Magic Beans — April: On my second novel and satire and its use

First off, mea culpa — a big sorry for my long absence. I will try to post material on the genre of comic-fantasy with a higher level of consistency.

On the publishing front … I’ve finished a sequel to my first novel, “The Cuckoo Colloquium.” One reason to do a sequel is that the characters are established and ready to go (if I haven’t killed them off). And if I enjoy working with the characters and there is plenty of story left, why not continue?

The problem with sequels is in the marketing. People are not really interested in reading a sequel if they haven’t read the first book in a series. Of course, this makes sense, but it’s hard to get readers for any subsequent books in a series. If anyone out there is interested in being a reader, I will send you a free copy in exchange for an honest review of the book on Amazon. Just let me know!

My second novel is called “Cuckoo Heartfully.” It brings back all the characters from the first book, while dealing with the various notions and examples of hypocrisy — the way people often fail to practice what they preach. What if we were no longer able to hide our feelings or predilections? How much trouble would ensue if our worlds were thus turned inside-out?

I’ve also written 25,000 words of the third and final book in the series. (I generally consider 50,000 words to be my ballpark goal for a complete novel, so I’m half-way there). The third book, unnamed at this early stage, is a riches-to-rags story. What if the impoverished become the super-rich, the beautiful become the ugly, the unschooled become our leading intellectuals? In this tale, our worlds don’t turn inside-out, they turn upside-down. Book Three will be out early next year.

On Satire…

As you may know, I write in the genre called comic-fantasy. There is a lot of satire in my writing. So, what is satire in literature?

We know that satire is a type of social commentary. Writers use exaggeration, irony, and other devices to poke fun at a particular leader, a social custom or tradition, or any other prevalent social figure or practice that they want to comment on and call into question.

“Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.”

Molly Ivins

Indeed, satire remains a powerful tool in contemporary culture. Let’s look quickly at the three different types of satire, each serving a different function.

Horatian

Horatian satire is comic and offers light social commentary. It’s meant to poke fun at a person or situation in an entertaining way.

  • Gulliver’s Travels, written in the eighteenth century by Jonathan Swift, is an example of Horatian satire in literature. The work is a spoof of the kind of travelogues that were common at that time. Through his invented narrator, Gulliver, Swift takes aim at travel writers, the English government, and human nature itself.
  • As far as politics goes, The Onion is a popular satirical online news site that embodies Horatian satire.

Juvenalian

Juvenalian satire is dark, rather than comedic. It is meant to speak truth to power.

  • George Orwell’s famous 1945 novel Animal Farm is a good example of Juvenalian satire. The novel’s intended target is the Stalin-era Soviet Union. Animal Farm is also an allegorical satire — it can be read as a simple tale of farm animals, but it has a deeper political meaning.
  • A modern-day example is the television show South Park, which juxtaposes biting satire with juvenile humor. The show has tackled all sorts of hot-button targets, including abortion, the Pope, Hollywood, and criminal justice.

Menippean

Menippean satire casts moral judgment on a particular belief, such as homophobia or racism. It can be comic and light, much like Horatian satire — although it can also be as stinging as Juvenalian satire.

  • Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the best examples of Menippean satire in literature. The novel pokes fun at upper-class intellectualism but does it with a distinct sense of humor. The ridicule is there, but it is good-natured in spirit.
  • A TV example is Saturday Night Live, which has carried a long tradition of poking fun at elected officials ever since Chevy Chase’s 1975 impersonation of Gerald Ford.

“Satire is a lesson, parody is a game.”

Vladimir Nabokov

A Few Tips for Using Satire

When choosing a topic to satirize, start by looking at recent political events, and think of news stories that have garnered a lot of attention and debate. Decide where you stand: make sure you have a strong opinion about the issue you want to satirize. Satirical writing needs to come from a very clear point of view so that you can make a case to your audience.

When you’re ready to write, try and use some of the following techniques to create a good piece of satirical writing:

  • Irony. Irony is a critical tool in satire because it highlights the distance between the way people talk about a situation and the reality of the situation. For example, use words that say the opposite of what you mean.  
  • Hyperbole. Similarly, over-exaggerating one feature or characteristic of your satirical target can draw readers’ attention to what you want to convey.
  • Understatement. Pick one aspect of your subject to understate for comic effect — a social dynamic, characteristic, or political situation.
  • Allegory. An allegory is a story that can be read in two ways: with a literal meaning on the surface, and a hidden meaning underneath that comments on a political or social situation.

“Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise.”

Alexander Pope

I use a hearty dosage of all three forms of satire in my own writing. Really, how could I create any of the worlds I’ve made without this treasured voice of critique and exposure?

In the next post I’ll give everyone an update on Cuckoo Heartfully. I should have a book cover to show you by then.

See you next time!

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