Made in America

10 Lesser Known Literary Devices to Spice Up Your Writing

A literary device is a technique in writing to help enhance the writing or otherwise help authors get their message across in creative ways. Many literary devices are widely known, such as the simile. But there are many you might not know about! Here are some lesser known literary devices to spice up your writing.



Metaphor is commonly thought of in the same vein as the simile. While a simile is a comparison using “like” or “as” (ex. Her eyes were blue like the sea), a metaphor is a comparison that does not use “like” or “as.” (ex. Her eyes were a blue sea.) A metaphor might be an ideal device for comparison if you wish to be more abstract and establish a recurring theme over the course of your story. 



Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of sentences/independent clauses. This kind of repetition is typical in oration and poetry, in order to emphasize ideas, provoke emotion in the audience. An example: The repetition of “I have a dream” in Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech – so effective, it is how people know that speech all these years later!



Metonymy is symbolism, but phrased a certain way – a metonym is where a single object is used to represent a larger thing that is more complex. It comes to serve as a synonym for that thing or things. Examples: “The crown” representing the British Monarchy; In the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “pen” means written words, while “sword” means violence. 


You probably have heard of alliteration before – the repetition of sounds at the beginning of words. But did you know that alliteration is actually a form of consonance, the repetition of non-vowel sounds in a series of words? Consonance can also happen in other places in a word, not just at the beginning. Example: “Hickory dickory dock,” “He struck a streak of bad luck.”



Parallelism is a type of sentence structure. It is arranging similar words or phrases in a way that reflects their similarity or relationship. Typically, it creates a harmonious, poetic sound. It is more common in oratory, but can be effective in your book as well. Examples: “No pain, no gain,” “Where there is smoke, there is fire.”



Polysyndeton is a fancy sounding word for a device that is fairly simple. Polysyndeton is when a writer combines long clauses with conjunctions, rather than commas or starting a new sentence. It is usually for dramatic effect, such as to represent a train of thought or perhaps a worried tone. Example: In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 5: ““Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and a courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I warrant, a virtuous — where is your mother?””


In Medias Res

In medias res translated from Latin means “in the middle of things.” To use In medias res means to start a scene right in the middle of action. It is effective to use when you want to catch a reader’s attention right away. 


Allusion is a term that simply means a reference to another work. Well placed references wont take away from your story but will enhance it. They can pay homage to works that inspired your work. 



Hypophora is similar to a rhetorical question. It is when someone asks a question for dramatic effect, and answers it themselves right away. It is typically used when a character is talking to themselves, making a dramatic point, or talking to an audience. Example: In The Great Gatsby, when Daisy Buchanan says, “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”



Zoomorphism is the opposite of personification – taking animal traits and assigning them to something that isn’t an animal. These traits can be metaphorical, or literal, such as the mythological creature of a centaur. Example: Saying someone is “barking up the wrong tree” to express bad behavior. 




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