Apparently I can’t stay serious even in a life-or-death fight scene for the potential fate of the world. Then again, given I’ve always been fond of a well-executed Bond One-Liner or Quip to Black, I suppose this is no surprise.
In part this is based on reality. People under serious stress will find a way to break the tension before it winds them too tight. At least, those who survive. (Those who crack and wind up in rubber rooms tend not to make for good Heroes Win Over Evil stories.) So if a character has a moment in the middle of all the life-and-death mess to make a wry observation, it’s plausible that they would take it.
But this is also based on the characters you’re dealing with. Different personalities will see different things as stressful, or as funny. Throw the hardened mercenary into a gunfight, for example, and he’s probably cool, calm, and collected. Toss him onto a ballroom floor in a tux? Noooot so much.
In this particular fight, one of the characters is actually using humor as a bit of a weapon – getting someone too mad to think clearly. Which moves the remarks from breaking tension to actively creating it. As part of a survival strategy.
It’s interesting because I didn’t actually plan for this verbal assault as part of the big fight. It makes sense, it’s in character based on past fight strategies used, and it’s certainly effective. But it wasn’t part of my rough outline.
…Pfft, outlines. Reminds me of the quote on theory and practice. “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is….”