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6 Literary Devices That Add Depth and Strengthen Your Story

Updated: Feb 7

Grammar Gadgets

a picture of a pencil, paper, and a gear

This post is part of the Grammar Gadgets series, a collection of in-depth studies of literary devices, aka figures of speech. Focusing on one device at a time will present a clearer understanding of each, as well as answer when, where, and how the tool is used. Since so many literary devices are very similar to one another, this will help us to differentiate between, say, a simile and a metaphor.

6-4-1 Special!

This edition of Grammar Gadgets is a special one, as we will cover six different gadgets in one lesson! 6-4-1 has a nice ring to it, yes? I offer this 6-4-1 Special for a number of reasons, but mainly because I owe you guys at least 10 Grammar Gadgets, and I sincerely apologize for that. Unfortunately, this blogger is also a bagger, and right now, the bags (and those damn carts) are paying the bills, not blogs—I would love it if those were reversed. So help me, won’t you please? SUBSCRIBE TODAY, I’m on my knees!

In today’s 6-4-1 Special we will indeed learn about six figures of speech, aka—literary devices, aka—rhetorical devices, and interestingly enough, all six are quite similar to each other and another reason for the 6-4-1. In this Grammar Gadgets lesson, I will attempt to show you the differences in these literary cousins, and hope to explain ways writers can remember how and when to use each correctly. It’s a tall feat though, I tell you today… Hey, that might be one of them there, tall and feet, even though its spelled feat? Maybe, let’s find out!

6 Literary Devices That Add Depth and Strengthen Your Story

Normally, I present a deep dive on one literary device in hopes that it will resonate with you, my loyal reader; however, since I have not posted a Grammar Gadgets since June, I figure I've got some catching up to do. With that in mind, I went through my list and chose 6 Literary Devices That Add Depth and Strengthen Your Story. Going over six different figures of speech in the deep dive style would be a long, and probably boring, read, same as the one you’re reading now; I pray not! When I started planning this lesson, I chose a few devices from my master list that just sounded cool or unusual, and ironically, ha ha—irony, another device, I think he’s an uncle though, not a cousin, all four of my choices were a lot alike. Hyperbole, juxtaposition, oxymoron, and paradox are all writing tools that use words to compare, contrast, or exaggerate. As I perused my list again, I found more cousins, like metaphor and simile, and decided to add them to my list of exotic rhetorical devices to write about in this 6-4-1 Special. In this lesson, we will first discuss the likeness and difference between these two popular rhetorical devices, and then look at four others: hyperbole, juxtaposition, oxymoron, and paradox.

Metaphor vs. Simile-Understanding the Difference and When to Use Each

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, or even said yourself, well, metaphorically speaking… Well today we are going to be speaking literally about speaking figuratively, and what makes these six tools unique to the others. When it comes to writing, choosing the right words can make all the difference in conveying meaning and creating an impact on the reader. Two commonly used figures of speech are metaphor and simile, which are often used interchangeably but have distinct differences. Many other literary devices are very similar to metaphor and simile, yet there is something that makes them unique as well.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that suggests something is another thing or idea. This word tool is used to make a comparison between two things that are not alike, but share some common characteristics. Metaphor adds depth and richness to writing, making it more interesting and engaging for the reader. For example, "Her voice was music to his ears" compares a person's voice to music, implying that it was beautiful and pleasing. Metaphors create vivid imagery and can help readers understand complex ideas by associating them with familiar objects or concepts.

A simile, on the other hand, compares two things using like or as. For example, "Her eyes were like stars" compares a person's eyes to stars, emphasizing their brightness and beauty. Similes offer a more direct comparison between two things without asserting that they are identical. They can be useful in highlighting specific characteristics of one thing by comparing them with another familiar object or idea. Understanding the difference between metaphors and similes is important because they serve different purposes in writing.

One key difference between metaphors and similes is their level of intensity. Metaphors are typically more intense because they make a direct comparison between two things that may not seem similar at first glance. For example, saying, "The world is a stage", creates a dramatic effect by comparing life to a theatrical performance.

In contrast, similes make more indirect comparisons by using the words like like or as. For example, saying, "Her smile was as bright as the sun" creates an image of brightness but doesn't carry quite the same level of intensity as the metaphorical statement about the world being a stage. Understanding this difference in intensity can help you decide when to use each device. Also, consider your intended audience and the comprehension level of the reader. You probably wouldn’t use a metaphor in a young children’s book, but a simile might fit just fine, and vice-versa.

Hyperbole-Exaggeration at its Finest

a bowl overflowing with cereal
A Hyper Bowl of Cereal

Hyperbole, (pronounced high-pur-buh-lee, not like an excited dish) is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration for emphasis or effect. It is a device used by writers and speakers to create an impact on their audience, often by making something seem more significant than it actually is. Hyperbole can be found in literature, advertising, politics, and everyday conversation. Hyperbole is used to create an emotional response from the reader or listener. By exaggerating facts or details, writers or speakers can bring attention to a particular point they are trying to make. For example, in Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom's punishment was the whitest shirt I had. This statement exaggerates the importance of a white shirt—making his punishment seem more significant than it likely was.

