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Satire - Definition and Approach

A satire is a subtle and bold literary device. It can be a striking tool to pinpoint and raise criticism against political practice or other official activities.

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The satire may as such be a strong weapon for opponents who want to reveal faulty, silly, or immoral practices by the authorities. It is also a way to highlight common proceedings that in fact are questionable or even foolish. But writing a good satire takes some skill and one will have to step lightly not to overexpose the object and give away the point too early. A well-written satire will cunningly strip down a certain practice and make it come out as the folly it really is.

To write a satire you have to take a step back and create some distance to the phenomenon you want to focus on, and describe it in an objective and unbiased manner. The narrative must be set in a credible context. That is, the satire will only work when the story or plot comes as an unpretentious presentation, and is told in a natural and effortless style without lecturing or exaggerating. A relevant technique is to let the narrator be either a somewhat naïve observer, e.g. a visitor from a foreign country or different culture, or someone who is given the chance to describe a phenomenon to an inquisitive audience. The clue is not to give away the critical attitude, but just to give an objective account and leave the rest to the reader. It is also important that the topic is both familiar and recognisable for the reader.

The optimal effect of a satire comes when the reader, after being entertained by the presentation, gradually or eventually gets the message. The good satire is a parallel so close to the real-life phenomenon that it will take some reflection to understand its satirical nature. The satire should not be confused with irony or parody which may be used for the same critical purpose, but are quite different approaches to the object.

Write Your Own Satire

Below are some themes for possible satirical texts. First read the definition and suggested approach above. Then choose a topic that you think deserves a satirical presentation and write your own satire.

Norwegian graduation celebration (“russefeiring”)
American presidential campaign and election
Young people’s partying traditions
Irony in everyday communication
Royalty and traditions
Court practice (the truth doesn’t count if it can’t be proved)
Loneliness and a thousand “friends” on Facebook
Blogging practice
Professional sports (money talks)
TV shows with celebrities who are challenged to make fools of themselves
Big Brother TV


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