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What Are the Best Tips for Writing Satire?

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  • Written By: Dee Jones
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  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Writing humor is hard, and many find writing satire to be the most challenging type of humor writing to do successfully. Satire is a literary form that tries to highlight or bring attention to something by making fun of it, pointing out its flaws and shortcomings. Works of satire are a form of social criticism, because the goal is often to point out how silly, ridiculous or even stupid something is in a way that will cause people, and society itself, to change. Satire writers use parody, exaggeration, sarcasm, or irony to make a point, ideally in a humorous way. Most believe satire is most effective when it doesn’t cause offense, anger or outrage, but instead uses humor to gently prod the reader to think differently about a subject, even if the subject is the reader himself.

Anyone interested in writing satire must become familiar with the tools of this literary form. When using exaggeration, a satirist might highlight the ridiculousness of a subject by depicting it in an extreme and over-the-top way. There are many parodies of popular movies, TV shows, and novels. In a parody of a novel, a satirist might write his own version of the novel, exaggerating the things he found silly about the book. In a sarcastic satirical piece, the satirist might write about a subject as if sincerely likes or is in favor of it, while tossing in the occasional barb or criticism to show he really isn’t.

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Those new to writing satire are often warned not to rely on meanness, cruelty, or obscenity to make a point. One of the objectives of satire is to open people up to seeing something in a new or different way so they can recognize its flaws, which readers will have trouble doing if they are outraged or offended. The best satire gently teases the subject, making readers laugh even while they are forced to admit a fad, event, or behavior really is kind of silly. For this reason, satire writers should avoid being cruel for the sake of being cruel, or using obscenity that might offend readers.

Choosing a topic when writing satire can be difficult, but a satirist can find plenty of material by looking at current events and popular trends and fads. Public figures, like famous entertainers, sports stars, and politicians can be a good source of writing material. Often, a satire writer will find that he writes best about an issues and topics he feels strongly about. So a satire writer should start with a topic he truly cares about or is interested in, and then search for the humor to be found in that subject. Writing satire about a topic he already finds amusing in some way will make writing a satirical piece even easier.

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burcinc
Post 3

My friend is a script writer and he often uses satire to tell his stories. I think that he's good at this because he knows how to find humor in the most serious issues. He can be talking about death and still find a way to make it funny. I think that writing satire requires seeing topics in a new and different light.

bluedolphin
Post 2

@ysmina-- I don't agree with you. I don't think that there is one right way to write satire.

The type of satire you described is called Horatian satire. This is when humor is combined with criticism. But there is another type of satire called Juvenalian satire where criticism is done directly and rather harshly. They're both satire, the methods are just different.

A satirist may prefer one type of satire over the other and that's absolutely fine. But I don't think we can say that one is better than the other.

ysmina
Post 1

I see a lot of satire on TV and in films that is outright offensive and insulting. It's unfortunate because this is not the right way to do satire. All this does is cause a lot of frustration in people and they become defensive about issues rather than receptive.

I completely agree that satire should mock issues and people gently, without offending anyone because the purpose of satire is to encourage society to change. That's only possible when people are open-minded about an issue.

I also agree that writing satire is extremely difficult. I have just taken an interest in writing satire and I've understood that it requires a perfect balance between criticism and humor. It's not easy to get this balance right.

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