Photo of Dr. Sigmund Freud
The use of humor and sarcasm in creative writing.
Sarcasm and humor, two things that, if done correctly can add to the dimension, the experience of creative writing. They can each add to character development, subtext and motivation.
When done incorrectly; however, they create a confusion that the intended audience might never recover from. They will wander past it, never realizing that it is shaping the character for some specific purpose. This should not be the intent of the writer.
Masters of this art, the one that springs most rapidly to me is Mark Twain, can infuse the story with a personality that it might take pages to create without it. Twain could easily infuse a story with sarcastic witticism that would intrigue and propel the reader.
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Both of these elements can be used to craft a feel, or texture, to an otherwise dry and heavy volume. By adding a bit, just a touch, you can lighten even the darkest of subjects; making them more palatable for those cumbersome folk, the audience.
Now, you may be wondering why there is a picture of Sigmund Freud attached to this article. Obviously, you might think that I will delve into the psychological aspect of sarcasm as a defense mechanism, not quite. Just bear with me but a moment.
“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence.”
This line, attributed to Oscar Wilde, has been reworded numerous times to condemn the simple pun.
Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychoanalysis, himself had stated “[Puns] are generally counted as the lowest form of wit, perhaps because they are â€˜cheapest’ and can be formed with the least effort.”(Sigmund Freud, Wit and It’s Relation to the Unconscious,©1917,page 54)
However, modern science has proved that understanding sarcasm is not only, not lowly; but, requires a great deal of social intelligence not found in persons who have suffered damage to a section of the right brain known as the parahippocampal gyrus. In other words, it is a form of creativity with merit.
Nearly everyone has used sarcasm at some point. Sarcastic phrases are abundant in the English language. “Aren’t you a little ray of sunshine?” Now, the use of this statement is usually reserved for someone who has thrown an bucket of cold water on an idea, a plan or a good time. It is a prime example of sarcasm used in everyday life.
Photo of Samuel Clemmons, aka Mark Twain
Mark Twain, the aforementioned specialist at the form, had several memorable quotes of sarcasm. Here are just a few.
“Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.”
“When I was just a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could barely stand to have the old man about. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”
“I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable.”
“Honesty is the best policy — when there is money in it.”
As demonstrated here, the use of sarcasm and humor can provide a basic kinship between the author and the audience; allowing the chuckles of life to bond the two for the duration of the work.
How to avoid the pitfalls of poorly written sarcasm?
First and foremost, don’t over do it; excessive sarcasm goes from the humorous to the simply mean. Instead, well focused short jabs will leave the reader smiling and the intent clear.
Practice makes perfect. Use sarcasm; if that is indeed a tool in your box, to “spice” up appropriate material. Scatter it like seasoning into your work. Accept comment and understand that not everyone will “get it”. Be diligent to keep the sarcasm laser focused and don’t let it drift.
Finally, remember that, whether you choose to intentionally use sarcasm as a writing tool or not, simply developing the skill will aid in your craft and allow the use later if you feel the need.
Just a thought.