How to start writing satire [Page 1 of 2]

Writing satire is a very personal thing and there are certainly a number of different forms and degrees of satirical work. This article is intended as a starter's guide to writing modern satire and is very much based on my own experiences and opinions.

Understanding Satire

Satire is usually intended to highlight a situation by seeing it objectified and criticised, often for comical value (though not always).

Aping or parodying a style of writing is sometimes mistaken for satire but in order for the piece to be satirical, the actual subject of the material must be the focus. As always, this is a pretty murky area for debate but for practical purposes this is how I think of satire.

For me, satire can be split into two separate forms with many varying degrees in between.

  1. The first form is the type of satire that has, in the past, been found in newspapers. This form often takes the form of editorial style pieces of very real situations, written in a very real manner. Personally I tend to dislike this style of satirising, mostly since it can be done so cooly as to make the reader unsure of whether the piece is actually meant to be satirical or not. To be fair, I'm also going to suggest that this is the most difficult form of satire to write.

    For more examples, you could do worse than to consider buying something by Jonathan Swift. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

  2. The second form, and my own preference for both writing and reading, is satire that is diluted with a hefty dose of parody. Since satire need not necessarily be funny by nature, I find that it is usually best to mix satire with other forms of comedy.

Where to begin

In order to begin writing satire I'd suggest that a good all-round knowledge of current affairs is important. After all, the reader needs to have the same basic knowledge of your subject as you do or your satire definitely won't be funny!

It's also going to be important to ensure that your knowledge is also up to date. Since real life is often stranger than fiction, and events can quickly "out-bizarre" your own work (for example, one could easily imagine having written a satirical piece a few years ago with a dry headline along the lines of "Musclebound hero Schwarzenegger to enter politics!"), it's always a good idea to stay one step ahead of the quirkiness of real life.

The final thing you should probably do is to ensure that your basis for satire is concrete. It can be embarrassing for yourself and irritating to your audience if your satirical argument is invalid.

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