Irony is a powerful tool to have in your writer’s toolkit. It can make your writing a lot more interesting and entertaining for your readers, adding a wonderful new dimension to your fiction.
Now, there are several different types of irony that writers can use to great effect when crafting their stories. In this article we’ll talk about the seven types of irony that you can use to take your fiction to the next level.
What Is Irony?
Irony is a literary device that can be used very effectively to add humor and tension to your story, making it much more engaging for your readers.
Now, how do you define irony? It’s when something happens that seems like it should be the opposite of what your audience expects but in fact has a meaning that’s in line with their expectations. The end result is usually surprise and often delight!
Why Do Authors Use This Rhetorical Device?
Authors use this device because it can produce very interesting results by creating unique circumstances when your readers least expect it.
Irony can even open the doors to deeper insights by challenging your audience’s worldview.
In short, it’s a very versatile device that can be used to add an element of surprise not only to your dialogue but also to situations, places and circumstances throughout your plotline.
What Are the Different Types of Irony for Fiction Writers?
Here are 7 distinct types of irony that you can use in your fiction narrative:
1. Dramatic irony
Dramatic irony takes place when you make your audience aware of something that a key character in your story does not yet know.
With this type of irony your readers get to have an insider’s view of what’s about to happen to your character that’ll change their journey in an unexpected way.
2. Situational irony
Situational irony takes place when things turn out to be the opposite of what your audience expected.
This can be used to great effect, for example, when you want to throw your audience off the trail early on in your plot so you can surprise them at the end (think about the ending of the movie The Sixth Sense.)
3. Verbal irony
Verbal irony takes place when someone says one thing but means another. This is a commonly used device you can incorporate into your writing to spice up your dialogue with very humorous results.
The age-old technique of double entendre is a classic example of the use of verbal irony in dialogue.
4. Socratic irony
Socratic irony happens when someone pretends to know less than they actually do in order to teach someone else about an idea or situation.
This is less about humor and more about achieving an unexpected form of discovery or enlightened state (think about Al Pacino’s final monologue in the movie Scent of a Woman).
5. Irony of fate
Irony of fate takes place when events happen contrary to what is planned or expected by your audience.
This can be used to great effect to reach the climax of your story (like the unexpected ending of Thelma and Louise.)
6. Tragic irony
Tragic irony happens when actions lead to bad results despite good intentions.
This is a technique that’s often used as part of the hero’s journey, when the hero’s good intentions take them to a place where they hit rock bottom.
Finally, sarcasm is an expression of scorn or disapproval often used as a form of verbal irony.
This device is often used to trigger a comedic effect out of a seemingly serious dialogue.
Some writers can craft sarcastic comments so well that they can unlock multiple layers of humor (Monty Python were famous for their use of multi-layered sarcasm in some of their skits.)
Wrapping Things Up
Irony is a powerful tool that will take your readers on an emotional roller coaster ride through twists and turns they didn’t see coming, often to very humorous effect and sometimes to a state of shock and surprise.
Use these rhetorical devices to take your dialogue writing skills to the next level by putting the rubber to the road and starting to incorporate them into your fiction!
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.