Don’t Be So Dramatic! Or DO. Dramatic Irony For Fun And Profit

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

Dun Dun Dunnnnnnnnn! DRAMATIC IRONY!

Which is what, exactly?

Beats me.

But I have smart friends, and one of them, Allison Maruska, bestselling author of The Fourth Descendant, recently posted on her blog about ways to use Dramatic Irony to increase tension in your story.

See, it’s all ball bearings nowadays, guys tension, guys! And if we can throw in a few additional tension-enhancing elements, it helps the story a LOT.

fletchBy having a discussion about this with Allison, my critique partner (to learn more about the value of critique partners, click HERE), I realized that (A) I had a few places I could add dramatic irony in my current story and (B) it was probably set to happen in  few upcoming scenes, and (C) I had just written a scene where it basically had just happened! I just didn’t realize a scene could be enhanced that way, so I would have/nearly missed the chance! It was 90% there already, it just needed a tweak.

Bestselling author, friend and critique partner Allison Maruska
Bestselling author, friend and critique partner Allison Maruska

She helped me see the dramatic irony light, which will make those passages in my story a lot more fun for readers.

(If you’d like to do a guest post, hit the Contact Me button and let’s pick an educational topic for you to enlighten us on!)


Here’s Allison explaining the whole dramatic irony thing as only she can.

Enjoy. I did.


Have you read a story where the character knew everything that was going on and merely went through a checklist to solve the problem?

I certainly hope not, because that would be boring as hell.

No matter the genre, we read stories to see how the main character emerges victoriously (or not). Does the detective solve the crime? Does the waitress capture the heart of the famous patron? Will the elf/goblin find the mystical gem and save the kingdom from certain annihilation?

If the character knows in the beginning how to conquer the challenges, there would be no story. In a typical narrative, the characters don’t know what to do, and neither do we, the readers. Tension arises through conflict and complications and the unknown. Include those, and you’re more likely to write a page-turner.


But if you want to turn your tension up even more, throw in some dramatic irony.

*insert collective groan as everyone remembers their high school literature classes*

Stay with me. Do this right, and your book will keep people up at night. Yay for creating drowsy drivers!

Dramatic irony happens when the audience knows something the characters don’t. Instead of exploring the dark cave with the MC and discovering the monster with him, we know the monster is there and brace ourselves for when the MC finds it. Dramatic irony causes readers/viewers to do this: Don’t do it!!

Or if we’re writing a romance, maybe this: Go for it! He likes you!!

Yes, everyone studied dramatic irony in high school. No one remembers, because high school literature classes have a magical gift of taking something interesting and turning it into a snore fest. Take, for example, the most famous example of dramatic irony: Romeo and Juliet.

We were all forced to translate Shakespearean and read this classic. It’s easy to tell who did their homework. Those who think it’s a basis for all love stories did not – unless they think all love stories should end in a suicide pact.

But it wasn’t really that, was it? Juliet took the “look I’m dead” potion, but Romeo thought she was really dead. We knew more than Romeo, and we watched in horror as he offed himself in despair…

To continue reading, please click HERE


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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

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