Tag Archives: literary device

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




is for Katharsis




This is hard. Eleven days in to the challenge and I’ve already hit a brick wall. Outside of a few Japanese poetry styles, there are pretty much no literary devices beginning with the letter K. According to The Free Dictionary, the term “catharsis” is taken from the Greek “katharsis,” so today, K is for Katharsis.

Katharsis–better known as “catharsis”–means to achieve an emotional or spiritual cleansing or renewal.

In the Walking Dead episode entitled “Tempus Fugit”, both Beth and Daryl experience katharsis. In this episode, Beth decides to do something she’s never done before–get a drink. When her quest is realized, she has an emotional breakdown crying at the bar in the golf club with an unopened bottle of peach schnapps. Daryl shatters the bottle on the ground, symbolizing the end of Beth’s childhood. What follows is Beth’s spiritual and Daryl’s emotional renewal, for by the end of the episode, Beth sees herself as Daryl’s equal and Daryl is able to open up to Beth about his past. Neither character will be the same moving forward as a result of their katharses.

Kartharsis may be experienced by the audience as well. If a reader identifies with a character in a novel and feels an emotional release as a result, s/he has undergone katharsis.

Have your read or watched anything lately in which either you or the characters experienced katharsis? Share your examples of katharsis in the comments below.

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




is for Juxtaposition




Juxtaposition is when two opposing and parallel characters, plot lines, images or themes are compared for the purpose of “etching out a character in detail, creating suspense or lending a rhetorical effect” (Literary Devices).

In The Revenant, Zulu fancies himself a modern-day superhero. The narrator draws this comparison using juxtaposition. Here’s an example:

Zulu used his super sense of sight to hone in on the man’s eyes, forehead, and nose bridge…Faster than a speeding bullet—and Zulu would have to be faster, given his distance from the man in the suit and the man’s distance from the advancing projectile—Zulu knocked the man from his feet…More powerful than a locomotive, he pulled the weapon from the man’s grip, bowed the shaft, and used the butt to shatter the window.

In this example, words from the opening narrative of the old “Superman” television series are used (“faster than a speeding bullet…more powerful than a locomotive”) to draw the comparison between Zulu’s powers and those of Superman. The comparison to Superman’s sense of sight, while not in the traditional narrative, are nevertheless well-known traits of the Superman archetype.

In a recent episode of “Revolution”, Sebastian Monroe was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Tom Neville. Scenes of this were interspersed with a simultaneous hand-to-hand combat scene between their sons, Connor and Jason. This is juxtaposed against a similar scene between “Bass” and Connor when they were pitted against each other in a fight to the death the week before.

Can you think of any juxtapositions that stand out in your mind? What were they? Did you make the connection between the two events? Did they bring another level of meaning to the story? Share your thoughts on juxtaposition below.

A to Z Blog Challenge – Brought to you by the letter H




is for Hyperbole




A hyperbole is an exaggeration used to emphasize a point.

In the tentatively titled,  I Am, Have Been, and Will Be Alice, Alice is depressed and has taken to her bed for comfort when her mother comes into the room:

She digs my head out from under the blankets, brushes my hair from my forehead and brings her cool lips to them. “You’re cool as a cucumber,” she says for about the millionth time in my lifetime.

The hyperbole in this excerpt is Alice insisting her mother has used this phrase about a million times over the past 14 or so years. While it’s theoretically possible for someone to achieve this goal, it’s not very likely, which is what makes it a hyperbole.

When Suzanne leans over Palmer during a sarcophagus examination in The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, he says,

As she spoke I was enveloped in a haze of her perfume. Her scent was sweet and distantly floral.  It brought back a slew of memories—not all of them disagreeable—in a dizzying flood.

While Palmer’s memories make him neither physically dizzy, and his memories would not carry the same force as a flooding tsunami, I’m sure it would feel as if they did to poor Palmer who can’t escape Suzanne’s unwanted advances in such close quarters.

Do you use hyperbole in either speech or writing? Which ones do you use most often? Which ones have you written that you’re most proud of? Whatever they are, share them in the comments below.

