Monday, November 21, 2011


(INFERNAL DEVICES courtesy of 2BORN2B at Deviant Art)

Specifically, literary devices, of which there are many...

alliteration: A poetic device which uses words with the same first letter in a row to create rhythm and melody.

flashback/flashforward: The depiction of previous events and/or events yet to come, which "reveal significant parts of the story that have not yet occurred, but soon will in greater detail. Flashback is used to create a background to the present situation, place or person."

Hamartia: A character defect or mistake "of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall."

incluing vs infodump: a setting device, specifically, background exposure. The former gives information to the reader in smaller more easily assimilated amounts while the latter empties the whole bin at once, often in a cliched way like the "As you know, Bob..." scenario.

irony: a "discrepancy between expectation and reality." Of the three different kinds one is situational, one is dramatic, and one is verbal. In the first, there is "a discrepancy between what is expected and what is actualized." In the second, "a character is unaware of pivotal information already revealed to the audience (the discrepancy here lies in the two levels of awareness between the character and the audience)." And in the third, "one states one thing while meaning another. The difference between verbal irony and sarcasm is exquisitely subtle and often contested."

red herring: a plot device whereby attention is diverted from "an item of significance." Mysteries frequently use this device but it can be used in any genre.

There are many, many more literary devices, some of which I'm familiar with like en media res or deus ex machina, but I discovered many more while writing this post. For example, Chekhov's Gun refers to the "insertion of an apparently irrelevant object early in a narrative for a purpose only revealed later." Thematic Patterning is the distribution of "recurrent thematic concepts and moralistic motifs among various incidents and frames of a story. In a skillfully crafted tale, thematic patterning may emphasize the unifying argument or salient idea disparate events and disparate frames have in common." And a Bildungsroman is "a type of novel concerned with education, development, and maturation of a young protagonist. Essentially, a bildungsroman traces the formation of a protagonist's maturity (the passage from childhood to adulthood) by following the development of his/her mind and character."

Have you ever found yourself using literary devices unconsciously? Are there any specific devices you enjoy using? Or do you choose depending on the story?

*all quotes courtesy of Wikepedia and Literary Devices. The latter has an extensive list as well as the top ten faves.


  1. You've introduced me to a few terms I didn't know! Are you telling me that Antonia's grandmother's anise biscotti was, in fact an instance of Chekhov's Gun? (Not to mention everything else I made Hodge eat in that book, just to set him up for gobbling down those poisoned biscuits later?) :D

  2. Whoa. I want to use some of these just so I can SAY I use them at parties.

  3. Definitely flashback/flashforward!! I'm useless with mysteries so cannot pull of the red herring so much!

    I've not heard of the term Hamartia!! Wow!

    Thanks for that! Take care

  4. Interesting. I just write and figure out the mess later. =)

  5. I haven't heard of all of these. I guess my writing is as disorganized as my brain...
    thanks for the interesting facts.

  6. Yeah, you stumped me on a few of those, too. Great post, Marcy.

  7. Ironically, that last one is how one reviewer described what I tried to do with my book and failed. I think he was just trying to impress by using a word unknown to most!

  8. Oh how I love literary devices. I'd heard of Chekhov's Gun, but I didn't know what it meant. I love the Latin/Greek/French terms, makes me feel fancy and European.

  9. Terrific post.

    I really enjoyed reading about these devices. I do use some of these, but I just write. I really don't plan these ahead. But it is something to think about for future writing.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Marcy...

  10. Dianne: that's a definite yes (poor Hodge indeed!)

    Sarah: lol

    Old Kitty, Pat, Sheri: I hadn't heard of a lot of them either. It was fun learning :)

    Elizabeth: I think a lot of us write instinctually, I know I do.

    Alex: I read your book and I thought you did portray your character growing and changing.

    Jem: ha!

    Michael: thanks and I hope you and everyone has a yummy holiday :)

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  12. I think I have unconsciously. However, I love your list and the links. I'm going to 1up this for reference.

  13. I'll admit to use a red herring or two in my most recent mystery! Great list!

  14. Great breakdown of literary devices. I like alliteration, but I don't use it too often because then it feels contrived. I currently am using red herrings in my novel, as well as Chekov's guns. Lots of fun!

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