Writing Tips

Literary Devices Bestselling Authors Use 

A few years ago, when my creative writing teacher was explaining the use of literary devices in novels or poems, she showed us the above picture.

Yes, that’s a before-and-after shot of a movie scene — a fantastic example of special effects (SFX) and visual effects (VFX) in cinematography. 

So, the tutor asked us to look at the ‘before’ shot and tell if we could recognize the film without the added special effects.

No, we couldn’t. 

Then, she showed us some more pictures, and pretty soon we came to the conclusion that it’s the special effects that enhance our cinematic experience and help the movie stand out. 

Now, that’s the same with the literary devices. They are the SFX of literary work. So, when used properly, they add meaning to your writing, help the reader interpret the scenes, and understand the message more poignantly, with greater depth.

There are hundreds of literary devices to choose from, but let’s talk about some of the ones that will add layers to your writing.

Mastering these ten popular literary devices is a great place to beef up your skillset, add special effects to your writing, and transform the experience for your readers. 

 

Adnomination 

Adnomination is the repetition of words with the same root — the difference lies in one letter or sound. It is used to achieve a nice euphony in fiction writing and poems. 

 

Adnomination Example:

Someone, Somewhere, wants something. 

 

Flashbacks

Probably the most commonly used literary device, Flashbacks are when the narrator goes back in time for a specific chapter or scene to give more context for the story. 

 

Flashback example: 

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter has a lot of information about many events that occurred before Harry was even alive.

 

Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of the same kind of sounds at the beginning of words, in the phrase, or in stressed syllables. 

 

Alliteration example

But a better butter makes a batter better.

 

Anaphora 

Anaphora is the repetition of words at the beginning of sentences. 

 

Anaphora example:

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California — Martin Luther King

 

Foreshadowing

Through Foreshadowing, the author places hints and elements within the writing that gives readers clues about what will happen later in the story. 

These are the small pieces and bits that most readers might not be able to pick up on the first read, but when a big plot twist is revealed, they look back and realise a certain character trait or element was foreshadowing. 

 

Foreshadowing examples:

  • In Macbeth by Shakespeare, witches are an omen of future bad things.
  • “The leaves fell early that year.” This is a line in Ernest Hemingway’s opening line of A Farewell to Arms that foreshadows an early death.

 

Allegory

An allegory is a figure of speech where abstract ideas are described using events, characters, and other elements so that a reader can understand better. 

You can think of it as a story within a story. 

Usually, authors use allegory to tell dark stories in a way that it is easier for readers to understand — for this, they use different events, characters, or other means to convey the literal meaning. 

 

Allegory Example: 

Animal Farm by George Orwell is an allegory for the Russian revolution where anthropomorphic characters represent the key historical figures of the time.

 

Metaphor 

Through Metaphor, authors make an implied, implicit, or hidden comparison between things that are otherwise unrelated, but share some common characteristics.

 

Metaphor Example:

“…and it’s you whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you …” (By E.E. Cummings)

 

Hyperbole 

The term Hyperbole means ‘excess.

So, when authors use hyperbole as a literary device, they use extreme exaggeration to show emphasis or make a point. 

 

Hyperbole Example:

  • If she doesn’t call by tonight, I will absolutely die.

 

Antithesis

When authors use Antithesis as a literary device, they emphasize the contrast between two fictional characters or things.

 

Antithesis Example:

“Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.”

 

Colloquialism 

Colloquialisms are words, expressions, slangs and phrases that are used in everyday speech. These words tend to sneak in as authors, being part of a society, get influenced by the way people speak in their society. 

 

Colloquialism Examples:

  • Gonna – going to
  • Be blue – to be sad
  • Over yonder – over there
  • Da bomb – the best
  • Bo bananas, or go nuts – go insane or be very angry
  • Bamboozle – to deceive

 

Quite an interesting list, right?

 

With all these literary devices, your stories and writings can potentially be so much more attractive.

 

Have you used any of these literary devices in your writing? Or perhaps there’s a favourite you swear by? Let us know in the comments below. 

 

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