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Literature/Writing Satire - Douglas Adams style


As a novice writer, where should I start if I want techniques and devices for writing satire in the style of Douglas Adams?

What most interests me of him is that his ironies and sarcasms seem quite well-thought and include not just phrases but whole situations  or characters, like the Vogons.

Specifically, IŽd love to find a good source of study for techniques and methods for constructing / designing ironies and other devices in writing satire... and also other sources of inspiration similar to Adams (Pratchett and Voltaire are almost all I could find and read yet).

Thank you.


So I did a little research for you and tried to find some manuals on this. This is a tough one because it is almost like that kind of material that in many ways one can't teach - we've all had one of those friends that *thinks* they're funny and bombs every single time no matter how often they tell us they've read up on comedy (see David Brent/Michael Scott, et al).

I do highly suggest you read a TON of it, and I do have some further suggestions... Another author who is incredibly close to Adams is Robert Sheckley ("The Dimension of Miracles" series), Kurt Vonnegut (most all of it), and Mark Twain (believe it or not, a lot of his work is similar as well, namely The Mysterious Stranger off the top of my head).

There are some other incredible masters of satire. James Thurber (all of his work) is hilarious, but not necessarily sci fi. His satire is more slice of life. The Onion website, same thing. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a masterpiece. Catch 22 by Heller is both a funny and terrifying look at war, and satirizes it in a manner that is as confusing in real life - what is funny and what is not? Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is a short, high-language piece that satirizes rich-living in the face of how ridiculous the upper classes are. Finally, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift is a short, hilarious critique of public policy's classism and racism (and if you've never read it, I won't give away the really funny twist 1/4 way through the essay. It is funny and horrifying - and he sides with the victims, obviously)

I can keep going!

Now... As for where to learn it.  I am not sure I can be very helpful on this. But I do teach it to my students and I use the material above to teach it. It is really hard to do - and essentially hinges on two skills: your ability to hold the mirror up to the society you are satirizing by literally writing exactly what they think, and using irony and hyperbole to magnify it and show how wildly opposite their position and feelings are on the matter. Furthermore, you need to really believe in your heart in the criticism you are giving it.  How does one do it?  Pratchett and Adams were masters, and they masked their commentary by hiding it in plain sight - the disc / the Heart of Gold. The idea of satire that is so effective is that only the smartest and most attentive readers get it, and it is considered the "highest form of comedy."

The reason Borat was so successful as a shocking film, for instance, was simply because of its (mostly) documentary footage of regular people saying atrocious things, and the character of Borat playing off of it. The footage may have been edited for maximum effect, but the essential joke is the hyperbolic character Borat presents what people are actually saying and presents it like a mirror. These people said these awful things, and it is funny, awkward, cringeworthy, and horrific all at the same time. Was the character /commentary racist? Not at all if you get the joke, because the joke is the joke, not the punchline. It is a mirror being exploded in a ridiculous manner.

In Adams/Pratchett it is hidden a little bit more, and their genius is evident in how well they are able to mask it to their audience that do not get it, and consequently how well they present it to their audiences that do get it. When I read these to my child, he is having a lot of fun with the story and is likely cracking up at something completely different than what is cracking me up.

So, the best I can do is give you some great comedy writing books - but the technique is very similar. Hyperbolize (explode the ideas to make them much larger than they really are), and the joke is usually in Irony (opposites - verbal: when you mean the opposite of what you are saying, situational: when the opposite of what you expect to happen happens, and Dramatic: when we know more than one of the character does in the piece and the opposite of what they expect to happen happens even though we knew it all along).

HHGTTG is full of examples of hyperbole and interactions that cover all three types of irony... For example from Chapter 6:
"You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."
"Why, what did she tell you?"
"I don't know, I didn't listen."

Pretty funny.

Here are some comedy writing books you might want to check, but honestly just reading a ton will be better. I hope my suggestions above get you started.
Poking a Dead Frog
Here's The Kicker
Comedy Writing Secrets

Oh, also...revise, revise, revise, and use test audiences.


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As an instructor of literature and the humanities, my experience is as broad as the experience I have gained in the classroom. As a published author and journalist, I have first hand industry experience. Between the two, I have the experience, knowledge, and research experience that could certainly answer any questions that may be asked of me.


Quite specifically, as an instructor I am an extremely well qualified candidate as an initial resource as well as a person who knows specifically where to gather the correct information at any given time. As a published journalist and novelist, my experience broadens into the fundimental understanding of the craft and its application and business. I was also previously an AllExperts expert several years ago, and was well received by all who I helped.

Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.

There are a tremendous amount of publications my work has appeared in and I can't list them all because of space constraints. Many newspapers, radio, and PBS programming. Also, many literary journals for both fiction and nonfiction academic work.

A.S. Wentworth Institute Of Technology
B.S. Fitchburg State College
M.A. Fitchburg State College, Thesis "The Modern Twain Epoch"

Awards and Honors
Magna Cum Laude.

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