not exactly like what you see in the above example, but I keep seeing examples of banter that ignores the playful or friendly part. Since comedy/humor is subjective, this is going to be a tough topic to write about. I know what I believe might not be shared by others, so I’m going to try my best to keep it within the mechanic of banter and what I always thought it was.
Keep in mind that I grew up with The Marx Brothers, who excelled at cutting remarks and comedic banter. That tends to be my baseline, which was expanded by me reading older Spider-Man comics where he flung insults. Now, the superhero stuff tends to be labeled as banter even if there’s no back and forth. I keep running into people saying that they love Deadpool’s banter . . . He’s usually just cracking jokes and insulting enemies. It’s more antagonizing a foe in a similar vein to Spider-Man, but that doesn’t always fall into the banter category. So, what do I think you need for banter?
As stated in the definition, there’s supposed to be a friendly and playful aspect to banter. You don’t typically get this between enemies. Savage insults getting hurled faster than bullets isn’t really banter due to the emotions. The audience might be having fun, but it’s the participants that denote banter. They have to be the playful and friendly ones. For example, Fritz Warrenberg and Nimby would get into back-and-forth insults at times and that would be banter because they were being playful. Luke Callindor and the Lich doing the same isn’t the same because they’re trying to hurt each other. Banter is supposed to be something that friends do and is easily shrugged off because it was ‘done in good fun’.
I’ve seen a lot of people mistake puns for banter as well. That can be part of it, but a character spitting out jokes isn’t bantering. Not really sure of the term, but it’s missing an important aspect to be banter. That would be somebody replying. This is a two or more person comedy because you need responses to keep the whole thing going. If a person is flinging insults and jokes without anything going back to them then they’re probably the comic relief. Hey, I think I remember the term I was thinking of. Anyway, you can have back-and-forth puns, but it’s that first part that’s necessary for true banter.
This is why I mentioned in the title that banter is harder than people think. Not everything funny falls into this category, especially when you consider that comedy is as varied as music and movies. There are genres of comedy just like every other type of entertainment. Banter is a style and technique that can be used in any of them, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the answer. In fact, it shouldn’t be the only one used or it loses it’s appeal. Kind of like how horror movies and video games overdid jump scares a while back, you can eliminate the appeal of banter by overusing it or extending the definition to ridiculous lengths. This is the challenge: You need to know what a technique really is before you try to use it or say you’re using it.
If I had to give a tip to how to use or learn about banter, I would suggest looking at older comedies. Not as far back as the Marx Brothers, but I remember a lot of good banter from Eddie Murphy, Gene Wilder, and Robin Williams movies. Many times, a sharp and quick wit leads to banter because you need to be fast with the responses. There’s that comfort level between participants that allows banter to move at a fast pace to give it a the natural playfulness. This also requires that you have a deep understanding of the characters and their relationship when you do it in your own works. Are they close friends that can get away with such comments? Do they have enough knowledge of each other to bounce off each other? Are they really friends or merely coworkers/partners with nothing more than a working relationship? Weird question at the end, but I’ve seen plenty of ‘banter’ that comes from two characters that show no sign of friendship and the exchange ends up being out of place. Comedy can’t be forced.
What do you think of banter? Do you think it’s being either overused or simply being used to define witty comedy in general? Do you have a favorite banter example?
©Charles E. Yallowitz 2018
For me Morecambe and Wise were the banter kings… let us know who you consider to have this witty form of comedy down pat….thanks to Charles for giving us something to think about.
A selection of the most recent books by Charles Yallowitz
A recent review for War of Nytefall: Book Three – Rivalry
I am not someone who typically loves books that are centred around vampires. I have never had much of a fascination with them, (perhaps this comes from Romanian roots and the eye-rolls that go along with those roots,) however, I feel like the author has created a new and interesting breed of vampire in his Dawn Fangs. They extend the normal parameters that one expects with vampires and I like that they are not all simply humans, but other species as well. They have a range of personalities, which, is nice to see.
This book is not light on action and there is always something happening to capture the reader’s attention. It is a bit gorier than some of the other works set in Windemere, but one should probably expect that when the book is about vampires. I like the various settings in the book and the author does a good job of visual imagery and transporting the reader to a new location each time the characters move on to a different place. There has been quite a lot of character development and some fantastic new arrivals since the first book in the series.
All of that being said, I do have some fundamental issues with this book, as with the other books by this author. I want his characters to take themselves more seriously. I can appreciate a moment of levity here and there when it is called for, but sometimes, I feel like you never get to feel the pain these characters truly feel, because there is usually comedy of one variety or another involved. For me, this takes away from a serious situation and makes it seem superficial, casting the same unfortunate glow on the characters. I want to hurt and feel pain when the characters I have grown to love are feeling it. I want to feel their joy and triumph when they overcome an obstacle or share something special. I don’t always want the two things to be mixed.
It seems to me, that the author is fully capable of producing material that will shock and please an audience and could grow these books into something much bigger than they are. Still, I feel he is holding back. Perhaps is afraid to offend the audience with too much darkness when exploring the depths of his characters? I personally think any author with the talent to write such creative works, should not be afraid to express themselves fully and take ordinary to extraordinary by not worrying so much about what the audience may think.
In any case, there were a lot of good things about this book, and a lot of reasons that you might want to pick it up and give it a read. I, for one, love the tournament style fighting–which is kind of Roman Colosseum with added magic. I enjoyed the suspense of those fights and never knowing what kind of opponent the characters were going to face.
Overall, this is a good book, written by a highly talented author who is good at provoking the reader’s imagination.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Charles-E-Yallowitz/e/B00AX1MSQA
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charles-E-Yallowitz/e/B00AX1MSQA
Read more reviews and follow Charles on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6965804.Charles_E_Yallowitz