Literary Devices For Storytelling (8 Literary Devices With Examples)

What are literary Devices?

Literary devices are the techniques that the writers employ to convey their ideas, amplifies the stories and engage the readers. These techniques are helpful to shape the narrative, in development of characters and to generate a memorable reading experience.

Literary Devices for Storytelling with Examples

1- Foreshadowing

A literary technique used by the authors to hint the future events in a story. It develops excitement in the readers, raises expectations and building suspense about what is happen next.

Example in Literature

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night.”

The excerpt shows the happening of disorder or destruction in later engulf Gatsby life. The illustration of Gatsby “constant, turbulent riot” in his heart and the “grotesque and fantastic conceits” that haunt him at night reveal his inner confusion and foreshadow the tragic downfall which ultimately leads to a dramatic climax.

This use of foreshadowing does not only help Gatsby’s personality become more complicated but also keeps the reader excited, while looking for any hints and trying to find out what the real story behind Gatsby’s death is.

2- Flashback

A literary device that involves the insertion of past theme or event into the current narrative timeline.

Flashback is used to provide reference of the characters or events.

It is helpful to increase the understanding of the the reader regarding the current context and to disclose motivations or secrets, that create impact on the present story.

Example in Literature

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. The events that transpired that day had taken Tom Robinson’s life…”

The writer employs flashback to revisit the legacy of an event that inevitably shaped the key component of the story. The flashback revolves around the events leading to the trial, and it ended in a catastrophic turn out of justice. 

Through the narration of what happened in the past from the perspective of the future, Lee expresses the full picture of the society and the diverse features of the town, such as the racial and social norms, as well as the consequence and the feeling of the main character. 

This approach not only reveals the inner mind of the characters in current beliefs and actions but it also helps readers feel their sufferings, which is portrayed through past injustices that stay after them.

3- Imagery

Imagery involves the use of evocative and expressive language to create mental pictures for the readers. This technique appeals to the senses and involves visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory descriptions.

This literary technique enhances the experience of the readers. It makes the settings, characters and actions more descriptive and realistic, which helps to convey emotions.

Example in Literature

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

“The trees were stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A cold gust of wind shook the trees, sending a shower of white powdery snow cascading down.”

The writer makes use of colorful imagery that depicts a dead and icy place to be. The image of stripped trees leaning towards each other in the dim light and bring to mind a sense of bleakness and foreboding.

The depiction of the cold wind and the cascading snow not only adds to the scene as a whole for the reader but also allows the reader to experience the coldness and solitude that the characters are going through. 

This imagery is instrumental for establishing the feelings that take place in the novel: that of aching darkness and desolation. It helps the readers to immerse themselves much deeper in the characters. It deepens the emotional engagement of the readers with the character’s journey through a post-apocalyptic world.

4- Symbolism

This literary device is used to represent ideas and qualities beyond their literal sense. These symbols are in shape of objects, characters, figures and colors that set up broader concepts.

These symbols add deeper meaning to the story. Symbolism is helpful to convey the intricate themes and emotions. This technique enriches the narrative and allow the readers to find intense layers of meaning in the elements of the story.

Example in Literature

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning—”

In the paragraph, the green light is a symbol that is symbolizing Gatsby’s hopes and future dreams. This shows Gatsby desire for Daisy and what she represents, which is that money and social status are all. 

The green light also stands for the universal principle of perpetually chasing something that is not only far off but also unreachable which later ends up being a deceitful hallucination Fitzgerald draws in this symbol in different scenes to show the part of dreams, money and absurdity of the American Dream. 

The recurring symbolism captures every angle of the plot, hence his motivations and actions are directly related to this symbolism. 

Green light is where Gatsby concentrates all of his desire and aims but, in the end, it is just a thing that reveals his true destinies and becomes essential for understanding the dynamics of the plot and motives that drive it.

5- Metaphor

Metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase is put on an object or an action which it is not really applied to. This literary device is a kind of comparison between two unrelated subjects without using the words “like” and “as”.

It uncovers the similarity of some subjects and brings them one step closer. Because they objectify complex ideas and express them in a concise and meticulous way metaphors deepen the narrative by giving readers an opportunity to look below the surface and detect metaphors and other deeper meaning and associations.

See also:
Extended Metaphor
Implied Metaphor
Visual Metaphor

Example in literature

“Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville

“Ahab’s leg was the ship’s rudder.”

A guy named Ahab is often symbolized with his wooden leg that reflects his character and destiny. It indicated the fact that Ahab’s leg addressed nearly both the rudder of the ship and the decisions of the captain, that is, the welfare of the whole crew aboard Pequod. 

The metaphor emphasizes that how Ahab’s personal vendetta against the white whale, Moby Dick, directs all his actions and decisions, just as a rudder controls the direction of a ship. It highlights the motif of the disintegration of both freedom and limitations in the narrative.

It depicts that how Ahab’s whale hunt is not limited to a physical escapade which, unfortunately, is a more traumatizing interlude into Ahab’s journey. The use of metaphor enriches the story and adds layers to Ahab’s character. It makes his motivations and the consequences of his actions more poignant and impactful for the reader.

6- Alliteration

Alliteration is a literary technique, where words are used in close proximity and start with the same consonant sound. This technique is employed to create rhythm, increase the mood and emphasize the certain words and phrases within the text. This literary device makes the passages memorable and enjoyable and adding a musical quality.

Example in literature

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free.”

In this line, the alliteration with “f” sounds of “fair,” “foam,” “flew,” “furrow,” followed” attracts attention and produces a smoothly flowing rhythm that correspond with the movement of the sea and the boat. 

By maintaining alliterations Poet not only gives the poem a feeling of flow but also captures the joy and liberty of the boat elliptical down the river at this particular stage. 

By strengthening the rhythm of the sound, the author presumes to connote a perfect concord between the ship and the sea which, on the other hand, will be later contrasted when the disarray shows up. 

The alliteration in this sentence is meant to conjure a calm and progressive atmosphere, which will make the misfortune described by the sailor all the more ominous and impending. 

7- Irony

Irony is a literary device where the intended meaning of words is different from the actual meaning. The outcome of a situation is contrary to what one might expect.

It often involves a contrast between appearances and reality. It is used to add humor, create tension and offer a critical edge in storytelling.

Example in literature

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Jane Austen displays her brilliant use of irony when criticizing the society’s beliefs regarding marriage and wealth of the Regency era.

The idea refers to an old opinion that unmarried wealthy men are only those who are intentionally looking for wives as dictated by the society even if the idea is unrelated to the desire of the individuals concerned.  

The irony lies in the disconnect between societal expectations and individual desires. It sets the stage for the novel’s exploration of marriage, wealth and true affection.

The writer uses this ironic statement to subtly mock and critique societal values that prioritize wealth and marital status over personal happiness and compatibility.

8- Personification

Personification is used to give human qualities, characteristics and actions to non-human entities, such as animals, objects and abstract concepts.

This technique is used to make descriptions evocative and creates a sense of relatability towards the non-human elements.

Example in literature

“The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway

“He looked across the sea and knew how alone he was now. But he could see the prisms in the deep dark water and the line stretching ahead and the strange undulation of the calm. The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea.”

Here, the sea is personified to show the depth. The phrase “clouds were building up” personifies that they are prepare for the wind. This personification adds thematic depth of the novel and reflect connection of the old man with the nature despite of his physical isolation.

The writer by giving the natural elements as human-like actions enhances the emotional resonance of the scene. This use of personification helps to portray the sea as a living entity, which is intertwined with the fate and struggle of the old man.

Read also: Literary Devices A-Z List

literary devices for storytelling
literary devices for storytelling

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