Literary Devices and their Use in Fiction

We’ve been talking about literary devices in my classes, which, perhaps oddly for a writing class, we rarely do. We’re usually focusing on dialogue or characterization or some other element of short stories. So here are just three literary devices which are often used in fiction.

  • Allegory: a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
  • Example: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis is a religious allegory with Aslan as Christ and Edmund as Judas.
  • Analogy: a comparison between one thing and another, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
  • Example: A biology teacher might explain the immune system by saying, “What policemen do in a town, white blood cells do inside the body.”
  • Motif: a symbolic image or idea that appears over and over again in a story. Motifs can be symbols, sounds, actions, ideas, or words. Motifs strengthen a story by adding images and ideas to the theme. Incidentally, the word motif (pronounced moh-teef) is derived from the French phrase motif meaning pattern.
  • Example: Throughout a story, a character wears a pair of earrings for a variety of occasions: her wedding, her mother’s funeral, and her own daughter’s wedding. The earrings become a symbol of her changing duties as a wife, daughter and mother as she ages.

I use analogies a lot in short fiction and I’m quite fond of motifs for longer fiction. How about you?

For more about writing short stories please check out my Toolshed Series.

The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed.

The Novel Writer’s Toolshed for Short Story Writers

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