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




is for Bias




Bias occurs when an author incorporates his or her own beliefs into a piece of writing. Incorporating elements of a person’s social, political, religious and life experience, bias can be as explicit as arguing a single side of a conflict or as implicit as omitting evidence that doesn’t conform to an author’s worldview.

Many years ago, I engaged with a self-described bottle-hunter online. I wrote a totally unsolicited email to him chastising for what I considered looting behaviours–“recovering” artifacts from known archaeological sites for their resale value. An active archaeologist at the time, my bias was toward preserving the archaeological record, admiring cultural remains for their intrinsic and historic value,  and fostering the same respect in others. My newly discovered nemesis insisted that, since most of the bottles he collected were from backwoods and beaches that were not parts of the existing record and therefore had no provenance, the bottles were okay to collect. I argued that the only reason there was no provenance was because people like him picked up and sold the artifacts rather than reporting them to the proper authorities. In the end, both of us were so mired in our personal, political, social and educational bias, no amount of back and forth was about to change either of our minds and we eventually gave up the fight.

I’m still fighting the good fight, trying to persuade others to see things clearly (that’s my way, in case you’re wondering) via my writing. The following excerpt imagines how one might feel after arriving on site after pot hunters have finished with it. It’s from an unfinished manuscript tentatively called The Next Coming Race:

We’d arrived on site too late.

I surveyed the marred landscape, barely able to breathe, mired in the horror of it, unable to look away. Craters the size of meteorites; random piles of dirt peppered the grass like shrapnel. A gentle hand on my shoulder broke the trance. “Oh, Moll,” Palmer, my husband, said, barely above a whisper. “I’m sorry.” He squeezed my shoulder. Numb, immobile, unable to manage even the slightest nod, I said nothing.

“You okay?” he asked. I felt the warmth of his breath on the back of my neck, imagined his words edged with a fine cloud of mist hanging in the air between us. He placed his other hand on my other shoulder, and attempted to draw me near. Though I longed for solace in the shelter of his embrace, the shock of the potential archaeological site, ruined, kept hold.

One by one the members of our failed rescue attempt muttered their goodbyes until there were only Palmer, Michael and myself left.

I turned to face Palmer. He smiled. Those were his scruffy years. Clean shaven and hair close cropped since I’d met him, he’d taken to wearing his beard grown, but marginally so. His hair had grown in salt and pepper, and wavy. He kept it long, just this side of needing a cut. I’m not complaining, mind you; I’ve always liked a man in a beard. Combine that look with his dark, watery eyes, add a billowy shirt, and Palmer’d be at home on the cover of any romance novel, I used to think. I worried the look was a sign he was in the throes of a mid-life crisis, but God-forbid I’d ever say that to him—at more than fifteen years’ my senior, Palmer was a little touchy about his age.

That night he wore a dark pea coat, the collar hiked up around his neck as if about to head asea. He shoved his hands into his pockets, shoulders raised nearly to his ears, and asked, “Timmy’s?” Michael, Detective Constable Michael Crestwood of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department, nodded his assent.

“I need something with more caffeine,” I said. “Second Cup anyone?”

What would you do if you found an abandoned artifact washed up by the side of a cottage country lake? Would you notify the local archaeological association, or cultivate it for your own collection? Post your thoughts or opinions in the comments section below.

Literary Devices from A to Z

First there was NaNoWriMo – write an entire novel in 30 days during the month of November. Now there’s the A to Z Challenge – post 26 blogs in the month of April (Sundays not included), each blog on a different topic, each featuring a different letter of the alphabet.

Piece of cake, no?

Announcing my first attempt at the A to Z Challenge (drumroll, please?): Literary Devices from A to Z, a device a day for your literary pleasure.

To help illustrate each device, I’ll be relying heavily on my own reading and (especially) writing experience. The whole point of this exercise is to be read and make connections with my fellow blog-writers, so participants are asked to visit at least 5 participant blogs a day in addition to posting. I’m including the Linky list with the other theme listings with this post and every other Challenge post, in case you’re interested.

Wish me luck!