10 Literary Devices Defined

Filed in Ask the Editor, Writing Tips by on June 2, 2020 0 Comments

it's time for a refresher crash course on literary devices: These are styles or tools writers can use to enhance their stories. Here are 10 of the best li..

If I had to guess, I’d say you probably haven’t heard the term “literary device” since high school English class. Well now that you’re writing a book it’s time for a refresher crash course.

Literary devices are styles or tools writers can use to enhance their stories. Some literary devices are meant to add a deeper intellectual level to your writing whereas others are meant to strengthen characters and your book’s theme.

If your writing feels a little flat, play around with the following 10 literary devices:

1. Allegory

A narrative type that helps writers communicate more than what appears to readers on the surface of the story–usually a moral lesson. Fables, such as The Ugly Duckling, would fall under allegory. They offer a deeper, hidden meaning that’s presented to readers through the telling of the story.

2. Alliteration

A series of words that all start with the same letter or sound. Personally, I love alliterations for book titles:

The Great Gatsby

Pride and Prejudice. 

3. Colloquialism

A casual, informal language that writers most often use to distinguish characters from each other. Colloquialism provides a more authentic conversation between characters in dialogue.

4. Exposition

Background information provided in a book’s narrative that helps readers understand what is happening. Exposition, description, and dialogue are the three basic writing elements needed in any book. Every other literary device should build off them.

5. Flashback

When the writer jumps back in time to share information with readers. Most often, flashbacks are used to share exposition and to build suspense.

6. Foreshadowing

Used when writers allude to events that haven’t yet taken place within the story. It’s an indication of an upcoming event in a story. Partial reveals and dropping hints throughout the story fall into foreshadowing. This literary device is also used to build suspense or create tension among characters.

7. Imagery

How most writers are able to show and not just tell readers what’s going on. Writers pull their readers into their writing by using descriptive language that paints scenes within readers’ minds.

8. Metaphors

Compares two things that are similar. This is one of the most commonly used literary devices in books. A simple metaphor example is:

The ocean was a raging bull during Hurricane Andrew.

9. Personification

When writers use human traits when describing objects that aren’t human. One example of personification is:

The moon played hide and seek with the clouds.

10. Point of view (POV)

Point of view refers to how the narration of every story is told. As a writer, you can use first, second, or third-person POV to tell your story. The POV you choose is very important.

  • First-Person POV: Tells the story from the protagonist’s view and is the most commonly used in writing.
  • Second-Person POV: This POV is hardly used in books. Second-person is not recommended for most writers. This is because the style employs the writer to speak directly to the reader. This can often make readers feel like the writer talks down to them or bosses them around.
  • Third-Person POV: The third-person POV can be done in third-person limited or third-person omniscient. If you use the limited POV your narrator only reveals the thoughts and feelings of one character at a time. On the other hand, omniscient POV means your narrator knows everything going on with all of your characters. With this POV they can reveal anything they want at any point.


Which literary device do you use most often in your writing? Did you know it was a literary device before you began using it? Share in the comments below!

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About the Author ()

Erika Bennett has been a freelance editor for nearly half a decade. Before joining the Xulon team in 2010, she worked with several first time authors who wanted to test the waters of self-publishing. Her aim is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands.

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