Creative Writing 101: Literary Devices

Updated on October 29, 2014

Creative Writing 101 will be a weekly post, or hub, that I'll do to talk about the basics of Creative Writing. In this section, we will be analyzing important terminology, and how to use certain techniques of writing. I'll be using all the knowledge my training has left me, along with some other sources. We will start our teachings of Creative Writing with a rundown of Literary Devices, and week by week we will dive in deeper detail on some of the most important devices. Let's start with the first hub of Creative Writing 101.

What are Literary Devices?

You have probably heard about this in any of your Literature courses, or even some English classes. If not, where have you been?! Literary devices, or literary terms, are tools of language used by authors to deliver their message more effectively. This tools also give writing a more rich and vivid feeling. This means that instead of delivering plain, boring, tasteless text, authors give us interesting and compelling stories adorned with these tools. Literary devices can be used for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, but in this case we will concentrate on the use of literary devices in fiction works.

The first thing to know about literary terms is that they are divided into two categories: Literary Elements and Literary Techniques.

Literary Elements

A story can't exist without literary elements. Any written or spoken story will have them. The definition of literary elements is: the parts that form a story. Any written story has plot, a setting, characters, and other elements. These are highly used by writers to make a story more compelling, interesting, and overall more complete. Some important literary elements, and their brief definitions are listed down bellow.

  • Plot: The arrangement of events in a narrative, carefully crafted by an author.
  • Setting: Place, time, and social environment in which the story takes place.
  • Characters: The participants of a story, or the people involved in it.
  • Narrator: The person telling the story.
  • Point of View: Stance from which the story is told.
  • Dialog: Conversations between characters in a narrative.
  • Protagonist: The character the story focuses on.
  • Antagonist: Anything that opposes the protagonist, and intervenes between the protagonist and his/her goals.
  • Archetype: A recurrent symbol, theme, setting, or character-type that recurs in different times and places in myth, literature, and folklore.

Literary Techniques

These are tools used by authors to give depth to their writing. Literary techniques are specific aspects of literature used to deliver a message of any written work more effectively. The difference between literary elements and techniques is that these techniques are only found in written works. Also stories can exist without them. Furthermore, think of literary techniques as clues to a deeper meaning. Many techniques let the reader know what will happen in the story later on, or if a character will be delicate or strong.

Down bellow, you will find the literary techniques we will focus on.

  • Flashback: Presentation of events that occurred in the past, either at the beginning of the story or before the story took place.
  • Voice: A characteristic, unique form of narrative that each author has.
  • Characterization: Method by which a writer presents the personality, appearance and the other traits of a character.
  • Symbol: An object or situation that represents something beyond itself.
  • Motif: Recurring image, word, phrase, action, idea, or object that manifests repeatedly during the course of a story.
  • Theme: Idea that the author repeats in the story to point to a deeper meaning.
  • Foreshadowing: Tool used by authors to hint what is to come, or one possible outcome of a story.
  • Stream-of-consciousness: Technique that allows the reader to see the continuous, chaotic, and half-formed thoughts, memories, senses, images, and reflections that constitutes a character's consciousness.

Learning about Literary Devices

So why is it important to learn about literary devices? This is not only something wanna-be-writers should learn, this is important for experienced writers to remember, and for everyone to know about. Learning about these tools allows us to analyze works of literature. Sure you might enjoy reading, but what about the deeper meaning of a novel, the meaning behind the story? To enjoy a literary piece to the fullest, it is important to understand many other aspects of it beyond the story its telling. For example, by which social issues was it surrounded, what is the message the writer wanted to convey, what do us– the audience– feel when reading it, and over all why this story was written.

Now that we understand the importance of literary devices, we can learn how to use them. If we want to analyze a novel, for example, we don't have to take the whole thing and analyze everything at once. That's suicide. Instead, we divide the novel by identifying its parts, or its literary elements. We separate the plot, setting, type of narrator, point of view, and so on. We might also want to look to the historical context. After identifying all the parts of the novel, we must identify any literary techniques that might be present in the book and analyze them. Why are these techniques in the book? What the author wanted us to understand? What do we feel when we approach each technique separately?

As writers, literary terms should be the foundation of our work. They allow us to look at other authors works from which we need to learn– because we know how important it is for a writer to be an avid reader– and understand them better. Learning about these tools will add beauty, meaning, and depth to our own works.

Next week we will start our journey, but in the meantime, I will leave you with a video about literary devices that I hope will further your knowledge.

Literary Devices in Pop Culture


"Literary Devices and Literary Terms." Literary Devices. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

Vigil, Joseph. "Literary Elements: Definition, Types & Examples." Education Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.


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    • Michelle Monarrez profile image

      Michelle Monarrez 3 years ago from El Paso, TX

      Thank you! I hope you found it informative. I look forward to write some more.

    • KMSplumeau profile image

      KMSplumeau 3 years ago

      Great article, very informative. I really enjoyed the video you posted as well. Thank you for writing! I look forward to reading more of your work.