We know what you’re wondering: “How does the Flaming Bugle write such hilarious and culturally relevant news stories?”
Well you’re in luck, because we’re kicking off the semester by sharing the method we consistently use to write our satirical stories. It’s a fairly technical process that anyone can follow – what separates the best stories from the mediocre depends on how creative an author can get.
So, let’s get on with it.
What is a Satirical News Story?
There are two types of stories we publish – “satirical” and “whimsical.” This post focuses on satirical.
A satirical news story is a narrative, written in the inverse pyramid style, that has a point; it is criticizing some cultural theme or practice. They’re supposed to be funny, but they ought to challenge certain people as well. The stories identify a discrete aspect of reality that goes against what the author sees as ideal, and the aspect is framed as despicable or ignoble.
Writing a Satirical News Story
Step 1 – The Point
Begin with asking yourself, “What don’t I like about what’s going on around me?” This is the most crucial step, as everything else is built upon its outcome. Brainstorming with a group can produce a slew of ideas to choose from. Ensure that your answers are worth criticizing, so as not to just bash people left and right with an absence of thoughtfulness.
Examples of answers that we have come up with (and their resulting headlines) include:
- The valuing of entertainment over learning – Rising Sophomore Realizes Jerry Falwell Library Contains Books, How to Finish the Semester Strong as a College Student.
- The negative mindset towards CFAWs – Local Student Irritated at Opportunity to Positively Influence CFAW, Study: CFAWs Human Too.
- The desensitization towards cheating – Op-ed: Taking Online Quizzes with Friends is not Cheating.
After identifying something you don’t like and being sure it’s worth critiquing, continue on to step two.
Step 2 – The Headline
This is the step that separates the creative from the unoriginal. You must form a fictional narrative that clearly brandishes and criticizes your chosen theme, and you must comprehensively represent that narrative in twelve words or less.
The headline comes before the story. You don’t have to have the whole narrative in mind when crafting a headline, just know the basic plot. The reader should know what you’re trying to say just by reading the headline.
We have categorized different kinds of headlines in the news satire industry. When you’re just starting out, choose one and stick to it throughout your story.
Briefly, some of these categories include:
- Hyperbolic – takes a theme that is being embodied in reality but magnifies it to an absurd degree through an exaggerated plot (see Liberty to Cut All Dancing Scenes in ‘La La Land’ Before Showing on Campus andMan Escapes High-Pressure Altar Call Through Ventilation Ductand Rot, Garbanzo, Star Ginger Closed; Student Body Declares State of Emergency).
- Inverse Reality – makes a point by presenting a story where, in reality, the opposite is true. Make it as blatantly false/opposite to reality as possible (see Liberty Student Body Relieved to Have Such Controversial Commencement SpeakerandWaitress Pays Rent With Million-Dollar Gospel Tract).
- Stating the Obvious – utilizes the official and matter-of-fact verbiage of a news story to present an assertion that, although seems obvious, is nonetheless not respected by a group of people (see Study: CFAWs Human Tooand Shocking New Study Suggests Disagreeing With Gays, Trans People Not the Same as Hating Them).
- Trend Jacking – this style can be used at the same time as the others; it involves drawing on popular references or “trends” so that the story becomes relevant to a broader audience.
Often, people don’t go to the site to read the story – they just read the headline and see the featured photo. The quality of the headline is therefore crucial if you want your story to get any traction in the realm of social media. Keep it as short and sharp as possible.
Step 3 – The Story
Craft a story around your headline and make sure every single sentence delivers on what your headline is trying to get across. Don’t reach for multiple “points” in your content. Stick to one, simple story that is represented by the headline.
Consistently adhere to whatever style your headline is using throughout the story. For example, if your headline is utilizing “inverse reality,” make sure that the words of the narrative never break from the “ignorance” of stating the exact opposite of what exists in reality.
Ensure that you’re writing in the inverted pyramid style. Also, keep your verbiage mostly neutral and dry (there is some wiggle room here – satirical stories can use adjectives whereas such descriptors are rarely used in official news articles). The contrast of the matter-of-fact tone with the absurd and hyperbolic nature of the content is a primary source of humor.
Here are a few miscellaneous “best practices” to follow when writing news satire.
- To write well, read well. Peruse our blog or sites like the Babylon Bee and get a feel for appropriate tones of voice and sentence structures.
- Headlines should contain the entire joke. (A bad example of this is our own Freshman Wrestles with Important Questions. There’s no punchline in the headline.)
- Head writer of the Babylone Bee, Kyle Mann, gave us the tip to take note of ideas for stories as they come to you throughout the day so that you can go back later and flesh them out. This is an excellent tactic to ensure you don’t forget that killer headline that pops into your head during a droll Convocation.
- References in the headline should be recognizable and relevant to your target audience. Utilize trend jacking, or mention famous people, places or events.
- Timeliness of any event you reference boosts publicity; if something big happens and some aspect of it is worth commenting on, get a story out ASAP!
We hope this brief post enlightens you to the science of satirical news and helps you craft better stories. Submit your creations to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish our favorites!