Skip to Main Content

English, French, and Math Support: Literary techniques and devices

Marianopolis College provides students with support for improving their English and French language abilities, as well as support for improving their Math skills, all through professional support. All services are free.

Literary techniques and devices


an indirect reference to a character, event, or place in cinema, literature, history, or mythology that enriches the meaning of the passage

ANALOGY: a comparison between two unlike things or activities for the purpose of argument
ANECDOTE: a short, simple, usually true story
ARGUMENT: providing or presenting the truth or falseness of a statement
ATMOSPHERE: the mood of the story which sets up expectations in the reader
CAUSE AND EFFECT: an argument that draws a link between a circumstance and its result(s)
CHARACTER: an individual (or animal) in a literary work; character refers to appearance as well as personality
CLASSIFICATION: the grouping of items or subjects in to categories
CLIMAX: the point of highest tension or interest in fiction
COMPARISON: the similarities or both similarities and differences of two or more items
CONFLICT: opposition or struggle between characters and forces (for example, society, other characters, or even forces within the self)
CONTRAST: the difference within a common category
DESCRIPTION: the way in which an author creates a visual or sensory image
DIALOGUE: conversation used in fiction to create character, move the plot along, establish conflict, support themes, etc.
DICTION: the type of words used by an author, word-choice creates a particular effect
ENUMERATION: a listing of items/things
EPIPHANY: a character's moment of insight and revelation; a reader can also experience and epiphany
EXAMPLE: the support for the author's idea or point
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: writing that departs from the literal meansing of words to achieve a particularly vivid, expressive or imaginative image (imagery, metaphor, simile, allusion, hyperbole)
FLASHBACK: a scene that depicts an earlier event
FORESHADOWING: early clues or hints about events that will happen later
HYPERBOLE: an exaggeration or overstatement
IMAGERY: visual pictures received through language that appeal to any of the senses (smell, touch, sound, taste)
IRONY: some contrast or discrepancy between appearances and reality; also, verbal irong involves the saying of one thing and meaning of something opposite, or at least very different
LEVEL OF LANGUAGE: the formality or informality of a pice of writing, whether it uses complex or highly descriptive vocabulary or slang
METAPHOR: comparison of something concrete to something abstract (e.g. "my love is a red, red rose" and "he slithered through the crowd" - a snake metaphor)
NARRATOR: the teller of the story; it can be first person or third person
PERSONIFICATION: human qualities given to inanimate objects
PLOT: what happens in a story amd makes up the story's basic structure
POINT OF VIEW: the perspective or angle from which the story is told. The author might choose an omniscient point of view, first person, etc.
REPETITION: used to emphasize a point or create a mood
RHETORICAL QUESTIONS: used to provoke thought rather than to bring forth answers
SETTING: the time and place in which a story occurs
SIMILE: a comparison using like or as (e.g. "my love is like a red, red rose")
SYMBOL: something that suggest or stands for more than its literal meaning
THEME: the central or dominating idea of the story
TONE: the author's attitude or position toward the subject or reader
Literary devices common in fiction
Literary devices common in essays
atmosphere imagery analogy enumeration
character metaphor argument examples
conflict point of view cause and effect tone
flashback setting comparison/contrast imagery
foreshadowing symbolism description level of language

Literary techniques and devices -- Printable format

If you would prefer to have the above information in a printable, PDF format, please click here:

Creative Commons License All original content in the Marianopolis College Library LibGuides is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.