For the Love of Literary Devices

charming monster

Today, dear readers, I’d like to talk about literary devices, which my Oxford dictionary defines as “any literary technique deliberately employed to achieve a specific effect.” Literary devices are writing techniques that are standardized, which simply means each device has a consistent set of rules regarding what it is and how to use it.

There are lots of literary devices out there. I’m not kidding. Check out one of the resources at the bottom of this article to see for yourself. So I’ve chosen a handful of the more common ones, along with a couple of uncommon ones, to review. If you still aren’t sure what a literary device actually is, chances are you will recognize some of the following examples from your days in English class.

Asyndeton
This literary device refers to the practice of deliberately leaving out conjunctions in a sentence. Asyndeton is used to create an impact, conveying the author’s message in a strong, succinct manner. Here are some examples:

  • Eat, prey, devour.
  • Come, see, conquer.
  • Catch, probe, release. 

Hyperbole
The device hyperbole is when an author employs exaggeration to emphasize a point or an emotion. The effect is often comical or dramatic. For example:

  • I am so hungry I could eat a hippopotamus.
  • Igor, I’ve told you a million times not to electrocute strangers.
  • If you don’t return my love I will surely die of heartache.

Metaphor
This is one of the most commonly used devices. It is when we take one thing (usually an identity or a concept) and compare it to another. The purpose of metaphor is to make our meaning clear by using an identity or concept that is well known to describe something lesser known. Here are some examples:

  • That basilisk eats like a pig.
  • Her anger was like a towering inferno.
  • Evil oozed from him like pus from an infected wound.

Onomatopoeia
This is one of my favourite literary devices — and not just because it has such a great name! When we use onomatopoeia, it refers to words that sound like the actual sound they represent. Obviously, onomatopoeia shows up frequently in comic books and graphic novels. Here are a few examples:

  • The horseman’s head landed in the water with a splash.
  • The enormous spider’s legs clicked across the floor.
  • Outside, a dragon screeched.

Personification
When we use personification, it refers to the practice of combining human emotions and characteristics with inanimate objects. Here are some examples:

  • The walls of the castle loomed sinisterly above him.
  • A gentle breeze whispered in her ear.
  • The chair grumbled under the monster’s weight.

Syllepsis
The device syllepsis is when one word acts on two or more other words in a sentence. It is often used to create a comical, witty effect, as seen in the following examples:

  • As Mr. Hyde took over, Dr, Jekyll lost his control and his girlfriend.
  • The charming vampire took away my breath and then my life.
  • Sheila was so angry she wanted to break his heart and his legs.

Now that you’ve seen some examples, you probably recognize some literary devices that you use regularly. Who knew they had a name? Well, now you do. Literary devices can be a great way to spice up your writing or express yourself verbally. They are another example of just how symbolic our language actually is.

If you want to learn about more literary devices, check out the following links:

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Image credit:  TEAPhotoXpress.com

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13 thoughts on “For the Love of Literary Devices

  1. I had no idea there was something called a syllepsis! I tend to use it a lot in my writing. Who knew it had a name? And who knew there was a name for leaving out conjunctions? Up until I read this I just thought it was called a typo LOL! 😀 What a nice little review!! 😀

  2. This is fantastic! Really enjoyed the read and this example in particular had me in stitches, “Igor, I’ve told you a million times not to electrocute strangers.” 🙂

  3. Wit, wench, wow!
    I feel like a god when I read my blog.
    Couldn’t organise a root in a brothel.
    The crack as my leg broke curdled my blood.
    The road rippled in the heat haze. Nah, not right. So . . . The tree shrugged with indifference as I slapped its trunk.
    Penny panted with pleasure and pain as she returned her whip to its case.
    And, one for the road from an old assignment I once did: a paean of praise from a panoply of pundits (who else would understand, mate?)
    Shit, I’ve gotta get back to my work.
    Don’t smile now.

  4. I really like your writing style, great info, regards for putting up :D. “He wrapped himself in quotations- as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.” by Rudyard Kipling.

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