May 1, 2024 9:00 am

Sarah Pye

Six literary techniques to easily improve your writing

Like a tradie’s toolbox grows as their experience grows, writers need to collect literary techniques to whip them out when the time is right. It’s all about entertaining your readers, telling them a fun story in a way that’s engaging and keeps them reading on!

So, what tools can keep your reader engaged? Let’s delve into literary techniques

What are ‘literary techniques’?

Literary techniques are what writers, like you, use to create meaning with their words. For example, we can deliberately use things like comparison and sensory description to create meaning.

So, it’s all about using our words to craft a particular meaning. But how do you use literary techniques? Let’s have a look at them in action below!

Using comparisons

To compare two things is to place them side by side (either physically in front of you or imagine them) and pick out what makes them alike and what makes them different.

For example, imagine you have a green apple and a red apple. They are both fruits, they are both in fact apples, they both have stems, come from trees, have seeds, and are both delicious! However, they are different, too, and, if you have eaten both kinds of apple, you know the red ones are always a little sweeter.

But what does that have to do with writing?

Well, when you are trying to describe an object or a situation that might be tricky to put into words, it can be easier–and sometimes funnier–to use comparison. The more odd, the better! Three ways of comparing are by using similes, metaphors, and personification.

1. Simile

A simile is when you highlight similarities between two things and use the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ when making the comparison.

Example 1:

Her big sister is as slow as a snail when she’s getting ready to go out.

Example 2:

The little girl was strong like a warrior.

Example 3:

His tears looked like precious diamonds.

2. Metaphor

A metaphor is a little like a simile as it uses comparison to make meaning. The difference between a metaphor and a simile though is that metaphors do NOT use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ which can sometimes make them trickier to spot.

Example 1:

Her big sister is a snail when she’s getting ready to go out.

Example 2:

The strong little girl was a warrior.

Example 3:

His tears were precious diamonds on his face.

3. Personification

Personification is giving non-living or non-human beings human characteristics. It is really handy when you are trying to make the reader emotional or empathetic.

Example 1:

The tree’s branches drooped as if it were sad that the summer ended.

Example 2:

The sun-kissed my skin, making me warm and happy.

Example 3:

The soft, comfy pillow called my name.

4. Imagery

Another useful literary technique is imagery. Imagery is all about using your five senses to provide detail and bring your story to life. Stick your five senses in your toolbox!

Sight

Describing what you see is called visual imagery.

Example:

She was beautiful with long blonde curls and a layered pastel pink dress that looked like a hurricane of colour when she twirled.

Sound

Describing what you hear is auditory imagery

Example:

The piercing, screeching noise turned out to be Jacob dragging his nails down the chalkboard.

Smell

When we describe smells, the technique is known as olfactory imagery.

Example:

The salty smell accosted her nostrils.

Touch

When we describe the way something feels, it is called tactile imagery.

Example:

Dad’s chin scratched my face in the biggest bear hug ever.

Taste

Lastly, gustatory imagery is a description of how something tastes. 

Example:

Mum makes the best homemade cinnamon rolls–sugary, sweet, and soft!

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/imagery/

Sound Devices

Sometimes words have a sound of their own, and we can use that to improve our writing.

5. Alliteration

Alliteration is where a string of words–or closely placed words–begin with the same letter or sound.

I snuck an example earlier! Can you spot it? (Hint: it’s in the ‘imagery’ section). Here are some more examples below.

Example 1:

Sally sang so well, that she earned an award.

Example 2:

Patrick’s pyjama pants were patterned with penguins.

Example 3:

Red-faced Rachel ran round the roundabout.

6. Onomatopoeia

Have you ever read a comic? Well, for our final literary technique, I’m going to explain a sound device that appears in comic books all the time! It’s called onomatopoeia and refers to words that imitate a real-life sound.

Example 1:

The clock went tick, tick, tick!

Example 2:

There was a great big clang! And I turned to see the metal tray had fallen to the floor.

Example 3:

The fireworks boomed, filling the night sky with a rainbow of colours.

Why don't you give it a try?

Well, there you go! You’ve added some more tools to your toolbox, isn’t that cool? Let me set you a challenge then… if you have a copy of Wildlife Wong and the Sun Bear, see if you can find five different literary techniques, and tell me where you found them!

Then, why not write your own story and put those literary techniques to work? How many can you use to keep your reader reading?

Now you have a few tools in your toolbox, do you want to start writing a TEEL paragraph?

- Blog post written by Amanda Bateup

About the Author

Sarah Pye is a nature and wildlife nerd. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be found outdoors… camping, kayaking, exploring or walking with her dog Gypsy.

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