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How To Write Satire – Step-By-Step Guide

This article provides you 5 easy steps for you to write satire. Also, there is a description of the 3 satire types that you can use depending on the purpose of the satire.

Satire is a peculiar form of humor and artistic form. It can be powerful where it can inspire social reform or just be used as a humorous way to tease or criticize someone’s shortcomings. Any satirist needs to know their subject to discern both the pros and cons of the topic. Topic knowledge is also needed to be witty on the subject and be able to take the arguments to their logical extremes. See below for a description of the three types of satire and the five steps on how to write satire.

What Are the 3 Different Types of Satire?

Satire continues to remain a powerful tool in our culture. It can be broken up into three main types of satire, each serving a different role.

  • Comic Social Commentary (Horatian). Horatian satire is comic and offers light social commentary. It is meant to poke fun at a person or situation in an entertaining way. Named after Horace who was a satirist in ancient Rome (1st Century AD) who gently ridiculed the dominant opinions and beliefs of ancient Rome and Greece with humor and clever mockery.
  • Dark Satire (Juvenalian). Juvenalian satire is dark, rather than comedic. It is meant to speak truth to power. Named after Juvenal who was a Latin satirist in the 1st Century AD who brilliantly denounced the rich and powerful of Roman society.
  • Comic Moral Judgment (Menippean). Menippean satire casts moral judgment on a particular belief, such as homophobia or racism. It can be comic and light. Named after Menippus of Gadara who was a satirist in the early 3rd Century BC who criticized in a mocking satiric style that mingled prose and verse. The form of satire often employs a variety of striking and unusual settings, such as the descent into Hades.

See MasterClass’s What Is Satire? How to Use Satire in Literature, Pop Culture, and Politics—Plus Tips on Using Satire in Writing for more information on the types of satire.

Write satire. The satirical dictator.
The Satirical Dictator

5 Steps on How To Write Satire.

When creating satire, the underlying theme is to criticize a specific action, belief, or institution. Satire at its best is a “call to action” to correct something that is wrong. Satire mocks human follies and vices with the intent of correcting or criticizing those shortcomings of human nature. Satire does not intend to offend, but it is a polite way of ridiculing human behaviors, institutions, and politics. See below for the five steps on how to write satire.

  1. Know Satirical Techniques. To do satire, you need to know the techniques of satire. Below are the primary techniques of satire.
  • Realism. Satire is always something topical. It is about something that could occur in the real world and people can relate to. There is a story, a narrative involved. Many times it is a serious subject even though satire is used in jest. 
  • Irony. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected actually occurs. Irony, besides being amusing, challenges the audience on the assumptions they have made on a particular subject.
  • Hyperbole. Hyperbole is extreme exaggeration or under exaggeration.  
  • Tone. The satirist’s tone is very important as the intent of satire is to criticize or make fun of something. The tone may be ironic, sarcastic, mocking, critical, or simply satirical.
  • Subtlety. The satirist has to balance between realism and absurdism. The satirical story is meant to seem real, but tends toward comedy or farce without explicitly stating that is its intent.
  • Logical Extremes. Here ideas or arguments themselves are exaggerated.
  • Juxtaposition of Incongruous Features. This technique places two related objects within the satire, but their features are greatly exaggerated or incongruous.
  1. Identify and Know the Topic. Satire can be used to criticize any topic or issue, but it should be something that the audience is familiar with and cares about. Regardless of the issue you choose, do the research. It is important to know the arguments for and against a certain issue. How can you be witty of the subject, if you do not know it? Also, knowing the topic will enable you to take the arguments to their logical extremes. Example Topic: Gun Control.
  2. Build a Narrative. This involves three parts. You are building a story around the argument you are trying to undermine or criticize.
  • The Issue. Here you identify the issue or argument of the satire. Example: Gun control is bad (or good)
  • The Satire. Here you identify the satire of the story. Example: Take a speech on gun control to the extreme.
  • The Story. This is what puts it all together. The story tells us of the characters, their relationships, their intent, and outcomes. Example: describe a realistic story on guns with who, what, when, where, and how.
  1. Surprise the Reader. All satire has an element of surprise. The audience should not be able to expect where the story is going. There needs to be a twist. This twist, this surprise, should advance the satirical argument. Example: Give everyone guns – teachers, childrens, janitors, etc.
  2. Keep Editing. How can you make your story more ironic, hyperbolic, or realistic? Your goal is to distort reality just enough that the reader knows this is satire, and the end result is a punchline, a laugh or “ah ha” moment.

See Writers’ How to Write Satire for more details on how to write satire.

For more information from Unvarnished Facts on comedy, click here.

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