Okay, okay, so I admit, do you really want to write with literary elements and devices in mind? I mean, isn’t that like… high school stuff? True, it is; it’s also college stuff. But, turns out, there are really good reasons to use it in your novels. Find out why below:
Here is an in-depth look at 19 elements and devices to use in your writing: From what they are to why it’s good to use them.
An antagonist is the person or force of nature that opposes the main character. This is SO important. If your story doesn’t have this, there won’t be much to stop or hinder your main character, and this leads to a boring story. Make sure you have one, or even better, some.
Character is the main person of interest in a movie, play, or book. Some books have animals as characters, or even nature. Unless it’s non-fiction, it’s pretty important.
A story without conflict is a lost cause. Conflict is any disagreement or obstacle stopping your character achieving their goal. Always ask yourself, per each and every scene, “Where is the heat?” In other words, where is the conflict? If you don’t have that in your story, more than likely, no, guaranteed, your readers won’t want to keep… wait for it… reading.
The way a story makes you feel is the mood. Do you feel sad, happy, tense? This is mood. Does your story have one? If not, make sure you get one. Tone is the sound (inferred if reading) of the author: does the author sound joyful, professional, sarcastic? Tone is easier to pick up in first person fiction and non-fiction. Generally in fantasy, I like for the author to be invisible. So I’m not too worried about the tone.
If you don’t have a plot, your character might can save the story. Both are very important. The plot is simple and goes like this: Beginning (current status quo), rising action (due to some kind of conflict), more rising action, point of no return (it’s fight or flight), climax, because things can’t get any worse ((do you see all of the conflict here?)), and falling action, okay, things are cooling off, and resolution (new status quo). Make sure to have all of the following for a cohesive story and try not to veer off so as not to confuse the readers.
Who do you root for? We all need someone to root for or there’s no point in reading your story. Who can we relate to? Who is this story following? That is your protagonist. Have one.
Another device very important in your story is the setting. Are you reading this on a bus right now? In front of your monitor in your office or bedroom? Are there white curtains, a brown or white desk and a purring cat beside your fluffy slippers. (Let’s hope not or that’d be super surreal) but the point is, what is your surroundings like? That is setting. If a reader can’t see the setting, it’s easy to get confused and the world becomes less real and less intriguing and relatable.
Do you keep coming back to the same problem in your story? If so, good, that would make sense, after all, but what about something else, something a little deeper. Is there a lesson or moral you’re trying to impart, or is your character constantly on the verge of discovering an important lesson? Likely, that deeper meaning or lesson is your theme. This helps unite a story.
I needed a break from the text, so here’s another picture:
That one cracked me up just a bit.
Ever wanted to say something without literally saying it? Did you use another story that highly resembled the one you were trying to tell? That’s an allegory, a story that uses characters or symbols to represent the real-life story.
People use this all the time when they’re trying to be sly about something or, more innocently, when they want to give reference to something they’re discussing or writing about, and that is allusions. An allusion is when you refer or reference a person, place, thing, or event. It can be a neat tactic to employ in your writing.
Archetypes are things like good vs. evil, a story wherein your character goes on a journey or quest. It is when you compare and contrast the natural world against the technological world. These are all things that are universal and understood by all that will always be a part of story-telling. More than likely you will develop this without really knowing it.
Okay, this next one is a no-no. But, don’t save your character from out of nowhere. Don’t have someone else solve your characters problem, nor any type of force of nature. Your character alone can save/solve their problems (in order to grow). If not, that’s called Deus ex machina, “God in the machine.”
I could eat a horse, or, it’s raining cats and dogs is an example of a hyperbole. Hyperbole’s are useful in showing us just how much your character feels or longs for something, etc. Depending on how creative you are with your exaggerations, the more delightful the story becomes for the reader.
A story will be quite bland if it does not have imagery. Think of this when you write: What do you See, Feel, Smell, Hear, and Taste? Make your readers experience them by being very detailed in description. Ex.: “Elaina sat in the booth, waiting for her food to be delivered. She could smell the savory battered chicken and seasoned fries from the table beside her. The biscuits, soft and shining with butter were warm and mouthwatering.”
We all use metaphor, though I sometimes think people get a little intimidated by that word. Basically, if I say, “You are thorny rose of red velvet.” I am saying flatly that you are something, or that something is something, and as a result am comparing you to that rose that can prick you despite it’s beauty. The difference of a simile compared to a metaphor is that instead of saying you are something I am saying you are like something. For example, “You are like a red, velvet rose with thorns.” While you don’t want to use very common ones, as that’s overdone and often void of deep affect at that point, making up your own can be very powerful and aesthetic. You should try it. It can make writing more fun.
Some books, if you’ve noticed, have symbols on the front, like a symbol, a motif is a central idea through a book or set of books that the author keeps alluding to. A symbol on the cover of a book of an engraved sword could be a motif for a family that continually kills by that sword therefore reaping upon themselves whatever comes as a result. Basically, it is a theme guides the arch of the book and is therefore reoccurring.
Point of view is a powerful tool to convey the type of book you’re aiming for. With first person p.o.v it’s easy to get in the head of your character whereas third person is dependent on how much the narrator tells you. Second person narratives exist but or less occurrent or desirable in my opinion. Books in first person are more prudent for reaching a contemporary fiction YA audience whereas fantasy fiction in third person is more effective. Check out various books in various categories to get a feel for the right p.o.v. for you.
I don’t really use symbols in my books, but if I did, I’d have a reoccurring image that stood for an important idea or event. That’s what a symbol is, and symbols can be very effective in conveying a message.
And there you have it. Try some of these out for more quality writing.
As always, happy writing!
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