4 Lively Literary Devices to Use in Your Compositions
Today, I am as tired as a pair of worn-out shoes.
Famished, all Andy wanted to do was to stuff his face like a fat pig.
What do you think these sentences have in common? If you correctly identified the similes, then you’re absolutely right!
In our writing, we often have to use literary devices like similes to make our compositions more interesting. Many schools already teach them—some examples like “as happy as a lark” and face “as red as a tomato” come to mind. However, today, we’ll teach you how to come up with your own literary devices so that your compositions will stand out!
Here are four to try out.
1. Spectacular Similes
Similes compare one thing to another using the words, “like” and “as…as”. Some common examples include “as proud as a peacock” or “wailed loudly like a fire truck”. They’re particularly useful for describing people! For example, I can compare my sister to someone else, like that of a princess, because she’s pretty, or bossy. The trick is to identify the key personality traits or characteristics, followed by thinking through who or what is often known to have those traits or characteristics.
I can write the following:
My sister is as pretty as a princess.
My sister is bossy like a princess.
Other than showing personality traits and characteristics, similes are also good for describing emotions. For example, if Jim, the bully were angry, I could compare him to a bull, and I could describe that “his nostril’s flared like a bull’s”, or that “Jim charged at me like a bull.”.
2. Marvellous Metaphors
Like similes, metaphors also compare one thing to another but they use the words “was” or “is”. Therefore, instead of saying that one thing is like or as… as the other, a metaphor simply states that one thing IS the other.
Everyone in the neighbourhood knew how Frederick was a monster. Once a week, he would choose someone’s potted plant as a target to practise his slingshot with. There was no stopping him.
In the example above, Frederick was compared to a monster as he destroyed other people’s potted plants and they could not stop him. Note how a metaphor was used as he had been described to be the monster (Frederick was a monster).
On occasion, you may also encounter metaphors that look like this:
John trudged towards the sofa and slumped onto it. The lazy pig did not even bother to take his homework out of his bag.
In this case, the lazy pig is a metaphor as it refers to John. You can also write metaphors this way.
Important note: If you write “John was a pig”, without using the adjective, it means that John has all the qualities of a pig, such as being lazy and greedy. This is why it helps to specify what quality you are highlighting in a metaphor.
3. Helpful Hyperboles
Hyperboles are exaggerations, which means you make a situation a lot better or a lot more severe than it really is. Often, they can easily be identified with the words, “so… that”. Here are some examples:
I was so hungry that I could eat a horse.
Mrs Tan was so old that she was probably around when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Mr Goh was so strong that he could have lifted the house with one hand.
However, there are some examples that don’t have these words, and they are as follows:
I almost died laughing.
The pizza was bigger than the moon.
My father would kill me when he found out that I had cheated in the test!
As long as you exaggerate something and make it more extreme, you’re definitely on your way to writing some helpful hyperboles in your compositions.
4. Phenomenal Personification
Personification is easy to identify because the writer in the story makes the weather or an object seem like a person. Here are some examples:
The table screamed in pain as I dragged it across the floor.
Thunder grumbled as lightning flashed.
The flowers waved at the passers-by.
When creating your own personification, be sure to use vivid verbs that normally apply to people. That will make your writing stand out!
Final Tips on using literary devices in writing:
1) More is not more!
- While these devices are useful, remember not to go overboard with them! It’s far better to describe someone or an object properly and use a literary device to give your writing a bit more punch. Here’s a good example:
Enraged, Mr Wong’s nostrils flared and his face turned crimson. He glared at the entire class with intense fury. At long last, he exploded like a volcano. “What is the meaning of this?!” He demanded.
However, using too many literary devices may confuse the reader. Here’s what not to do:
Mr Wong was as angry as a bull and his face was as red as a fire truck’s. He erupted like a volcano and shrieked like a banshee.
Do you see that using too many techniques will make your writing bland and predictable? It’s best to combine literary devices with other skills, like in the first example, so that you will be able to describe someone’s physical appearance or thoughts and feelings adequately. Remember that literary devices are only one of the tools you have in your writing arsenal, and they are most effective when combined with describing the qualities of someone and how they feel.
2) Make the best choice with your literary devices!
- When experimenting with new or interesting similes that you have created, be mindful to choose the thing that has the distinct trait so that what you mean is not lost. For example, “as fast as a hippopotamus chasing its prey” would not be effective as “as fast as a lion chasing its prey” as hippopotamuses tend to be slower animals.
Moreover, some school teachers prefer students to stick to the similes that they have learnt in class, such as “as fast as a cheetah” so it is safer to use that during the examinations. However, one is more than welcome to experiment in class assignments to get a sense of what is appropriate and what is not.
If you have the time, you should hunt for literary devices when you’re reading books. Here are some examples from popular children’s books:
“Solomon Poiritt… hangs about the washhouse like a wasp about a honeypot” The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman.
“[Willy Wonka] was hopping about among the saucepans and the machines like a child among his Christmas presents.”— Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl.
“The wings flash like diamonds if you hold them up to the light.” Licked, Paul Jennings.
Now that you know of these literary devices, go forth and create your own! If it’s too hard, there are always books to help you.
Which literary device do you intend to use in your school compositions?
Let us know in the comments.
Ms. Xie is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Her best subject has always been English and she's been writing ever since she could hold a pen. Her first book, Dragonhearted, was shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award in 2014 and published in 2016. It was also shortlisted for the Singapore Book Awards in 2017. She also likes hugging fat cats. The fatter they are, the better.
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