“How to Grab a Reader’s Attention” by Joan Y. Edwards
To grab a reader’s attention, use irony.
What is irony?
Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. Angela Janovsky states that irony shows a discrepancy between reality and what appears to be true.
There are many forms of irony. I’m going to discuss three of them. To learn about all five of them, see Irony on TVTropes.org: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Irony.
Write. Revise. Add irony where it’s appropriate.
Verbal irony is when someone says one thing, but they mean the opposite, definitely not what they said:
- If you are mixing cement for a sidewalk and you spill the cement in the road. If your boss says, “Good job, Tex,” it means the opposite, this is verbal irony.
- It is verbal irony when someone says, “What a beautiful view!” overlooking a huge dump with rats and smelly garbage.
- It is verbal irony when someone says “I love you, too” when they are holding a knife to your chin.
Situational irony is when actions have an effect that is different than what was intended, is a deviation from a pattern, or deceptive appearances.Therefore, the outcome is contrary/opposite to what was expected.
- For instance, it’s situational irony when Ben is chuckling at the misfortune of a man. However, unbeknownst to Ben, the same misfortune is happening to him.
- Wizard of Oz‘s plot revolves around a situational irony of Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow going to the Wizard for things that they already had and Oz wasn’t really a wizard.
- It’s situational irony with unintended consequences in Pretty Woman when the boutique owners wouldn’t sell Vivian any clothing, it was not their intention to deny themselves lots of money in sales.
Dramatic Irony is when the audience knows something that a character does not know.
- For instance, in a murder mystery, the main character might not see the bad guys following him, however, the camera shows the audience a man with a gun who follows the main character close around the corners.
- In My Cousin, Vinny – The audience knows that the police arrest Billy and Stan for shooting an attendant at a gas station. Ironically, these teens believe they arrested them for stealing a can of tuna for which Billy forgot to pay.
- In Home Alone, at the beginning, the audience knows that the cop is a thief dressed like a cop, but Kevin’s family doesn’t know it.
Carson Reeves, a screenplay reviewer says, “You’ll have a huge advantage if your concept contains irony.”
Blake Snyder says, “The number one thing a good logline must have, its single most important element is: irony. Irony gets my attention. It’s what we who struggle with loglines like to call the hook, because that’s what it does. It hooks your interest.”
Screenwriters say the logline (pitch) has to have irony or contradiction in it to grab movie-goers attention. The same can be said for the pitch for books. When you show that the main character receives the opposite of what he wanted, it pulls people into it. It makes the character more human. Readers relate to these characters because they have also experienced receiving the opposite of what someone promised them or the opposite of what they expected as a result of his actions.
I’ll bet your story already has a little irony. However, you may not have flaunted it in your pitch (logline, short summary, blurb).
Take a little time today to revamp your pitch to include the irony that is present in your story.
Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear examples of irony from your favorite stories and movies!
LiteraryDevices Editors. “Irony” LiteraryDevices.net. 2013. http://literarydevices.net/metaphor/ (accessed January 28, 2015).
“Irony,” TV Tropes, http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Irony
“Situational irony.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc., http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/situational irony
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards