In the mid-1990s Canadian pop star enjoyed a hit with the song “Ironic.” She spoke of different ironic situations, such as rain on your wedding day and a free ride when you’re already there. Not only are these not examples of irony, but nothing in the song is ironic. The only bit of irony is that a song about irony contains no irony.
Irony involves a contrast or difference between appearance and reality. Irony highlights the variance between the way it is and what seems to be, what ought to be or what one wishes or expects to be. There are three types of irony in literature: verbal, situational, and dramatic irony.
When someone says the opposite of what they mean, they have used verbal irony. Of then this is something that sounds like a compliment but is actually an insult. As readers, we recognize the irony because of the situation or what we know of the characters. Quite often we would recognize this as a form of literary irony known as sarcasm. This irony can use overstatements or understatements, which in literature and known as hyperbole and litote, respectively.
As it sounds, situational irony is when the consequence of any action ends up being different or usually opposite of what usually happens or what should happen. This is a complex use of irony for a creative writer, but when done well is a very effective addition to the story telling process. As an author, you can explore of the irony is a result of fate or free will. If the latter, whose choice affected the result can come into it. Situational irony is quite effective in pointing out civil hypocrisies and social injustices.
A writer uses dramatic irony when he has a character say something the reader knows is not true. For this to work, the reader needs to need more than the character, and for it to have punch, the character should learn eventually of his error. How this affects the character can be a spot for great development for you as a writer, both in augmenting plot and character. Dramatic irony asks the reader to judge the character in some way. Either the character should have known better and thus be criticized or there is no way they could have known when they made the ironic comment, and end up being more sympathetic.
Literary irony in all of its forms is a great tool for the creative writer to use. It shades the texts differently and draws attention to aspects of the story in ways impossible without the ironic statements. But these forms should be learned so that something without irony is not falsely considered ironic, as well as studying a new means of developing our writing skills.