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Literary Devices

Authors use a variety of tools to bring out a story and the messages within the text. Each tool
serves the purpose of bringing the story to life. If you think about it, most people who create use
them. For example, a painter will use an array of colours, a carpenter a carving tool, and so on.
Writers do the same thing.

Here are some examples of tools used:





Plot development ( Rising and falling action)








Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane












Irony ( verbal, situational, dramatic)






Meaning of Each:

Suspense - a situation or behaviour that creates a feeling of anticipation for something to

happen and can sometimes create an anxiousness in the reader. It is used to make the reader
feel excited and to make them want to read more.
Example: Tell- Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane

Dialogue - characters must interact with one another and the only way to do this is to talk back
and forth. Dialogue tells us a little more about the people and events in the story by creating a
certain level of action within the text.
Example: The Outsiders By S.E. Hinton ( You will find dialogue in most books, which are
character based)

Conflict - sets up a situation where two forces are at different points of agreement within the
text. This could be two characters who disagree, a situation that is out of the persons control
such as natural force ( think Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and the tornado) and it could be a
conflict within the person such as making a difficult life choice or changing something in their
life. A conflict can also exist between a main character and societal views or a supernatural
force such as a ghost or aliens!

1. Man/ Woman vs Man/ Woman

2. Man/Woman vs Nature
3. Man/Woman vs himself or herself
4. Man/Woman vs society
5. Man/Woman vs supernatural
Example: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Foreshadowing - a hint that something is going to happen later in the story. The reader is given
this not as a way of telling them what will happen, but to make them feel anticipation for what is
coming next.
Example: Harry Potter series ( you can see the use of foreshadowing in J.K. Rowlings

Climax - is the most important part of the story as far as plot development. It is the point at
which everything in the story comes to the highest excitement level and where the conflicts are
Example: The Sniper by Liam OFlaherty

Setting - the time and place where the story takes place.
Example: Island by Alistair MacLeod

Exposition - the introduction of the main characters and setting to the readers.
Example: Thank you Maam by Langston Hughes

Plot development ( Rising and falling action) - a story has to have a beginning and an ending
with a lot of other events happening in between this. They are organized around the climax of
the story.
Example: The Last Spin by Evan Hunter

Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane

Characters - the people in the story or sometimes this could be animals or objects with human
qualities. The characters are presented by using four main aspects : physical features, morals,
emotions and personality traits. Physical traits could be age, hair colour, and height etc. Morals
traits could be whether the character lies, is honest, doesnt quit, kind or not kind, does bad
things or doesnt do bad things etc. Emotional traits could be if they are compassionate,
empathetic to others, angers quickly, is sarcastic, rude, courageous, afraid of things, or anxious
etc. Finally, personality traits such as creative, athletic, funny, etc
Example: Most books have a character in them and short stories, even a monologue has
one character.
Protagonist - the main character in a story.
Example: The Outsiders the main character is Ponyboy Curtis

Antagonist - the opposing force to the protagonist.

Example: The Outsiders antagonist to the protagonist is Bob

Alliteration- words that begin with the same sound, they are generally used to draw attention to
what is happening in the text or to enhance the understanding of the meaning within a piece of
Example: She sells seashells down by the sea-shore.

Simile - a comparison using like or as, the purpose of using this is to draw attention to the
attributes of a particular object or person.
Example: She was as tall as a skyrise building.

Metaphor - a comparison not using like or as, which again draws attention to the attributes of a
particular object or person. An extended metaphor is when a piece of writing in totality is a
metaphor for a bigger concept.
Example: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Personification - when human attributes are given to inanimate objects.

Example: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Repetition - words, or phrases that are repeated in a piece of writing to emphasis importance-to
draw attention to the significance of an event, to create a rhythm or a repeated image in the
readers mind.
Example: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Onomatopeia - the meaning is connected to the sound of the word. The purpose in using this
device is to create the actual sound in the readers mind as they read.
Example: buzz, splash, plops

Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane

Imagery - descriptive language that appeals to the readers senses. The five senses are sight,
touch, smell, sound, and taste. It creates a picture in the readers head. Simile and metaphor as
well as other devices assist in creating powerful images.
Example: Preludes by T.S Eliot

Oxymoron - using a phrase or two words together that mean the opposite to the reader. They
are used to emphasise the significance of a particular situation or traits in a character.
Example: Deafening Silence, Walking dead

Allusion - a reference to a historical figure, a book, a time in history, and even television shows.
The writer assumes the readers know who these people or things are and uses it to draw
attention to a message or point they are trying to make by bringing them back to this memory.
Example: Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Mood - the overall feeling revealed in the writing that is created through the choice of words or
literary devices.
Example: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Tone - the attitude a writer has toward what they are writing about.
Example: I can do it! - indicates excitement, but said in the following way,
Sure, yah, I can do it. - indicates a tone of perhaps doubt or sarcasm, not excitement.

Flashback - a memory that is used within the text of something that happened in the past. The
writer will take the reader back in time.
Example: The famous film Forest Gump is a series of flashbacks

Style - how a writer normally writes- what is usually the authors way of expressing himself or
herself. The style allows the writer to create a new way of telling a story with the use of words
and literary devices chosen to meet that style.
Example: Dr. Seuss is known for using a great deal of rhyme and rhythm in his writing.
Also, known for creating different words and playing with known words to create new

Irony ( verbal, situational, dramatic) - a contrast in what is said and what is actually meant.
Verbal - words that are said that are the opposite of what they mean
Situational - an event that turns out in an opposite way than what was expected.
Dramatic - when the reader knows something that the characters in the piece of writing do not.
Writers use them to emphasize the messages for the reader or to draw attention to something
that is happening in relation to them.
Example: A Cancer doctor dies of cancer.

Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane

Symbolism - the use of symbols within a piece of writing to represent ideas or messages within
a piece of writing. Writers use them to draw attention to the main theme and messages that they
are trying to convey.
Example: A knife can represent danger, a candle can represent hope etc

Parallelism - a device where sentences are the same or similar in structure, which make the
lines more compelling and persuades the reader to accept the message within the piece of
writing. It creates clarity.
Example: I Have A Dream speech by Martin Luther King

Foil - a character that contrasts with another character to bring out their qualities, they usually
contract with the protagonist.
Example: Harry Potter and Voldemort ( J.K. Rowling)

Paradox - a situation that seems to defy logic and reasoning but happens anyway. They are
used to make the reader think differently and to challenge ideas.
Example: Hamlet I must be cruel to be Kind. Shakespeare uses this when Hamlet
plans on killing his mothers husband.

Hyperbole - statements that are not meant to be taken literally. They are used to bring a story
some humour or increased action.
Example: He is as old as the hills.
Group Discussion: Critical Thinking

1. Do you think writers plan out which devices they will use before they begin writing?
2. Do y ou think some of the devices above simply occur naturally in the storytelling


Write a 3 paragraph short story using four of the devices.

Make sure to give it a title.
Story Ideas: These phrases are meant to stimulate an idea for a story around the sentiment felt
within them. For example, No Time for Homework, you are instantly reminded of a time or event
when homework may have been late or you simply forgot to hand it in. Take that memory and
create a story around it. It doesnt have to be real- it can be fiction!

Fiction means not true.

Non-fiction means it really happened.

A summer vacation
A winter adventure

Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane

A trip to the grocery store
Love is beautiful
Friendships gone wrong
A bully amongst us
Where did my parents go?
Gossip ruined my lunch
Fall is for fashion changes
No time for homework

Copyright 2017 Melinda Cochrane