If you’re looking to write for the Sauce here’s a few tips that can help you avoid common pitfalls:
1. It’s all in the headline
The world is our audience, but in order to reach people we have to leverage social media. This means that for most people, all they will see of your article is a headline, and that’s what needs to draw a reader in. Studies have shown people are just as likely to share an article based on its headline as they are if they actually click through and read the content, so the better the headline, the more it’s gonna get shared around.
We go by the Chasers’ old house rule of “50/50” in that loosely 50% of the effort in creating an article should be spent on getting the right headline. In professional satire writing sometimes 50 good headlines are pitched before a single one is picked for it’s merit and written up. We’re a little more forgiving, but we still prefer being pitched bunches of 10 potential headlines that we can pick one or two standouts from.
We also often use the Onion’s favored method of taking a common headline format and replacing a single word to create a funny or jarring new headline that subverts the readers initial expectation. (e.g. Curiosity Rover Discovers Self On Mars)
2. Keep it simple, keep it short, keep it funny
We’re not a news organization, we’re a satire site. It can help to give some background on a topic, but at the same time don’t go over two sentences of dry content without throwing the readers a bone on the third. Remember this is the internet, people have short attention spans. Our general rule is aim for three sentence paragraphs, the first two explaining, the third comprising the punchline. If you’re submitting a pre-written pitch, highlight the punchlines in red.
Subverting the readers expectation of how the paragraph will end is an easy way to get a laugh, and by writing this way, you can come up with your jokes first, then write backwards from there.
3. Do what I just said
Come up with the jokes first. It’s much easier to frame a satiric story around some inherent ironies you spotted than it is to try and insert jokes into plain reporting. Failing that…
4. Fall back on the Sauce Patented Comedy Algorithm (R) TM (C)
If you are struggling to come up with witty one liners, the following process can help:
Read up on all source material you can find on your subject, noting down the main points, and more importantly any items of irony, cognitive dissonance, flawed logic, weasel words, or hypocrisy that hits you as you are writing. The latter will probably be the basis for your lampooning. The former can be taken and run through the following methods of satirisation:
Misdirect (Lead in one direction end somewhere else Destructive Mutant Monster Meets Wolverine)
Hyperbole (Rolf Harris Warned to Stop Groping Female Prosecutor)
Juxtaposition (Mr Abbott said the abolition of the $2,000 local arts grant scheme would fix the $4 Billion budget deficit once and for all)
Comparison (Newspaper readers on the North Shore are struggling to cope with reading about the ongoing war in Middle East over breakfast, or Ukranians Outraged by DiCaprio’s Oscar Snub)
Lampoon (Moscow Police Enter Day 3 in Hot Pursuit of Illegal Weather Phenomenon)
Sarcasm (try to go easy on this)
Irony (Anti-Gay Pastor Fred Nile condemned himself today for his tabling of anti-discrimination legislation that would increase the rights of LGBT people)
Puns/Wordplay (Bill Posters Finally Prosecuted)
Logical Conclusion (Bronwyn Bishop Under Fire For Wearing Party Shirt as Speaker)
Silly (Mob Kingpin Thinks He Can Threaten Us With a Court Injunction – leads to a takedown notice page)
False Logic(e.g. Thor promised to banish the ice giants, there are no ice giants around, therefore Thor is the one true god.)
Find Links Where Links Don’t Exist (Urine Drinking Footballer Todd Carney in Talks to Become Next Host of Man vs. Wild)
5. Write too much, let us edit
It’s much better when pitching stories to include way to much and let us cut articles down. We generally run about 3-4 paragraphs on a story, but if you can manage it, aim for around 5 paragraphs. Sometimes jokes you thought were hilarious might be cut because they’re just not as funny to a fresh pair of eyes, and sometimes a joke you thought was easy or lame will be what makes an article go viral. The nature of the Sauce is to get the best out of Australia’s comedy writers, and this means editing, re-writes and sometimes taking advice from others. It’s nothing against you, we do this to all our articles, because at the end of the day, we want all our stories to be the funniest they can possibly be. We’d rather make the audience laugh than to keep in a joke that isn’t funny just to stroke a writers ego.
That’s it for now. So get writing or go home. And then get writing.