What exactly are literary devices? Is there some kind of writer’s appliance store where you can find the latest line?
A literary device is simply anything you use to tell your story.
There are thousands of devices. Throughout this website you will be introduced to many of them.
But, the exact number is limited only by your imagination. You will find yourself making them up as you go to convey the message, mood or feeling you want to convey.
Let’s make one up right now so you can see how it’s done.
Start with a feeling or mood you want to portray…
Let’s take a character who is concerned with and pressed for time. Perhaps he’s got a boss he’s afraid of and a deadline to meet.
So how do we portray these feelings to the reader?
As you write the scene you may want to refer to the clock on the wall…repeatedly.
Refer to it every few paragraphs. Portray it ticking and each few paragraphs mention that another five minutes has passed. This is the constant reminder that he is under the pressure of time.
But Clocks Tick And Time Passes Every Day. It Doesn’t Make It Suspenseful.
What makes something suspenseful?
Suspense is all in your mind. So, to add suspense to the scene I would portray the character’s thoughts.
Show him thinking about the ultimatum his boss just gave him. “This will be done by 5pm, or you’re fired”.
So What? Who Cares?
Well, add the device of conflict. Show why this is important.
“If I lose my job, I’ll lose my insurance and my son is in the hospital with cancer”.
Also note that there are some pretty serious consequences.
The more serious the consequences, the greater the conflict. The greater the conflict, the greater the suspense.
And now his boss comes in to give him another stack of paperwork that must be done.
“But I’ve got to leave right now because my wife just called and my son is in critical condition”.
One Literary Device Builds Upon Another
Now is probably a good time to show the clock ticking forward another five no, another fifteen minutes, and he’s no closer to his goal than he was before. Ouch!
Develop literary devices by thinking about what you want to portray and then working back from that desired effect.
As you can see, the more and more devices you use the more solid and structured your story will become, like a brick wall, and the more your characters will come to life, and the less foggy your story will be.