I’ve had a number of calls lately about sad memoirs and stories of great internal struggle. A lot of people with these types of stories want to know if humor can be incorporated into a story of mourning or struggle against depression or even mental illness. The answer is yes, but carefully. Of course, I would never recommend writing a book that mocked someone in a state like that, even if you are mocking yourself. These issues are very serious and if you mock them, or mock yourself for succumbing to them, you basically look like a jerk. But humor in any type of writing is a part of the author’s voice more than any aspect of what he or she has to say.
If you describe places and people with creativity, it’s funny, and that’s where I would go for humor in a serious book like one of these. Metaphors and similies that compare one thing to something completely different tend to always work to bring levity to any situation. It’s the sheer creativity of the comparisons the author comes up with that makes people laugh. So, in this case, cleverness is key. Surprising readers with insightful comparisons is going to work not only to present the story accurately, but to make the story more interesting, and definitely to make readers laugh in spite of the seriousness of the larger story. No one can resist a great metaphor or simile. In this case, your ability to inject humor will not only make people laugh, it will impress them with your depth of understanding.