Extras in Your Story Drawer
Introducing a few literary devices
Sometimes we write a story, and even though we are happy with it (it has an interesting character with one big problem to sort out), we may feel that our story is a little…flat. We want our story to have a bit of a flourish.
So what do we do?
We open the drawers and look for some nice clothes that our story can wear, something to make it stand out.
In your story drawer you should have a few items to give your story some extra punch. I’ve included some here, and remember you should treat these literary devices like sprinkles on ice-cream or cheese on pasta. A little goes a long way. You don’t want the weight of a hundred cheesy metaphors overpowering your literary spaghetti!
While the following are usually taught when learning about poetry, they can definitely be included in short stories too.
Similes are usually an easy way to start; they are what they say they are: similar. To describe something, we can compare it to something else using a simile, e.g. “The cake was as hard as a rock” or “She laughed out loud like a hyena”.
We use similes all the time – we say someone is “busy as a bee” or “as cool as a cucumber”. Something may be “as cold as ice” or “as flat as a pancake”.
Metaphors make the connection between those items much closer, we are not comparing now. We would say instead, “The cake was a rock” or “She was a hyena laughing out loud”.
When we use personification, an object is given a human characteristic, for example “The leaves on the tree tickled the monkey.” We know the leaves are not really doing anything intentional, but we give them the possibility of acting like a person would.
An onomatopoeia (that’s a lot of vowels!) is a word that imitates or suggests the sound it describes. Common examples are the verb to miaow (or meow), which makes us think of what a cat sounds like, or words such as bang, smash, splash, crunch. We find them often in comics.
Repetition (or anaphora) can be used for emphasis. In stories, we can have a succession of sentences starting with the same words. For example, “When she is at home, she likes to sit by the window. When she is at home, she looks though old photo albums. When she is at home…”
This doesn’t mean we write a whole story repeating the same words over and over! We use repetition at a certain point in the story, when something in the story feels monotonous and we want the reader to understand how repetitive the character’s life is, for instance.
Alliteration is the use of the same sound or sounds, especially consonants, at the beginning of a set words close together. We see these a lot in advertising (can you think of any brands made up of two words starting with the same letter or letters?), and some common examples of alliteration include “bigger and better”, “perfect pitch”, “credit crunch”, “slippery slope” and “pass the parcel”. Can you write some of your own?
We take all of these as finishing touches. The key is not to overdo it – these literary devices should add to the story, not distract the reader from it. Like cheese and sprinkles.
I hope you will have a go at including some in your stories and poems!