Examples of Hyperbole

Hyperbole has been used in literature for centuries as a way to enhance storytelling and create memorable characters, but it is still used today. Advertisers use hyperbolic language regularly to make their products stand out from others on the market.
Joe Camel

For instance, an ad for Camel cigarettes from the 1950s proclaimed that, "more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette." This was a completely false claim, but it was effective in convincing people that smoking Camels was somehow healthier than smoking other brands. This advertisement of Joe Camel is NOT from the 1950s.

Juxtaposition-The Power of Contradiction

Juxtaposition is a powerful tool that has been used to create a myriad of creative works across various art forms, including literature, music, photography, and film. In simple terms, juxtaposition refers to the act of placing two contrasting elements side-by-side in order to highlight their differences and create a new meaning or effect. This can be achieved through different means such as visual contrast, textual contrast, or stylistic contrast.

At its core, juxtaposition involves creating a cognitive dissonance in the viewer or reader's mind. Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that when our beliefs or attitudes are challenged by contradictory information or experiences, we experience psychological discomfort and strive to resolve this inconsistency. The use of juxtaposition triggers this cognitive response by forcing us to reconcile the differences between two opposing elements presented together. By doing so, it creates an emotional and intellectual impact that can be both striking and memorable. The power of juxtaposition lies in its ability to draw our attention towards detail while encouraging us to think deeply about what we see or read. It allows us to analyze different perspectives and make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts. It triggers our brains to pay attention and engage with the information presented because it's not what we were expecting.

an angel and a devil
Good vs. Evil

Examples of Juxtaposition

1. War and peace

2. Good and evil

3. Night and day

Oxymoron-Juxtaposing Words with Purpose

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that uses two contradictory terms or phrases in conjunction with each other for dramatic or humorous effect. The term oxymoron comes from the Greek roots oxys, meaning sharp or pointed, and moros, meaning foolish or dull, making the word itself an oxymoron. These opposing forces make for an interesting play on words and can add depth and complexity to your writing.

Humor, tension, and irony are just a few of the things an oxymoron can bring to writing. From famous literary works to everyday conversations, oxymorons have become a staple in our language and have been used throughout history to create some of the most iconic phrases ever written.

Using an oxymoron is like solving a creative puzzle. Finding the right combination of words can be challenging but ultimately rewarding when you create something that is both memorable and thought-provoking. Oxymorons have become so popular because they allow writers to express themselves in unique ways while adding layers of meaning to their work. Using oxymorons also allows you as a writer to show off your linguistic skills by utilizing witty turns-of-phrase that catch readers off guard. When properly used, they can add humor or emphasize a point without being too obvious or heavy-handed.

an icecube melting by a fireplace
Icy Hot

Examples of Oxymora

1. Jumbo shrimp (of course)

2. Awfully good

3. Living dead

4. Icy hot

Paradox-Quite the Contrary

two doctors in a hospital
Pair o' docs

A paradox is not two surgeons standing in an operating room, or is it? Does that make paradox a paradox in itself, just as the cousin, oxymoron is what it says it is? A paradox is defined as a statement or situation that appears to contradict itself but in reality expresses a deeper truth. It is often used in literature and rhetoric to create tension and interest, challenging readers' assumptions and forcing them to think critically about what they are reading.

A well-crafted paradox can also add depth and complexity to characters, themes, and ideas. Paradoxes can take many forms – from self-contradictory statements like less is more, the sound of silence, or I am lying, to situational contradictions like the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Regardless of the type used, paradoxes play an important role in literature by revealing hidden truths that might not otherwise be expressed through straightforward language.

To create a paradox in your story, you may have to play around with language and syntax, which involves breaking rules of grammar or structure in order to create artistic effect. For instance, consider the first sentence in this section—my play on words here breaks all kinds of rules I’m sure, yet you understand the humor I’m trying to convey (I sure as hell hope so anyway). This technique allows writers to experiment with new ways of expressing ideas and creating meaning.

Examples of Paradox (in song)

In Bob Dylan's song All Along the Watchtower, he writes, "There must be some kind of way outta here; Said the joker to the thief." This line suggests that even those who appear powerful may feel trapped or helpless at times. Similarly, Taylor Swift's song Blank Space contains several paradoxical statements such as, "Got a long list of ex-lovers; They'll tell you I'm insane." These lines challenge common stereotypes about women in relationships and suggest that Swift is aware of how she is perceived by others.

What Have We Learned

Many Literary Devices Are Similar, But Each is Unique

We learned that, at least, six literary devices are very similar to each other, but if you look closely, each technique has an underlying element that defines it and makes it dissimilar in some way. Literary devices are sneaky and even have alias', i.e. rhetorical devices, and figures of speech, and we discovered two, oxymoron and paradox, that oddly describe themselves.

These devices are great tools for readers and writers alike, as they can help create a relationship between the two, giving us as authors some validation that our writing is worthy, and giving the reader what they want and expect. However, like everything else in this world, and I mean EVERYTHING, these, or any other literary device, should be used with discretion, as they can confuse, or worse, piss off your reader, and we don't need that. Our battle for notariety and publication is hard enough as it is. On the other hand, if you can learn to master some of these techniques, they are a great way to showcase your creativity and writing ability and might just land you that Bestseller! Until next time my fellow writer, devoted reader, and dear friend, keep hunting and pecking your way to the top! Peace out.

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