Introduction to Satire by Alexander Salyer

    Satire in itself is an ancient tradition dating back to the Roman Empire. At the pinnacle of civilization, in the time of Rome, people were still dissatisfied with where the Empire was going, as well as various social issues that made themselves known.  Some of the more humorous writers took to Satire in order to try to enact change. Satire is a genre that exposes the follies, shortcomings, and problems of a societal complex through the use of irony, wit, and either humor, or shock value. Satire need not be funny, but it usually is, unless it is meant to be shocking in nature (ex. American Psycho, Fight Club). Satire has only grown with the availability of the internet and television, and can be a powerful tool to teach the masses about an issue.

Key Points to Focus On

Choose a topic: Do not be afraid to pick something that others may not like, but do pick something you are knowledgeable about. Also, pick something that is common knowledge. It is useless to satirize the Venezuelan government to second graders. It will accomplish nothing except boring your audience.

Be aware of your purpose: Do you want people to learn about a problem, or do you want them to be the ones to change?

Be sure that your argument is valid: It will only end in embarrassment if your argument turns out to be false and the flaw is exposed. Make sure all knowledge is up to date or you may look like a fool.

Keep it simple: If you intend to parody something and plan to change names (to avoid lawsuits), be sure that your intended audience knows who you are intending to parody. If the audience does not know the intended target, then your ideas will not take hold.

Decide on Structure: The odd thing about satire is that there is no real set structure. It can be as short as a small sentence, or as long as a book or movie. The sky is the limit, so to speak, when it comes to satirical writing. In a way, that is good as it can allow amateur satirists to work without the pressure to write a novel. The most popular forms of satire in America today are short news articles from The Onion and news broadcasts like The Colbert Report. 

Choose whether you will use shock value or humor:  It is possible to use both, (ex. Dead baby jokes) but that sort of usage may not be as effective as picking one over the other.

Take your time: Satire is not something that you can end up rushing through. You do not want to slack off and just get it over with like you might do with a college paper. In order for satire to truly be effective, you must be thoroughly interested in your topic, and invested in the writing.

Have it edited: Have someone else proof-read it before publishing or sending in to a website/newspaper/magazine. It may seem like you want to do this with all types of writing, but unlike with other genres of writing, you can destroy the entire effectiveness with a few simple mistakes. A good proof-read will help solidify your satire.

Name your writing: One of the most important things to do when writing satire is to get a good title that is more likely to draw people into reading your satire. The Onion does a good job of making up intriguing headlines, and a link is at the bottom.

Add pictures: Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do not like reading too much. An awesome title may not be enough to hook them in. Pictures, on the other hand, may do that. Find a picture or something that relates to your topic. A good short comic can do that as well. For example, if discussing religion and atheism you could use a picture like the following example.


Do's and Don'ts

DO know what you are talking about, as it is silly to pick a topic you don’t know about, or one that you are not interested in.

DO be aware that some things may get changed in editing. Despite satire’s intention to shock people, some companies may not want to publish offensive material. However if you do not like them, you can always just publish your writing with another medium.

DON’T be discouraged by people who do not like your work. Satire can be offensive, and some people don’t like that. You will need to get over any feelings that you must please everyone; that is what children’s book authors are for.

DON’T hold back. The purpose of satire is to shock or humor the reader. Some forms of satirical writing like Fight Club and American Psycho were well known for their amazing violence or tendency not to hold back.


Analysis of Satire
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