Category Archives: Literary devices

Exercises and explanations for using common literary devices

When characters collide

Consider the possible basic conflicts in fiction:  man against environment, man against man, man against society, and man against self.  In most plots the conflicts are between people.  Even in Robinson Caruso and Castaway, tales of man surviving in isolation, … Continue reading

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What makes a character, a character?

Recently I was following a thread of writers discussing how to find names that make characters memorable.  Honestly I believe that writers should be looking at the reverse situation.  It is the skillful creation of a character whose strengths and … Continue reading

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Physiological writing

What exactly are physiological reactions? Imagine you are a young teenage girl. You are waiting in the math hall, and that handsome senior with an air of indifferent confidence strolls past you on the way to calculus. Normally you are … Continue reading

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Unknown, unnerving

While watching a military movie, that was unexpectedly full of death in gory detail (i.e. multiple flying body parts) my mind decided I had seen enough gruesomeness I started laughing. Unable to squelch the giggles, I told my husband that I … Continue reading

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Allusions and airs

Imagine you are discussing a current government situation with a friend. You mention an insight you learned about behind-the-scenes working of government while in our capitol. Perhaps you briefly mention that when George Bush explained this the first time, you … Continue reading

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Figures of seeing

Reading ancient literature is difficult not just because of archaic words, but also ambiguous figures of speech that attempted to help the reader see the image and not just hear the words. Translate an early English text, such as Beowulf … Continue reading

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How to play the words well

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. … Continue reading

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Wilde words

Sometime in the eighties I noticed a shift in the focus of television sitcoms–the humorous situation was gradually being replaced by humorous banter. Witty retorts were more important than amusing events. In fact, often the events would be minimal. The … Continue reading

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The merits of fictional characters

Having seen discussion boards in which people spend time arguing about the merits of fictional characters, I would assume that a number of readers prefer these imaginary people to real ones. Fictional characters may be braver, more beautiful, or have … Continue reading

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More than what you see

The term ‘imagery’ brings to mind, of course, images–verbal pictures that allow us to peer into the world which an author has dreamed up.  Imagery sometimes implies page after page of descriptive detail–in which case you might risk having the … Continue reading

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