How to Write a Parody (Fiction & Nonfiction)

Posted on Sep 15, 2023

Avatar Of Christopher Ortiz
Home > Blog > Writing > How to Write a Parody (Fiction & Nonfiction)

It can be difficult enough for writers to educate themselves on all the nuances of a genre in order to write well within it. But there is sometimes a further step that can be taken which adds an extra layer of learning and complexity; the parody.

Parodying something is a tall order as it is very easy for the attempt not to come off and instead of being humorous, the jokes fall flat and the whole work ends up as cheap and feeling incomplete.

But there are certain steps one can take to ensure this does not happen and in this article we will be breaking down these steps so that writers wishing to create a parody of something have somewhat of a guide to being able to do so successfully.

Alongside this, we will be taking a look at exactly what a parody is and listing a few of the best examples of literary parodies to provide a reference point and a source of inspiration to round out the knowledge required.

This guide on how to write a parody contains:

  1. What is a parody?
  2. Notable examples of parody in literature
  3. How to write a parody

What is a parody?

A parody is a form of creative expression that humorously imitates, mocks or satirizes an existing work, genre, style or cultural phenomenon. 

It often takes the form of a humorous composition with the primary aim of exaggerating or distorting elements of the original for comedic effect. Parodies cleverly mimic the tone, themes, characters or aesthetics of their source material while adding a distinctive twist or commentary.

Through clever wordplay and imitation, parodies playfully critique, ridicule or comment on the subject matter they reference, often highlighting absurdities or quirks in the original work. 

While humor is a central component, parodies can also serve as a means of cultural commentary and social critique, offering a lens through which to view and question prevailing norms and ideas. 

Overall, parodies are a versatile and entertaining form of artistic expression that combine humor, wit, and clever imitation to create a new work that both pays homage to and pokes fun at its source material.

Notable examples of parody in literature

“Don Quixote” by Miguel de CervantesThis classic novel parodies the chivalric romance genre of its time by depicting an aging nobleman, Don Quixote, who deludes himself into thinking he’s a knight in a world where chivalry is no longer relevant.

“Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift – Swift satirizes various aspects of society and politics through the fantastical journeys of Lemuel Gulliver, using parody to critique the human condition.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith – A modern parody of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” this novel adds a zombie apocalypse twist to the classic tale of manners and romance.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – A humorous science fiction series that parodies the conventions of the genre while exploring absurdity and philosophical themes.

“Bored of the Rings” by Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney – A parody of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” offering a comical take on the epic fantasy world.

“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift – Swift’s satirical essay suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies, critiquing British colonial policies.

“The Wind Done Gone” by Alice Randall – A parody of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind,” this novel retells the story from the perspective of a slave, offering a critical commentary on the original’s portrayal of race.

“Fifty Shames of Earl Grey” by Fanny Merkin (a pseudonym) – A parody of the popular erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” this book humorously skewers the source material’s themes and writing style.

“The Princess Bride” by William Goldman – While presented as an abridged and edited version of a classic adventure tale, this book parodies and subverts traditional fairy tale tropes with humor and wit.

“Goodnight iPad” by Ann Droyd – A parody of the beloved children’s book “Goodnight Moon,” this modern twist humorously comments on our screen-centric culture.

How to write a parody

Choose Your Source material

Selecting the right source material is the crucial first step in writing a great parody. Opt for a work that is widely recognized and familiar to your intended audience. This familiarity creates a connection that enhances the humor and satire in your parody; the more people can relate to the source material, the more effective your parody will be. It is essential to choose source material that offers rich content, such as memorable characters, iconic scenes or distinct themes, as these elements provide ample opportunities for comedic reinterpretation and satire.

Understand the original

Understanding the original work deeply is key when embarking on a parody project. Thoroughly delve into the source material, dissecting its nuances, tone, characters and underlying themes. Having this level of comprehension allows you to pinpoint the elements ripe for comedic effect. By immersing yourself in the source material, you gain insights into the creator’s intent, making it easier to write humor that resonates with both fans of the original work and newcomers alike. An intimate familiarity with the source material also enables you to maintain consistency in your parody, ensuring that your humor remains relevant and true to the spirit of the original while providing a fresh and funny new perspective.

Identify the key elements to parody

Identifying the key elements to parody is a pivotal step in the art of writing a successful satire. It involves pinpointing the specific aspects of the source material that will serve as the foundation for your comedic reinterpretation. These elements can encompass characters, scenes, dialogue or overarching themes. By honing in on these target areas, you create a focused and coherent parody that resonates with your audience. It’s essential to select elements that offer ample room for humor and satire, ideally those that are distinctive and memorable in the original work. This selective process guides your creative efforts, allowing you to highlight the absurdity and quirks of the source material effectively.

Exaggerate and twist

When it comes to writing a parody, the art of exaggeration and twisting the original elements is very important. This step involves taking the characteristics, quirks and idiosyncrasies of the source material and amplifying them to absurd proportions. By pushing the boundaries of what is normal or expected, you elicit laughter and satire. This exaggeration often unveils hidden humor and absurdity within the original work, providing a fresh and comical perspective for your audience. Whether it’s inflating a character’s flaws, making a scene more ridiculous, or intensifying a theme’s absurdity, the power of exaggeration should be front and center of a writer’s mind when creating their work.

Be mindful of copyright

A crucial aspect of writing a parody that often goes overlooked is understanding the legal implications. While parody enjoys some legal protections under fair use laws in various jurisdictions, it’s vital to navigate this terrain carefully. Directly copying or reproducing substantial portions of the original work can lead to copyright infringement issues. To mitigate such risks, ensure that your parody adds substantial value through humor, satire, or social commentary, transforming the source material in a way that stands as a separate creative work. When in doubt, consult with legal experts to safeguard your parody from potential legal challenges while preserving your creative freedom.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.

Get your free audiobook and ebook copy of:

Published: The proven path from blank page to 10,000 copies sold 

Liked this post? Share it with friends!

Interested in working with us?

Book a free strategy call with our expert team!