writing a novel,  writing fiction

Creative Writing Devices

You can change the mood of a scene by employing some writing devices.

For example, if you’re writing a tense scene in which the protagonist is being chased by the police, short, choppy sentences will enhance the feeling you’re trying to create. Fast-paced scenes need shorter sentences to convey stress and anxiety. Think of a quickened heartbeat and you get the idea of how you might construct your sentences for that effect.

Conversely, if you’re writing a love scene you’ll want to have longer, flowing sentences to add to the romantic feel of the passage. Draw the scene out by using more words, even a few flowery descriptions, to communicate a sense of love and romance. Take your time, don’t rush the words

Writing Devices

Alliteration: using several words with the same beginning sound/letter. Example: “Across the arid Arizona desert she argued with herself for allowing him to confuse her again.”

Onomatopoeia: the word consists of the sound it makes. Example: “I heard the whoosh of the water a moment before it hit me.”

Anaphora: using the same word or phrase to begin three or more consecutive sentences. Example: “He knew she loved him. He knew she couldn’t live without him. He knew it was only a matter of time and she’d be his.”

Asyndeton: when using a list of three or more items, omit the conjunctions. Example: “I was happy, jubilant, carefree, innocent.”

Polysyndeton: using conjunctions, such as “and” or “or,” multiple times in a sentence. Example: “She talked on and on and on.”

Epizeuxis: repeating the same one or two words for emphasis. Example: “She was filled with regret. So much regret. Too much regret.”

Epistrophe: using a key word or phrase at the end of successive sentences. Example: “She opened the front door, afraid he might be there. She tiptoed to the bedroom, afraid he might be there. She checked the bathroom, afraid he might be there.”

F x 3

You can use other techniques in your writing like foreshadowing, flashback, and flash forward (or if you ever watched Lost you might even include flash sideways).

Foreshadowing is when something or someone alludes to something that will happen in the story at some point in the future. In my book, Imperfect Love, my main character, Lauren, is a middle school teacher. She teaches a lesson about the Holocaust and how innocent people were killed simply because someone (Hitler) decided they were “imperfect.” This foreshadows the main event in the book that she faces when she finds out she’s pregnant.

Flashback is when a character remembers something in the past or when the story itself transports back to the past. In my book, Speak to My Heart, my main character, Hailey, recounts memories she had with her grandparents to strengthen the connection between her and her grandparents. I did this to build their relationship in the reader’s mind. One specific scene, Hailey and her grandmother are going through family photos and her grandmother shares the time she and Hailey’s grandfather first met. It’s a flashback that shows how much she loves her husband and it’s an important part of the overall story arc.

Flash forward is when a character or the story itself is thrust into the future. I have not used this device in my stories, but in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is given a glimpse of his future. He then has the opportunity to change that future. A television show that employed this device was Early Edition in which the main character received a morning newspaper with future events and he had 24 hours to change those events.

Objective Correlative

When an object or an event takes on significance the emotes some kind of an emotion from the character. For example, in my current work-in-progress, my character has a gold bracelet. This bracelet symbolizes the love of her father and was the last gift he gave her before he died. When she loses the bracelet, it feels like she loses her father all over again.

To employ this device you can use an object or you can use events, but be sure to tie the emotion to the object or events so that it signifies something important to the character. The object must evoke a response from the character that symbolizes something much larger to the reader.

Using Subtext

When a character says one thing, but his body language is showing something else, you are using subtext. Subtext is when there is something unsaid or something deeper that is going on. For example, if a woman meets a man in a romance and he tells her he’s interested in getting to know her, but he starts texting on his phone or he doesn’t make eye contact much, that is subtext–something else is going on under the surface.

Have you ever spoken to someone and you can tell something else is going on? Maybe your neighbor tells you she’s doing great but her eyes dart back and forth, she speaks quietly, and you can see she’s wearing a scarf around her neck even though it isn’t very cold outside. You then wonder if perhaps her husband has choked her and left bruises on her neck that she doesn’t want you to see. That is subtext.

You can also use setting as subtext. When a character is driving to work and is suddenly caught in a storm with dark, gloomy clouds and lots of rain, that can symbolize the turmoil going on inside the character. Skilled writers can take a setting and evoke a powerful emotion from a reader simply by word choice and imagery.

Make Your Writing More Powerful

Using these devices can make your writing more powerful. Rather than telling your reader that your character is tired of doing dishes, use one of these writing devices.

“Mary was tired of doing dishes.”


“Mary stood at the sink and looked down. Dishes again. She seemed to wash dishes over and over and over again. Then get up the next morning and do it all over again.”

In the second example, you can deduce that Mary is tired of doing dishes without the author having to state that.

Try using some of these devices in your writing. Don’t overdo it, but include some to strengthen your writing and make it more compelling for your reader.

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Have you noticed any of these devices in books you’ve read?

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