Irony Wakes Up Your Reader With the Unexpected

by | Writing | 4 comments

image by Unsplash

image by Unsplash

Definition of Irony


Irony is a literary technique in which the writer sets up the reader’s expectation and then reverses it.

Common Examples of Irony


  • Andy opens the door to a blast of snow that stings his face, then says, “Nice day.”
  • A finicky chef comes home to his high-tech kitchen and nukes a TV dinner.
  • A giraffe has a garage full of ladders.

Types of Irony


Verbal: The character says one thing and means the opposite.

image by OpenClipart-Vectors

image by OpenClipart-Vectors

Dan would kiss her tonight. She could feel it in her toes. He’d skirted the armchairs for a change and sat with her on the love seat. What else but kisses could be on the man’s mind? She breathed in his musky cologne, and studied his lips.

He tapped her hand. “You know, Simone, I don’t think you took me seriously outside. If you don’t get the grunge cleaned off your carburetor, your Camaro could break down.” He scrutinized her face. “What’s the matter?”

“Don’t stop talking dirty to me.”

Situational: At the end of a narrative, something happens that’s unexpected or contradictory.

image by ruben_gal0

image by ruben_gal0

Rick approached the porch, his hands in his pockets.

Nance managed a thin smile. “I’m so glad you came over, Rick. Johnny’s been acting strange. I wonder if he wants to scare me off so I’ll break up with him and he won’t feel like the bad guy.”

Rick sat beside her on the top step and grasped her hand. “Come on, Nance, Johnny adores you. You know that.”

“Then why’d he break our date in front of his friends.”

“You know jocks. They need to save face around other guys.”

“He’s never been that rude to me. And how about Saturday when he went inside the house to wash off car grease. I asked him to bring me a soda, and he didn’t.”

He squeezed her hand. “Sometimes when men work on something like cars that mean a lot to them, they forget everything else.”

“Yesterday, I made myself a Cobb salad, and when I turned from the refrigerator, he was chomping it down.”

“He probably thought you’d made it for him.”

“I guess I’m being overly sensitive.”

Rick stood and pulled her up.

She nodded toward the door. “You want to come inside for a ginger ale?”

“Naw. Come watch me beat some sense into Johnny.”

Dramatic: What a character says, contrasts with what the reader knows is true.

End of scene A on the porch swing:

angel-1152844_1280Sally kissed Ronnie passionately, then pulled away. “I gotta go. My boyfriend, Tim, is waiting for me. He has a ballgame tonight. Will you come over while Tim’s gone?”

“Sure.” Ronnie tugged her ponytail. “Wear your hair down, darlin’.


Start of scene B outside the house of Tim’s friend, Ed:

Tim accepted the can Ed slapped into his hand. “Thanks, man. We’re gonna beat them Blue Devils tonight.”

Ed pointed behind Tim. “Sally’s comin’ up the sidewalk.”

Tim turned and grinned. “Have you ever seen such an angel in all your life?”

Irony can give your story unexpected flavor. Click to tweet.

How have you used irony in your stories?

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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  1. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Me too, Katheryn. I can’t wait to try the techniques I’ve been learning more about on my next story. Thanks for retweeting! Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I’m glad, Peggy. Don’t we all love unexpected twists and zingers. I like it when they arise naturally while I’m writing a scene, because i know that’s what my character would say or do.

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