A few years ago my best friend’s husband died.
This is real life.
It was awful. Real life awful. Literally freaking awful.
After the funeral we all sat around at the dining room table, drinking too much wine and laughing our asses off.
Not because we were awful people. Because we were so incredibly sad we had no where else to go at that very moment.
We told jokes. Really tasteless disgusting jokes. We mercilessly teased each other, including the widow. We probably resorted to fart noises, anything really to keep us from falling into a bottomless pit of despair. Anything to help my best friend continue to function in the face of horrific loss.
Now, novels are usually not real life, but they do frequently act as a catharsis for readers. If you have done a good job as a writer, your reader will be invested in your characters. They will care about them and want them to succeed. But as in real life, a character does not have a straight and easy road to the end of the story. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they fail miserably. Sometimes they die.
It’s certainly a decision of style to add humor to a serious story. Many many authors do not. I, personally, find those books harder to read. Probably because I’m the kind of person who tells fart jokes after a funeral.
As an author your job is to take your reader through a journey. How you choose to lead them is up to you, but what should always remain in your mind is that they can and will abandon you if you do not respect them. Many people find the darkest hours to be bearable with a little humor. This can take many forms according to what you feel comfortable with and what you enjoy.
George RR Martin, the king of killing heroes has a method for this, by the name of Tyrion Lanister. Joss Whedon flawless weaves in snappy one liners. Stephen King’s narrating characters take on a sarcastic tone. Tolkien offered moments of levity in the midst of the chaos and despair.
It may not be your thing. You may think laughing after a funeral is awful. But consider that a good character is not just a character to reader. They are a friend and you, the writer, are trying to navigate your reader through this friendship with respect and authenticity.