What literary devices or other factors might contribute to the “cleverness” of a story?
Ultimately, a story one person considers to be “clever” might not be what another person considers clever. I can, however, give you a starting point for figuring out what appeals to you. To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s start with a definition of the term “clever.” Someone who is considered to be clever is likely quick to understand things or learn new subjects. Synonyms might be bright, sharp, shrewd or quick-witted. Similarly, a clever story might be something you consider to be intelligent or witty.
Satires, for starters, are often considered to be clever. A satire uses humor or irony to ridicule a certain demographic or trait – politicians, Southern mannerisms, people who talk at the theater, etc. George Orwell’s Animal Farm, for instance, satirizes politicians and their lust for power and Mark Twain’s books often lovingly poke fun at the American South. Similarly, some fables may also be thought of as clever. In the popular story of the Turtle and the Hare, a turtle beats a hare in a footrace by being slow and steady while the rabbit is overconfident and makes a mistake. In this case, one might think the turtle is clever because he was intelligent enough to outwit the hare.
When you’re considering whether or not you find something clever, think about the language that’s being used. Does it make you laugh? Does it make you think, “Wow, I wish I had thought to phrase it that way!” Does the author makes points you hadn’t considered before? All of these are questions that help me figure out if I find something clever or not.