Friday, January 29, 2010

Challenge 10

The Ironist

Create an observer of events outside his/her own experience, someone who knows more than she lets on, who jokes with us (the readers) but who also indirectly reveals a complex reading of the events she is describing. In Greek comedy, the character eiron was a dissembler, who spoke in understatement and pretended to be less intelligent than he was. This will be like the unreliable narrator, except that this character is aware they are telling 'tall tales'.

Wordcount: 500 (+/- 10%)


  1. This challenge is quite hard. See for a bit more information on Eiron.

    I really like this idea of a character who plays the fool but is, in truth, very intelligent and reveals truth through jokes and stumbles, yet it is something I haven't really looked into and am having trouble creating for myself. Perhaps it is time to go and find some good books featuring Jesters and such?

  2. The part that ultimately trips me up is 'an observer of events outside his/her own experience' - we're relying on the narration, rather than the actions of the narrator, to convey the 'ironies', whereas the reading I've done so far keeps leading me to an ironist who makes their point through his/her interactions with others.

  3. Maybe that part could be optional? Or if we considered the role of a jester for a moment - they observe a great deal, but do not necessarily experience it for themselves... or maybe hear things second hand... so perhaps we could interpret as 'observer' rather than participant? But then they make their point through interaction, so the observation and the irony are separate?

  4. The ironist is not bitter, he does not seek to undercut everything that seems worthy or serious, he scorns the cheap scoring-off of the wisecracker. He stands, so to speak, somewhat at one side, observes and speaks with a moderation which is occasionally embellished with a flash of controlled exaggeration. He speaks from a certain depth, and thus he is not of the same nature as the wit, who so often speaks from the tongue and no deeper. The wit's desire is to be funny; the ironist is only funny as a secondary achievement.

    Robertson Davies, 1994. 'The Cunning Man'

  5. Mmm... cool. Definitely an unfamiliar archetype, which is actually quite exciting. I have a feeling I will keep coming back to this idea. Maybe at a later point I will try and do this exercise again. Seems like the sort of character that would be awesome to turn up in my book. Mum mentioned a Jester in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series which might give me a few clues.

  6. It would certainly be interesting - and challenging - to maintain such a character for the length of a novel. I'd like to see what you come up with :)