It’s been quite a while since we last talked about literary devices, so I thought it would be fun to tell you about a few more of the lesser-known devices. As you read their definitions and examples, you might discover a device that you use in your own writing that you never knew had a name. For me, that’s the first device we’re going to look at.
This device is what we call it when a word or a phrasal verb is broken into two parts, with another word inserted in between. When used with phrasal verbs, tmesis is less noticeable, but when it’s used with individual words, tmesis definitely stands out. That’s because it is typically used to emphasize enthusiasm or annoyance. Here are some examples of tmesis:
- Let’s get the gang together for one last vampire hunt.
- That’s a fan-freaking-tastic idea, Buffy!
This device describes when we refer to something not by its own name, but instead by another word that is closely linked to it. Metonymy is similar to another literary device, synecdoche, but with synecdoche the other word is a part of the thing being referenced (e.g., referring to an airplane as wings). With metonymy, the other word is not a part of the thing being referenced.
- Buffy, we’ve got two fangs at five o’clock! (In this case, fangs = vampires.)
This device is a type of circumlocution. Periphrasis is when someone uses excessive, and often bigger and more complex, words to say something that could be said in a few words. Sometimes, periphrasis is used to make something sound grand or fancy, like saying powder room instead of bathroom. Other times, it’s used as a kind of distraction, drawing attention away from the heart of what’s being expressed. Here are some examples:
- The stake hit its mark, releasing the vampire from the shackles of his immortal coil. (AKA, the vampire died.)
- You are the kindest person I’ve ever met, with the heart of a poet and the soul of an angel. (An answer to “do you think I’m pretty?”)
This device is when two clauses are placed together, and the second clause is an inverted version of the first. When the entire structure is inverted, it’s also called antimetabole. Examples of chiasmus can be found in ancient Sanskrit and ancient Chinese writings. And ancient Greeks orators used it all the time. It’s easy to see why — chiasmus is a great device for emphasizing a key idea or message. Here is an example:
- You can take the vampire out of the darkness, but you can’t take the darkness out of the vampire.
So there you have it. Four new literary devices to add to your writer’s repertoire. Let me know which one is your favourite.