literary devices

Literary Devices: 20 Essentials Authors Should Know

Literary devices are tools that writers use to make their writing more interesting. Each device serves a specific purpose, and by understanding how each one works, you can use them to improve your writing. In this article, we’ll discuss 20 of the most common literary devices, explain what they do and how you can use them in your work.

Why are literary devices necessary?

Authors use literary devices to add depth and meaning to their writing. By incorporating literary devices into their work, authors can engage readers deeper and create a more memorable experience. The most common literary devices include similes, metaphors, and personification.

These devices can be used to communicate complex ideas or emotions in a way that is both clear and interesting. Literary devices also can make writing more enjoyable for both authors and readers alike. When used skillfully, literary devices can add an extra layer of beauty and intrigue to a piece of writing.

20 essential literary devices for authors

literary devices

By incorporating literary devices into their work, authors can engage readers deeper and create a more memorable experience. Here are the 20 literary devices that you should know.

1. Allusion

An allusion is a literary device that can add depth and richness to a story. Allusions are references to other works of literature, history, or pop culture. By alluding, an author can add layers of meaning to their work and give readers a new way to understand the story. Allusions can also be used to add humor or levity to a story.

When used well, allusions can enhance the literary quality of work and make it more enjoyable for readers. However, authors need to be careful not to overuse allusions, or they risk alienating readers who are not familiar with the reference. Used sparingly, allusions can be a powerful tool for adding depth and interest to a story.

2. Analogy

An analogy is a literary device that helps to explain something by comparisons to other things. For example, you might say that someone is “as quick as a cat.” This comparison allows the reader to understand what you mean by “quick.” Analogies can help make complex concepts more understandable.

They can also add interest and variety to your writing. When used skillfully, they can make your writing more engaging and memorable. If you’re not sure how to use literary devices in your writing, many resources are available to help you learn. A little bit of research can help you take your writing to the next level.

3. Allegory

Allegory is a literary device that can be used to add depth and meaning to a story. An allegory is a story or poem where the characters, events, and settings represent abstract concepts or ideas. These abstract concepts are usually religious or moral in an allegory. For example, one of the most famous allegories is John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” In this work, the main character, Christian, represents the human soul on its journey to salvation.

The various trials and tribulations he faces along the way represent the challenges we all face in our journey through life. By using an allegory, Bunyan was able to add a layer of meaning to his story that might not have been possible otherwise. As a result, literary devices like allegory can be essential tools for authors looking to add depth and meaning to their work.

4. Archetype

One of the essential literary devices authors use is the archetype. Archetypes are similar to stereotypes, except they are not limited to one particular group of people. An archetype can be a universal symbol or character type representing a concept or feeling. For example, the “hero” archetype represents someone brave and fights for what is right, while the “villain” archetype represents someone evil and selfish.

Authors can quickly establish characters and concepts that readers will easily identify with by using archetypes in their stories. In addition, archetypes can help to create a sense of unity between different stories and literary works. Authors can add depth and meaning to their writing by understanding and utilizing archetypes.

5. Atmosphere

When it comes to literary devices, the atmosphere is one of the essentials. After all, your story will fall flat without an evocative and atmospheric setting. So what exactly is the atmosphere? In a nutshell, you create a feeling or mood for your readers. It can be light and airy, dark and foreboding, oppressive, or claustrophobic. And just like with other literary devices, you can use atmosphere to heighten the emotions in your story and create a more immersive reading experience.

There are a few different ways to create an atmosphere in your writing. First of all, consider your choice of words and language. How you describe your setting and characters can go a long way in creating the right atmosphere. Secondly, think about pacing. A slow, leisurely pace can create a peaceful feeling, while a faster pace can ramp up the tension and suspense. And finally, don’t forget about detail. The more sensory details you include, the easier it will be for readers to feel like they’re in the thick of things.

6. Characterization

When it comes to writing compelling characters, literary devices are essential tools of the trade. Characterization is creating and developing characters, and several literary devices can be used to achieve this. One of the most common is dialogue.

By carefully crafting what a character says, an author can reveal much about their personality, motivations, and back story. Another essential tool is the physical description. By describing a character’s appearance, an author can create a vivid image in the reader’s mind and give them a strong sense of who that character is.

7. Climax

Literary devices help create tension and suspense and heighten emotions and pivotal moments. One essential literary device is the climax. The climax is the story’s turning point when the conflict is resolved, and the reader finds out whether the protagonist achieves her goal. A well-crafted climax is essential to keeping the reader hooked until the end. There are a few things to keep in mind when writing a climax.

First, make sure that the climax is foreshadowed adequately throughout the story. This way, readers will be eagerly awaiting the resolution and will be fully invested in the outcome. Second, don’t make the climax too predictable. A good climax should surprise readers while still feeling earned and satisfying. Finally, try to craft a solid and impactful ending that leaves readers feeling satisfied. 

8. Conflict

Conflict is one of the essential literary devices for authors. The engine drives the plot forward and creates tension and suspense. Without conflict, there would be no story. Authors can use many different types of conflict, but all of them center around a clash of opposing forces.

This clash can be between characters, between characters and their environment, or even between different parts of a character’s psyche. No matter what type of conflict you’re writing, it’s crucial to create believable and relatable characters that readers will care about. They will only be invested in the story and want to see how the conflict plays out.

