Thank you for inviting me to guest blog again this month. I love being on WITS!
Want more superpowers in your WIP?
Most writers use just a few rhetorical devices. These are the most frequently used: simile, metaphor, alliteration, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and the occasional rhetorical question.
How many rhetorical devices are in your writing toolbox?
We’ll look at eight out of the thirty rhetorical devices I cover in my Deep Editing course and lecture packets.
- Alliteration – repeating initial consonant sounds. They may be juxtaposed, adjacent to each other, or they may be spread out in a sentence or across several sentences.
I Do Not, Rhay Christou – Daughter of the trailer park tramp. Top that one off with a star and a sticker.
Fatal Dreams, Abbie Roads – The days and nights blurred and blended together with no division between them other than the color of the sky. It was an exhausting, endless sort of existence.
- Allusion -- a quick reference to a famous person or event.
- Anadiplosis – repeating the last word of one sentence or clause at the beginning of the next sentence or clause, or very near the beginning of the next sentence. The words may be separated by a period or comma or em dash.
The Last Breath, Kimberly Belle – You’d think that when confronted with concrete evidence of your wife’s infidelity with the next-door neighbor, there’d at least be some screaming. Screaming and cussing and accusations and blame.
- Anaphora – repeating a word or phrase at beginning of three (or more) successive phrases or sentences.
About a Scandal, Elizabeth Essex – Lady Claire Jellicoe hadn’t thought to protest. She hadn’t thought Lord Peter Rosing would ever do anything untoward. She hadn’t thought someone she’d just met on a ballroom floor could ever wish her irreparable harm.
She simply hadn’t thought.
- Metaphor – comparing two different things by asserting that one thing is the other or has properties of the other.
More Than a Kiss, Brenda Spears – “Don’t you think a dance with Rose would be lovely, Henry?” his mother said, a shepherdess leading her sheep.
- Polysyndeton – using a conjunction between a series of words in a list of three or more. Think many conjunctions.
- Simile– comparing two different things that resemble each other.
Sixth Grave on the Edge, Darynda Jones – Garrett eased forward as our target closed the door, sealing my fate like a ziplock bag sealed in freshness.
- Zeugma – last word doesn’t fit the cognitive sequence for two or more items. It’s an idiomatic mismatch. Margie grabbed her purse, her keys, and her steely resolve.
Fatal Dreams, Abbie Roads – He looked like every other cocky college kid—hair too long, pants too baggy, ego too large. He didn’t look like the leader of a sex gang.
Love all those examples. And they’re all from Margie-Grads.
What do rhetorical devices add to your writing?
Interest and fun and impact and power.
They make your work cadence-driven and make your Cadence Ear happy.
They make your writing fresh and strong and boost you toward bestseller lists.
Check out these examples of rhetorical device combos.
The Last Breath, Kimberly Belle
Anadiplosis and Polysyndeton: You'd think that when confronted with concrete evidence of your wife's infidelity with the next-door neighbor, there's at least be some screaming. Screaming and cussing and accusations and blame.
Beware of Heels, Suzanne Purvis
Anadiplosis and Alliteration: I have a warning voice. A voice that’s a mash up of my mother and the Reverend Hill of The Church of Everlasting Light. The voice screamed leave now.
Simile and Double Alliteration: My heart ticked like a bomb beneath the bones of my ribs. Silent screams stole air from my lungs.
More Than a Kiss, Brenda Spears
Simile and Alliteration: He put a hand on her shoulder, his heat sinking to her skin as if her clothes did not exist.
Anadiplosis, Anaphora, and Alliteration: Miss Carew was a woman who could make a man forget. Forget his family. Forget the wars. Perhaps even forget he was the Blind Baron of Shropshire. And while he forgot, she could take advantage of his weaknesses, dupe him, lead him on a merry dance to the altar.
Simile and Metaphor: She tingled as if bergamot were exciting or new. The scent was neither, but on him bergamot suddenly was a pleasure, a thrill, a temptation.
Simile and Alliteration: Cornwall—the name sliced through Katherine as a claymore would a man on the battlefield.
