Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter Q




is for (Rhetorical) Questions




Q is another one of those weird letters for which I really couldn’t find a device, so I’ll have to fudge it (just a bit). Q is for questions of the rhetorical variety, better known as rhetorical questions, a question that needs no answer, but is used to prompt the reader to think about a topic as if s/he were required to answer it. Readers and writers should be able to make the distinction between an ordinary, information-seeking question and one that is rhetorical in nature.

In Chicken or Egg: A Love Story, Nigel and Paula have one of their first dates (it’s about time travel and this is only a first date in a timeline–there is a first date in each timeline), a couple’s yoga class:

The class began tamely enough, most of the poses being singular in nature, but at a point about two-thirds through the class, the instruction changed. They began facing each other, feet touching, holding hands, and gently rocking their partners on their sitting bones. Determined to avoid his gaze, Paula stared at their hands instead. Nigel’s hands were strong, warm, and dry. She felt his quiet strength as they leaned forward together then back.

When at last she looked at his face, she felt the burn of his scrutiny. Embarrassed at its intensity, she looked away. What was happening here? Since when was Nigel attracted to her? Since when did she find him attractive? Did she even find him attractive?

Next pose—lunge, leg behind and touching partner’s, stretch backward until partner’s hand is grasped.

“Ready?” Nigel asked.

“I was born ready,” she answered. Why was she turning this into a competition?

They enacted the pose, stretching until their hands met. When they did, Nigel’s touch was gentle, his skin soft to the touch.

Next was child’s pose for Paula, hands grasping Nigel’s ankles. Nigel was to exact downward-facing dog, hands resting at the small of her back. As she stretched, her shirt rode up and she felt the full warmth of his palms as they made contact with her exposed skin. She imagined what it might feel like for him to slide his hands down a little further, cup her buttocks and squeeze. What is wrong with you, Paula? she scolded immediately. This is Nigel we’re talking about here. Since when do you think of him in that way?

In this example, rhetorical questions are used to show Paula’s indecision over her feelings for Nigel.

Do you think this method of questioning works? Weigh in with your comments below.