What is a literary device? A literary device is a method of storytelling that expresses ideas through language and can be analyzed or interpreted. Simply put, it is the manner in which writers tell the story. You probably use some of these techniques in your own manuscripts but didn’t know the technical terms for them:
Cliffhanger - The story/chapter ends unresolved. This device is used to keep the reader reading. Example: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Witch and Wizard by James Patterson are great examples of this device at work. Almost every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. My book, Finding Me, ends with a cliffhanger.
Foreshadowing - To give the reader a sense of things to come. Example: You hint at a past love or a thought of a past love right when the MC’s boyfriend proposes to her. The reader automatically thinks that there might be a connection or that she still has feelings for this other mystery guy. Later at a crucial time in the story, you introduce this guy and wham – instant tension.
Hyperbole – this device is used in poetry but can be used to sprinkle your dialogue with. Not too much though, it can weigh the MS. It is exaggeration and not to be taken literally. Example: My stomach had started eating my surrounding organs I was so hungry. (Bad example, but you get it, right.)
Narrative hook – The elusive “hook” we hear so much about. It is the opening sentence of your MS and must grab the reader’s attention and make it impossible for them to put down your book. Example: (this is from my MS) If the Twilight Zone was a place, then I was there.
Plot Twist – this is an unexpected shift in what happens in the story. No *dues ex machina here, though. The twist must make sense and be apart of the logical clues and points left throughout the plot. Example: The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis had a great plot twist. If you hadn’t seen the movie, shame on you. Go rent it and you will understand what I mean. There are a number of clues that led up to the conclusion and it made total sense but we were so enthralled with the main plot that we forgot everything else. This is genius if pulled off correctly.
Ticking clock scenario – This device has to do with pacing. You up the stakes for your protagonist by making him/her have to accomplish the goal (they must have some goal/desire for a compelling read) within a specified amount of time. This device can be employed throughout the story or in a particular scene. Example: Nick of Time (movie) with Johnny Depp or Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyers
Irony – this device presents a difference in what is expected and what actually occurs. Situational irony is where a discrepancy between what is expected and what is actualized occurs. Example: Your MC has a lifelong fear of flying at night. So he/she avoids the red eye flights at all cost, but is in a plane crash on his/her noon flight. Dramatic irony occurs when a character is unaware of important information already revealed to the audience. Example: Horror films are great for this one. We know Michael Myers is behind the MC and we wish we could scream for her/him to run. The MC however is not aware of him lurking behind, waiting to spring. (This is also a third person point of view device. First person perspectives couldn’t do this, as the MC is the head you’re in – unless this was done to a secondary character) Lastly, Verbal Irony is irony in dialogue. It’s when someone says one thing but mean another. (No explanation necessary, right)
Setting – a richly imagined setting can act as a third character. And setting does not simply mean where the story takes place. It is the car the MC drives, the bed that they sleep in, the period of time the story takes places. Examples: The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are great examples of richly drawn settings.
There are many more devices. Can you think of more?
She lives in South Texas with her husband, three kids, and her great big imagination. For more information about Dawn check out her Blog @ http://dawnbrazil.blogspot.com or Facebook page - www.facebook.com/authordawnbrazil- where she is the most annoyingly random person in America. Or find her on Twitter @dawnbrazil, where her randomness can be quite annoying but thankfully is restrained to 140 characters.