When embarking on your first novel, it isn’t enough to rely solely on the plot and characters to move the story along. Authors have a much bigger task: to provide readers with an emotional experience and a deeper meaning. This is accomplished through the intentional use of literary devices.

There are literally dozens of types of literary devices available to a writer. Continue reading to learn the reasons why authors use literary devices, about the many types of literary devices available, and some noteworthy literary device examples to boot.

What Is a Literary Device?

Think of a literary device as a tool. We use a plethora of tools when we build something, whether it’s a house or just assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. The tool becomes an instrument that allows us to construct the finished product, which, in this case, is a compelling first novel.

As tools, literary devices are clever techniques that help to deepen the reader’s experience by enriching certain elements of the story. Through the use of literary techniques, the author is able to produce special effects that help the reader better connect with the story on a subconscious or emotional level. The devices have the effect of making the story that much more realistic or meaningful.

Why Do Authors Use Literary Devices?

Why would an author, who is already an amazing wordsmith, even need to use literary devices? As gifted as a writer might be, accessing some carefully chosen literary devices can further spice up their storytelling abilities.

As a result of the author selecting just the right type of literary devices for their novel, the reader is able to relate to the characters or theme on a deeper emotional level. This helps achieve the desired reader experience — to be carried off to another world, becoming one with the action, suspense, or passion.

Types of Literary Devices

Consider these popular types of literary devices:

  1. Alliteration. A series of successive words that all begin with the same letter or sound. Example: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  2. Personification. This device gives human attributes to nonhuman beings or objects. Example: The spider Charlotte in Charlotte’s Webb.
  3. Metaphor. This device provokes the imagination to conjure up a comparison between two unrelated things. This figure of speech is commonly used in many works of fiction. Example: Henry is a night owl.
  4. Simile. This is another type of comparison device using figurative language, but while using the words “like” or “as” to make the comparison. Example: The famous line from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates…”
  5. Symbolism. This device uses an object as a concise way of enhancing a point. Example: In The Scarlet Letter, the main character, Hester, wears the letter A on her chest as the shameful symbol of adultery.
  6. Hyperbole. This device utilizes exaggerated, dramatic wording to drive home a point. This literary element should be used sparingly. Example: I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.
  7. Allegory. This device cleverly utilizes symbolic representations to tell a story in place of literal depictions. Example: In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion represents cowardice, the Tin Man represents emotional detachment, and the Scarecrow represents impulsive behavior without thinking.
  8. Foreshadowing. Often used to create suspense or dramatic tension, foreshadow hints at events that are yet to come. Example: In the movie, The Sixth Sense, the young boy who claims to see dead people is the only person who converses with the psychologist. This can create dramatic irony.
  9. Motif. This is an image, symbol, sound, action, or idea used repeatedly to contribute to the development of a theme. Example: In To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme of good versus evil is driven by motifs such as dark, gloomy settings, the full moon, and Gothic details coupled with the goodness of living a small-town life.
  10. Paradox. This device uses contradictions that, upon further consideration, make perfect sense. Example: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
  11. In Medias Res. This device is translated from Latin as “in the midst of things” and is used as a literary device for narrating a story from the middle of the action instead of from the beginning. Example: Dante’s poem, “The Divine Comedy,” begins, “In the midway of this our mortal journey,” leaving it up to the reader to seek answers about what events had led up to this mortal journey.
  12. Juxtaposition. Contrasting two concepts or entities side-by-side to create an implied comparison and, in essence, highlighting their differences. Example: In George Orwell’s 1984, he contrasts individual thought and groupthink.

Famous Literary Device Examples

Consider these literary device examples from famous literary works:

  • Alliteration: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The author uses this literary technique in the catchy title, with both words starting with the letter G.
  • Symbolism: Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The author used the huge white whale to symbolize an omnipotent and holy God or deity.
  • Allegory: Animal Farm by George Orwell. The author used the perspective of animals on a farm to portray the shortcomings within the social order and, eventually, the evils of communism.
  • Foreshadowing: Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The author uses foreshadowing extensively, such as several references to fire that foreshadow not only its importance to the kids’ survival but the destruction that fire would cause.

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If you have a novel in you that is just burning to be written but feel you could benefit from a little guidance in the writing process, look no further than Gatekeeper Press, where authors are like family. The expert staff provides decades of editing, design, and publishing experience to offer the superior level of support you deserve. Contact Gatekeeper Press today!

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