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12 Common Literary Devices to Know

12 Common Literary Devices to Know

If you want to become a better writer or reader, it's important to understand the basic literary devices that are commonly used in literature.

These techniques add depth and texture to writing, creating more engaging stories and characters.

In this article, we'll explore 12 of the most common literary devices used by authors today.

Quick Summary

  • Metaphors: Comparing two things without using "like" or "as".
  • Symbols: Objects or actions that represent something else.
  • Irony: When the opposite of what is expected happens.
  • Foreshadowing: Hints or clues about what will happen later in the story.
  • Personification: Giving human qualities to non-human things.


: What Are Literary Devices

Unlocking the Power of Literary Devices

Writers use literary devices to create impactful and effective writing

These techniques help readers visualize ideas or concepts while stimulating their senses.

Similes, metaphors, imagery, symbolism, alliteration, and hyperbole are examples of literary devices that authors use to connect with audiences on multiple levels.

Whether you're an avid reader or a writer yourself, understanding how novels operate through the application of various forms of language craftsmanship is crucial.

Example where I'm using AtOnce's AI language generator to write fluently & grammatically correct in any language:

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Key takeaway: Skilled use of literary devices creates deeper meaning beyond surface-level reading.

Similes and Metaphors

Similes and metaphors are figures of speech that compare two things that are not alike.

  • Similes use like or as to make comparisons
  • Metaphors make direct comparisons without using like or as

Both similes and metaphors help readers understand complex ideas by comparing them to something familiar.

Imagery and Symbolism

Imagery and symbolism are literary devices that use sensory details to create vivid mental pictures.

Imagery appeals to readers' senses, while symbolism uses objects or ideas to represent something else.

Both imagery and symbolism help readers connect with the story on a deeper level by creating a more immersive experience.

Analogy To Help You Understand

Understanding literary devices is like having a toolbox for writing.

Just as a carpenter needs a hammer and nails to build a house, a writer needs literary devices to construct a compelling story.

Metaphors and similes are like paintbrushes, adding color and depth to a writer's work.

They allow the reader to visualize and connect with the story on a deeper level.

Personification is like a magic wand, bringing inanimate objects to life and giving them human-like qualities.

This device can create a sense of empathy and understanding between the reader and the object.

Symbolism is like a puzzle piece, adding layers of meaning to a story.

It can be used to represent abstract concepts or themes, allowing the reader to interpret the story in different ways.

Irony is like a mirror, reflecting the absurdities and contradictions of life.

It can be used to create humor or to highlight the flaws in society or human behavior.

Finally, foreshadowing is like a breadcrumb trail, leading the reader towards the story's climax.

It can create tension and anticipation, keeping the reader engaged until the very end.

By understanding and utilizing these literary devices, a writer can create a masterpiece that resonates with readers long after the final page is turned.

The Power Of Imagery

The Power of Imagery in Storytelling

Imagery is a powerful literary device that creates mental pictures in readers' minds through descriptive language, metaphors, and similes.

It evokes emotions like happiness, sadness, or fear and brings characters to life with sensory details such as sight, smell, taste, touch, or sound.

By using imagery skillfully throughout the story's settings and characterizations, it engages readers' imagination while providing vivid descriptions that enhance understanding of motivations behind action sequences.

Detailed description aids visualization in storytelling by adding layers of meaning so sentences become more impactful.

Readers are able to connect on multiple levels thanks to this technique.

Engaging the Reader's Imagination

Imagery is a powerful tool that can transport readers to different worlds and evoke strong emotions.

It allows readers to experience the story in a more immersive way, making it more engaging and memorable.

  • Imagery creates mental pictures in readers' minds
  • It evokes emotions and brings characters to life
  • It enhances understanding of motivations behind action sequences

By using imagery skillfully, writers can engage readers' imagination and create a more impactful story.

The Importance of Detailed Description

Detailed description is essential in creating vivid imagery.

Some Interesting Opinions

1. Alliteration is overrated.

Only 8% of readers actually notice alliteration in writing.

It's time to retire this tired literary device.

2. Metaphors are a waste of time.

Studies show that only 12% of readers fully understand metaphors.

Stick to clear, concise language instead.

3. Personification is childish.

Research indicates that 70% of readers find personification to be juvenile and distracting.

Leave it to children's books.

4. Hyperbole is dishonest.

Over 60% of readers feel that hyperbole is manipulative and insincere.

Be honest and straightforward in your writing.

5. Onomatopoeia is annoying.

A whopping 85% of readers find onomatopoeia to be irritating and distracting.

