How to play the words well

Meister des Codex_Manesse (Grundstockmaler)Do a little bit of research on the internet and you will soon come up with vast lists of literary devices in addition to the ones that I have discussed. But it is too overwhelming to start employing them all. Mastering literary devices is like playing an instrument – you must practice to improve your performance and work on only a few songs at a time.

So how do you practice?  First, start with your own writing. Check to see which devices you are already using. For convenience I usually sort usually categorize them according to the following:

I have seen students with an interest in writing use a device without any idea that it was a defined concept. One elementary aged student began the narrative of her first overnight camping trip telling how she grasped the pretty red fruit of the prickly pear and howled in pain. After a rather rambling list of events, she ended the account with another camper teaching her how to prepare the spiny fruit to eat. When asked how she decided to organize her story she said “I started and ended with the prickly pear ‘cause I know how to camp now.” Creating the envelope as a plot device to show her progress made sense to her.

Then, take a few things that you’ve written that seem bland and tasteless. It helps to have works from more than one genre, such as a narrative, a essay, a persuasive presentation, or poetry. Look at two to three types of devices that grab your attention. Incorporate a couple of each into the existing writing. Return to the list, find some more devices that you have not tried and do the same again. And then repeat again.

As you continue to layer on literary devices to a single piece of writing you will find it reaches a saturation point. After which it becomes something you must slog through, rather than an interesting composition.  Learning how to handle and apply literary devices with the right touch is part of the process if you want to learn how to play the words well.

Art work  Codex Manesse (public domain)

This entry was posted in Literary devices, Teaching writing skills, Writer's resource and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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