The Musings of Sharyl Heber on the Gift of Literary Irony
I’m a big fan of irony in the written word. My MasterWriter software defines it in this way:
- · Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.
- · The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
- · A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect.
In my own writing, I’m trying to train myself to drill down and ask at every turn, And the irony of that is? Below are some ideas I have on its crafting:
Plot Structure (sometimes deliciously linked to, or played out in, poetic justice):
- · A classic example— O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, (spoiler alert) she sells her hair to buy him a watch chain, he sells his watch to buy her hair clips.
- · A confederate-flag-waving white supremacist is trapped in his burning house and the one willing to risk his life to save him is, of course and perfectly, a black man.
- · A wealthy, big shot, college fraternity (un-convicted) serial rapist finds his future doomed by his victims who post his picture throughout the rest of his life, “This Man is a Rapist.” (A short story I’ve yet to write.)
- · The children of elitist ‘protected’ war-mongering politicians, mercenaries and arms dealers are kidnapped, brutally boot-camped and dumped onto the front lines of a raging war. (A short story I’ve yet to write.)
- · A search party to another planet to save earth’s population returns with a galactic pandemic microbe.
- · Every once in a while my aunt can dig deep into that shallow character of hers and pull out some resolve.
- · His surface appearance with that Hitler mustache, spoke volumes about his inner core.
- · The more I learn about writing the more I know I do not know.
- · “There’s so much humanity in a love of trees.” Muriel Barbery
- · “When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.” Muriel Barbery
- · His haute couture had just sunk to a new low.
Dialogue: (can be a nice way to inject some humor)
- · “He was a caustic old bastard and I loved him dearly.”
- · “Of course it’s till death do us part, darling. Don’t push your luck.”
- · “If you take that last cupcake I’ll cut your liver out with my Martha-Stuart-scallop-edged craft scissors.”
- · “Smart, prolific and talented, capable of so many things, why not anaphylaxis?”
- · “Yes, we’re poor as church mice, Marjory. Let’s go buy that yacht.”
- · “You never tell me anything. How am I supposed to know what you’re thinking? Why do I have to be the one to always bring it up…” (e.g., If she’d shut up he could talk!)
- · A homeless camp fosters a warm and tightknit family of souls
- · A drug-infested slum harbors a school that produces poor but gifted prodigies
- · A bucolic country village is polluted with toxic chemicals
- · The earth-saving water supply requires a journey across a killer desert
- · A deadly forest holds the secret to eternal life
- · The compound of a spiritual retreat is booby-trapped to prevent escape
- · Per the movie… the town of Pleasantville lives only in black and white
- · A Chihuahua named Moose or… a bruiser named Tiny
- · An evil cult leader named Faith
- · Her name was Curtsy, but she was crippled, so she couldn’t
- · A ne’er-do-well bum named Lord Standish
- · A hateful bitch named Lovey
Personality Twists: (which might also serve as plot material)
- · Pious/religious but mean as a snake
- · Uber wealthy and not a friend in the world
- · Animal rescuer by day, serial killer by night
- · Exercise/healthy diet guru, secretly binges and purges
- · Nursery school teacher runs a drug smuggling ring
- · Family-values politician caught in a sex slave scandal
- · Keeps a meticulous daily calendar but logs nothing of consequence
- · Profoundly annoying but clueless about their impact on others
- · Chronic complainer leads a life rich with blessings or… Destitute and complains of nothing
- · Freely dishes out criticism but cannot receive it
- · Frets over minutia and ignores the big problems
- · In therapy for relationship issues while sleeping with her therapist
- · A brilliant mind disintegrates into dementia or madness
Socratic Irony: From— http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/Socratic%20irony
A technique where the questioner admits (falsely) to not knowing something as a way of tricking the other person into revealing his own lack of knowledge or a flaw in his logic, thus the irony.
- · TV detective Colombo was a master at this.
Dramatic Irony: From— http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/170979/dramatic-irony
A plot device in which the reader’s knowledge surpasses that of the character’s. The words and actions of the character’s therefore take on a different meaning for the reader than they have for the character. This may happen when a character reacts in an inappropriate or foolish way or when they lack self-awareness and thus act under false assumptions.
- · In the Oedipus cycle, the audience knows that Oedipus’s acts are tragic mistakes long before he recognizes his own errors.
- · William Shakespeare’s Othello’s trust in the treacherous Iago
- · Anton Chekov’s story “Lady with the Dog,” an accomplished Don Juan engages in a routine flirtation only to find himself seduced into a passionate lifelong commitment to a woman who is no different from all the other number of women with who he has flirted.
The opportunities to employ irony seem endless and entertaining when crafted with subtlety or in the extremes. For every name, situation, and character flaw there may be a compelling surprising opposite to enrich a story.
I have many opinions on writing. And, the irony of that is… I’m not exactly prolific and have hardly published a thing.