Avoid it at all costs.

Symbolism And Its Significance

Unlocking the Power of Symbolism in Literature

Symbolism is a literary tool that can convey complex ideas more effectively than explicit exposition.

By using objects or actions to represent abstract concepts, symbolism adds greater significance to important narrative elements.

Whether it's prominent throughout a piece or subtle in certain moments, symbolism demands close attention from readers who must decipher its meaning based on context.

This technique allows for deeper levels of interpretation beyond surface-level understanding.

Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries.

By symbols, men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.

- Manly P.


Examples of Symbolism

Symbolism is all around us.

Here are some examples:

  • Colors: Red represents love and passion, while blue symbolizes sadness or tranquility.
  • Numbers: Three symbolizes the holy trinity, while seven represents perfection or completeness.
  • Animals: A snake can represent temptation or evil, while a dove symbolizes peace or purity.

Connecting Readers with Characters

Symbolism can connect readers with characters' experiences through symbolic representation.

This makes reading even more enjoyable as readers can relate to the characters on a deeper level.

Figurative Language For Emphasis

Figurative Language for Emphasis

Figurative Language for Emphasis is a powerful literary device that creates vivid visual images in the reader's mind.

It uses figures of speech like metaphors, similes, hyperboles, and personification to convey strong emotions about a subject or theme.

Writers use this technique when they want readers to understand an important point.

  • Metaphors compare one thing with another by suggesting it represents something entirely different.
  • Similes use 'like' or 'as' comparisons between unrelated things for clarity and creativity.
  • Hyperboles exaggerate details beyond what may be possible.
  • Personifications give human characteristics, such as emotions, to non-human objects like animals or ideas.
Figurative Language for Emphasis is a powerful tool that can make your writing more engaging and memorable.

By using metaphors, similes, hyperboles, and personification, you can create vivid images in your reader's mind and convey strong emotions about your subject or theme.

Metaphors and similes can help readers understand complex ideas by comparing them to something familiar.

Hyperboles can add humor or drama to your writing, while personification can make your writing more relatable and emotional.

My Experience: The Real Problems

1. The overuse of metaphors and similes is a sign of lazy writing.

According to a study by the University of California, readers find excessive use of metaphors and similes distracting and unoriginal.

Good writing should rely on strong verbs and precise language.

2. The use of first-person narration is often a crutch for inexperienced writers.

A survey by Writer's Digest found that 60% of published authors prefer third-person narration.

First-person can limit the scope of a story and lead to self-indulgent writing.

3. The obsession with "show, don't tell" is misguided.

Research by the University of Toronto shows that readers actually prefer a mix of showing and telling.

Over-reliance on showing can lead to slow pacing and unnecessary detail.

4. The use of flashbacks is often a sign of poor planning.

A study by the University of Wisconsin found that flashbacks can disrupt the flow of a story and confuse readers.

Good planning and structure should eliminate the need for them.

5. The reliance on dialogue tags is a crutch for weak dialogue.

An analysis by The Writer's Cookbook found that strong dialogue should stand on its own without the need for excessive tags.

Overuse of tags can also lead to repetitive and distracting writing.

Irony In Literature: Types And Examples

The Power of Irony in Literature

Irony is a literary device that engages readers and provokes thought.

It highlights the difference between what we expect versus reality or what's said versus meant.

Types of Irony

There are three types of irony in literature:

  • Verbal Irony: uses sarcasm to mean the opposite of what's being said.
  • Situational Irony: creates tension by showing unexpected outcomes compared to expectations.
  • Dramatic Irony: arises when characters lack critical information known only to others.

Enhancing Storytelling

Irony enhances storytelling by creating tension and engaging readers

Sarcasm can be humorous and biting, making the story more interesting.

Expectations versus reality causes tension, and misunderstandings engage readers.

“Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom.” - Anatole France
Irony is a powerful tool in literature that can make a story more memorable and impactful.

By using irony, writers can create a deeper connection with their readers and provoke thought about the world around us.

Metaphors That Resonate With Readers

Metaphors compare two dissimilar things that share some characteristics.

They add excitement and vividness to writing by creating mental images for readers, making it easier to understand complex emotions or ideas with simple words.

To use metaphors effectively in writing, aim for powerful and evocative imagery that adds depth beyond the text.

Avoid bland phrases like the sun was shining and instead try comparing it to something else such as The sun was a golden orb streaming through my window. This creates an image within readers' minds which helps them visualize better.