Broken River: Resurrection, Lindsay Cross
Anaphora and Zeugma: Rachel’s day started at sunrise and ended after midnight. Feed the chickens. Feed the cows. Feed herself. Then, after five, feed the alcoholics.
Anadiplosis and Anaphora: Ranger is a man plagued by guilt. Guilt over the death of his best friend in battle. Guilt over being the one who survived. Guilt over loving his best friend's widow.
For Roger, Laura Drake as yet unpubbed WF
Alliteration and Allusion: “No, but Roger’s daughter makes the pope look downright agnostic.” Great. This woman is pulling me down to her Dante-level of bitchy.
Sweet on You, Laura Drake
Alliteration and Simile: The two-story stucco buildings may have been handsome, before the bombing. They passed one with a missing front wall, exposing jagged rooms like broken teeth. Between the damage and the dust, the town looked tired, weary of all it had seen.
Days Made of Glass, Laura Drake, as yet unpubbed WF
Simile and Alliteration: Smoke rolled into the sky, spreading over the dairy like an angry fist.
Fused, A Middle Grade Novel, Suzanne Purvis, Immersion-Grad
Simile and Alliteration: Jordan stands super-slow like he’s got time to watch glaciers melt. “Gotta figure out what I’ll do with my prize money.” He superstar-saunters around the cubicles.
Polysynedton and Alliteration: Without weapons or back up or super powers, my strategy is stealth.
Zeugma and Alliteration: I’ve trapped the Frog Farts twenty feet in the air, ten feet from the fence, and fifty miles from their fearlessness.
Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Alliteration: Pops pulls Anastasia to the curb and sounds her ridiculous horn. He opens the passenger side window. “You boys about done?”
Oh, I’m done. Done with Allen. Done with this day. Done with Show Low.
And I smell smoke. Must be the stink of my karma cooking.
The last set of examples is from smart and fun Immersion Class Members in Washington D.C. area this week.
Tales of the Virgin Vault, Christina Crayn
Alliteration and Anadiplosis: His brilliant blue eyes sparked with promise—a promise of going to bed Christmas Eve knowing Christmas morning would be better than you could possibly imagine—sort of promise.
Imperfect Picture, Jacki Kelly
Alliteration and Anaphora: Her perfect picture life paled. Gone was the glamour. Gone was the dream. Gone was the promise of her perfect future.
Alliteration and Zeugma: The sultry tone of songstress Cynthia Miller floated in the air, the lyrics haunting, soulful, man-snaring.
Allusion and Alliteration: The huge expended effort seemed reminiscent of Moses parting the Red Sea, but soon they stood in front of her sister's door.
Protective Instinct, Riley Edgewood
Alliteration and Simile: Last time she'd seen Vaughn, he'd used his vulnerability to draw her in—and then spin her out, flinging her away. This time, he'd been hard as ice with no sign of melting.
Wild Women and the Blues, Denny Bryce
Asyndeton, Metaphor, and Alliteration: The harshness in her voice would’ve surprised him if he hadn’t been looking into her eyes. Hard as metal, determined as time, his mother had been right to make him promise to visit the old woman, but being a good son was a weight, digging into his shoulder with a bucket of bricks called what the hell.
Kudos to those Immersioners, and to all the Margie-Grads referenced in this blog.
Stellar content. Stellar cadence. Stellar writing.
Rhetorical devices have two more superpowers!
1. They share backstory.
I’ve never seen my father cry before, not when his own father died, not when my mother ran off and left us, not even when he heard about my sister, Camille.
Brilliant! Four hits of backstory in one cadence-driven sentence.
2. They compress time.
To the Power of Three, Laura Lippman
We go to lunch, the waitresses swirl around him, offering seconds and specials and thises and thats.
You need these superpowers! Learn 20+ rhetorical devices, and use them in your WIP.
Don’t miss opportunities to use rhetorical style and structure to make your writing award-winning strong.
If you’re interested in learning more rhetorical devices, and how to use them, check out my Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More lecture packet. www.margielawson.com
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Margie Lawson—editor, international presenter—teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over ninety full day master classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Denver, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Canyon Lake, Dallas, San Jose, Melbourne, Australia, and more), her full day Master Class presentations, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit www.MargieLawson.com.