Friday, August 26, 2016

Enhancing your Fiction with Figurative Language

Ah, those figurative language devices. Those pesky English terms that I always manage to mix up. Is this a simile or a metaphor? What is onomatopoeia? I can't even pronounce that word, never mind remember what it means.

So I decided to do some research, and here are the official definitions of those language devices writers often don't even know they're using. Or not using.

A specific comparison using like, as, than. Examples: heart like a stone, thin as a rail, run like the wind. These may be excellent examples, but they are also cliches we've heard too many times. Create your own. 

An implied comparison, such as fish out of water, hard-hearted. Again, these are cliches, so create your own brand of metaphors to enhance your particular character, setting, or plot.  

This is a term for giving human characteristics to animals, abstract ideas, or nature. Mother Nature is a perfect example. Another is roots clutching the earth like a child clutching his mother. Personification is often used in magical realism to add poetic flow.

Symbols can be objects, characters, colors, or aspects of nature, among many others, to represent abstract ideas. For instance, spring water could represent purity. Friendly dog could stand for happiness. A cemetery might symbolize grief, fear, or loss. But remember, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Similar, repeated sounds such as a salmon-colored sunset settled over the sea does a great job of creating flow and mood.

The repetition of vowel sounds, often used in poetry.

The repetition of consonant sounds, also often used in poetry, but just like assonance, can be a tool in writing prose also.

This is a reference to a work of art or a cultural icon. This sometimes doesn't work because not everybody will recognize the same art or icon. But it does have its uses if the reference is a common one.

Example: "The federal debt is so high that if the US was a family, it would be homeless . . ."

Example: cold hands, warm heart. Yeah, it's a cliche, don't use it. Come up with something brilliant of your own.

Exaggeration: "I've told you a bazillion times, I hate peas." Obviously, hyperbole is common to kids.

The perfect example: I saw a political sign on a lawn that said "Vote no on libarry." Enough said.

Usually used as verbs, these literary device words mimic the sound of a thing or an action, such as pluck, blast, zoom, gallop, sizzle, whine, clatter. Thunder booms. The dog woofs.

So those are just some of the techniques and literary devices that can enhance your writing. I hope to be able to recognize the opportunity to use them in my own writing. I also hope I can remember what onomato . . . whatever . . .  is and how to pronounce it.

No comments:

Post a Comment