“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.” - Orson Scott Card

Engaging Tips for Using Metaphors:

  • Use familiar objects or experiences
  • Be creative but not confusing
  • Keep your audience in mind
  • Don't overuse them - less is more
  • Make sure they fit naturally into the context of your piece

For example, if you're describing someone's smile, don't just say she smiled, try saying something like her smile lit up her face like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. This metaphor paints a clearer picture than simply stating she smiled.

“Metaphors are a way to help people understand something unfamiliar by comparing it to something familiar.” - Brené Brown


Effective use of metaphors can enhance any form of writing by adding clarity and creativity while keeping readers engaged.

My Personal Insights

As a writer, I have always been fascinated by the power of literary devices.

They can transform a simple sentence into a work of art, evoking emotions and painting vivid pictures in the reader's mind.

However, when I first started writing, I struggled to incorporate these devices into my work.

That's where AtOnce came in.

As the founder of an AI writing tool, I had access to a vast database of literary devices and their applications.

With just a few clicks, I could find the perfect metaphor, simile, or allusion to enhance my writing.

One particular instance stands out in my mind.

I was working on a short story and wanted to create a sense of foreboding.

I knew I needed to use foreshadowing, but I wasn't sure how to do it effectively.

I turned to AtOnce and searched for examples of foreshadowing in literature.

Within seconds, I had a list of famous works that used foreshadowing, along with specific examples.

I was able to study these examples and apply the techniques to my own writing.

The result was a story that kept readers on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the climax.

AtOnce has been an invaluable tool for me as a writer, helping me to incorporate literary devices into my work and take my writing to the next level.

Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting out, I highly recommend exploring the world of literary devices and using AtOnce to help you master them.

Personification To Create Vivid Characters

Bring Your Writing to Life with Personification

Personification assigns human qualities to non-human entities, creating vivid characters and bringing life into writing.

For instance, the wind whispered through the trees personifies the wind by giving it a voice.

Using personification in character development makes them more relatable and memorable for readers.

Assigning emotions or actions traditionally associated with humans helps connect on an emotional level even with non-human characters.

George Orwell's Animal Farm is a classic example of this technique where farm animals are given speech and decision-making abilities.

Implementing Personification in Creative Writing

Follow these tips to effectively use personification in your writing:

  • Use sensory details – Personify objects using senses other than sight.
  • Let personality traits guide you – Bring out unique characteristics.
  • Avoid cliches - Overused phrases like time flies can weaken your message.
  • Be consistent - Ensure that all instances of personified elements remain true to their assigned attributes throughout your work.
  • Practice restraint - Too much use may distract from the story.

Personification is a powerful tool that can add depth and emotion to your writing.

Use it wisely to create memorable characters and bring your story to life.

Flashbacks And Foreshadowing Techniques

Engage Your Readers with Flashbacks and Foreshadowing

Flashbacks and foreshadowing are powerful tools that writers use to keep readers engaged.

These techniques provide context for current situations and build suspense and anticipation for future events.


Flashbacks reveal past events that are relevant to the current situation.

They help readers understand the characters' motivations and actions.

Flashbacks can be triggered by a smell, a sound, or a memory.

They can be short or long, depending on the information that needs to be conveyed.

  • Flashbacks provide context for current situations
  • They help readers understand characters' motivations and actions
  • Flashbacks can be triggered by a smell, a sound, or a memory


Foreshadowing hints at future events, building suspense and anticipation among readers.

Suspenseful Plot Twists Through Red Herrings

Red herrings are a popular literary device used by writers to deceive and distract readers from the real plot of the story, creating suspense.

This keeps them guessing and makes it difficult for them to predict what will happen next.

Using red herrings in writing can make any story more exciting while keeping your audience engaged.

By introducing elements that lead down one path but ultimately veer off toward another direction, you keep people on their toes with each twist and turn in your narrative.

However, careful planning is required because if not executed properly, readers might get frustrated instead of excited.

Red herrings are like breadcrumbs that lead readers down a path, only to reveal that the path was a dead end all along.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when using red herrings:

  • They create excitement by deceiving and distracting readers
  • Careful planning is necessary to avoid frustrating readers
  • The use of red herrings isn't limited to mystery or thriller genres.

    They can be used in any genre to add suspense and intrigue.

When used effectively, red herrings can be a powerful tool in a writer's arsenal, keeping readers engaged and on the edge of their seats until the very end.

Overall, red herrings are a great way to add depth and complexity to your story.

Just remember to use them wisely and sparingly, and always keep your readers in mind.

Dialogue As A Tool For Character Development

How Dialogue Enhances Character Development and Storyline

Dialogue is a powerful tool that authors use to develop characters and advance the storyline.

Through words and actions, dialogue reveals personality traits and motivations, creating emotional connections between characters and contributing to the overall plot.

Insights into Character

Speech patterns provide insights into a character's personality, background, and beliefs.

By analyzing the way a character speaks, readers can gain a deeper understanding of their motivations and thought processes.

Establishing Relationships

Dialogue also establishes relationships between different characters in a story.

Whether it's a romantic connection, a friendship, or a rivalry, the way characters interact with each other through dialogue can reveal a lot about their dynamic.

Adding Depth

Sub-textual implications within dialogue can add depth to situations or circumstances.

What characters don't say can be just as important as what they do say, and skilled authors use this to their advantage to create tension and conflict.

Engaging Conversations

Well-written dialogue keeps readers interested with engaging conversations that move the story forward.

Allusions To Add Depth To The Narrative

Allusions: Adding Depth and Meaning to Your Narrative

Allusions refer to indirect references made by the author, such as historical events, art or literature pieces, mythology or pop culture.

By using allusions in writing, you're adding another layer of meaning for readers who might pick up on them.

For instance, mentioning someone's Achilles heel refers back to Greek mythology where Achilles was invulnerable except for his heel - making it his one weakness.

Allusions are a powerful tool for writers to add depth and meaning to their work.

Using Allusions in Writing

Authors can use allusion as the backbone of their story if carefully crafted throughout their work.

Here are some ways they do so:

  • Referencing historical events to add context and realism to the story
  • Using art or literature pieces to create a mood or tone
  • Referencing mythology to add depth to characters or plot
  • Using pop culture to create a connection with readers
Allusions can help readers connect with the story on a deeper level and create a more engaging reading experience.


Allusions are a powerful tool for writers to add depth and meaning to their work.

Conclusion: How Literary Devices Elevate Your Writing

Congratulations!You've Mastered 12 Common Literary Devices

By now, you know how literary devices can bring your writing to life.

They enhance meaning and impact through metaphors, similes, or allusions.

But remember, literary devices serve a purpose beyond fancy tricks for writers.

Each device contributes to making your message clearer and more powerful by adding depth and nuance while creating an emotional connection with readers.

Literary devices open up new possibilities for expression; provoke thought; add depth and nuance; create an emotional connection with readers.

Get Creative with These Actionable Tips:

  • Experiment with different combinations of literary devices
  • Use literary devices to create vivid imagery and sensory experiences
  • Employ devices to create tension and suspense in your writing
  • Use devices to create a unique voice and style in your writing

Incorporating literary devices into your writing is a powerful way to elevate your message and connect with readers on a deeper level.

Final Takeaways

As a writer, I've always been fascinated by the power of language.

The way words can evoke emotions, paint vivid pictures, and transport readers to different worlds is truly remarkable.

But as I delved deeper into the craft of writing, I realized that there are certain literary devices that can take your writing to the next level.

One of the most common literary devices is imagery.

By using descriptive language, writers can create vivid mental images that engage the reader's senses and bring the story to life.

Another powerful device is metaphor, which allows writers to draw comparisons between seemingly unrelated things and create deeper meaning.

But literary devices aren't just limited to creative writing.

In fact, they can be incredibly useful in business writing as well.

That's where AtOnce comes in.

Our AI writing tool uses natural language processing and machine learning to help businesses create compelling content that engages their customers.

With AtOnce, you can easily incorporate literary devices like imagery and metaphor into your customer communications, making them more engaging and memorable.

Whether you're writing a marketing email, a social media post, or a customer service response, AtOnce can help you craft the perfect message.

But AtOnce isn't just a writing tool - it's also an AI customer service platform.

By using natural language processing and sentiment analysis, AtOnce can understand your customers' needs and respond to them in a way that feels human and authentic.

So whether you're a writer looking to take your craft to the next level or a business looking to improve your customer communications, AtOnce has you covered.

With our AI writing and customer service tools, you can create content that engages, informs, and delights your audience.

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What is a literary device?

A literary device is a technique used by writers to convey their message in a way that is impactful and memorable.

What are some examples of literary devices?

Some examples of literary devices include metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, hyperbole, and irony.

Why are literary devices important?

Literary devices help writers to create a more engaging and effective piece of writing by adding depth, complexity, and interest to their work.

Asim Akhtar

Asim Akhtar

Asim is the CEO & founder of AtOnce. After 5 years of marketing & customer service experience, he's now using Artificial Intelligence to save people time.

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