9. Denouement

As an author, it’s crucial to have a toolbox of literary devices that you can draw on to create an engaging and effective story. The denouement is one such literary device, and it can be a powerful tool in your arsenal. The denouement comes from the French word for “untying,” and it refers to the plot’s resolution. This is when all the loose ends are tied up, and the story comes to its natural conclusion.

The denouement is often used to provide closure for the reader, wrapping up the story satisfying. While not every story needs a denouement, it can be an essential tool for authors looking to create a complete and well-rounded tale. If you’re struggling to bring your story to a natural close, consider using denouement to provide resolution and closure for your readers.

10. Dialect

A dialect is a literary device used to create a specific effect or feeling. It can be used to set the tone of a piece, create an atmosphere of authenticity, or add humor or levity. Dialects can also show regional differences, social class, or education level. Authors need to be familiar with the various dialects used in their work to use dialect effectively.

They should also be aware of how dialect can change over time and how it can be misinterpreted by readers from different cultures or backgrounds. Authors can use dialects to enhance their work and add depth and richness to their characters and settings by understanding these factors.

11. Flashback

Flashbacks are literary devices that authors can use to create a significant effect in a story. They can provide information about a character’s backstory, or they can be used to create suspense or tension. In a flashback, the author takes the reader back to an event that occurred before the story began.

This can be done through dialogue, description, or both. Flashbacks can be useful for providing context for a character’s actions or revealing information about the plot. However, they should be used sparingly, as too many flashbacks can disrupt the flow of the story. When used effectively, flashbacks can be a powerful tool for authors.

12. Foil

A literary device authors can use to create exciting characters and advance the plot is a foil. A foil is a character who acts or appears in contrast to another character, usually the protagonist, to highlight particular qualities of the other character. The foil may be someone who shares some of the same characteristics as the protagonist but ultimately has different objectives, values, or beliefs.

In many works of literature, the foil serves as a means of pushing the protagonist toward self-awareness or growth by revealing personal flaws or aspects of their personality they were not aware of. Additionally, the foil can provide comic relief or act as a sounding board for the protagonist. Authors can create a more well-rounded and three-dimensional story by giving readers a character to compare the protagonist to.

13. Mood

When it comes to literary devices, the mood is often one that authors overlook. Yet, it is essential to create an immersive and engaging reading experience. The mood is the atmosphere or feeling that a piece of writing evokes in the reader. It can be happy, sad, suspenseful, comedic, etc. By establishing mood, authors can control the emotions of their readers and thereby create a more robust reading experience.

There are many literary tools that can be used to establish mood, including setting, diction, point of view, and more. Another literary tool that one can use to create mood is symbolism. This is when an object or event represents something else. Authors need to be aware of all the options available to make the most impactful reading experience possible.

14. Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses one thing to represent another. By using a metaphor, an author can make an idea more relatable or help readers understand a complex concept. For example, “the world is a stage” is a metaphor often used to describe the human experience. In this case, the world represents human life and the various roles we play during our time on earth. Metaphors can be used in multiple book genres and other literary works.

In fact, some of the most memorable lines of literature are metaphors. For example, Shakespeare writes, in Romeo and Juliet, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet.” In this line, Shakespeare uses the metaphor of a rose to discuss the power of words and how they can change the perception of something. As this example shows, metaphors are powerful literary devices that can help authors communicate their ideas in new and innovative ways.

15. Simile

If you’re not sure what a simile is, you’ve likely encountered one before in your reading. A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things interestingly or creatively. For example, an author might write, “She was as beautiful as a rose.” In this instance, the author uses the word “as” to compare the woman’s beauty to that of a rose. Similes can be used to make descriptions more exciting or to emphasize a certain quality.

In addition, they can be used to create an emotional reaction in the reader. For instance, if an author wants to convey sadness, they might write, “The world was as gray as his mood.” As you can see, similes can be beneficial literary devices for authors. If you’re looking to add some creativity to your writing, consider using a simile the next time you sit down to write.

16. Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is one of the most fun literary devices to use as an author. When a word imitates the sound it makes, there are so many possibilities for what kinds of sounds you can make. For example, “sizzle,” “buzz,” and “hiss” are all onomatopoeic words. You can use onomatopoeia to make your writing more exciting and engaging for your readers.

It’s also a great way to add extra personality to your characters. For instance, if you have a character who’s always making sarcastic comments, you could have them say something like “zip it” or “keep your trap shut.” Onomatopoeia is a literary device that can add some spice to your writing, so don’t be afraid to experiment with it!

17. Oxymoron

Among the most famous literary devices is the oxymoron, a figure of speech that combines two seemingly contradictory terms. Oxymorons are often used to create a striking effect or express complex ideas. For example, the oxymoron “jumbo shrimp” highlights the conflicting nature of the seafood dish, while the phrase “pretty ugly” captures the ambiguity of beauty.

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, oxymorons can also help clarify complicated concepts. In many cases, they can be used to simplify complex ideas by breaking them down into more digestible chunks. For instance, the oxymoron “true lies” succinctly captures the idea that sometimes what we believe is true may be false. As this example shows, oxymorons can be powerful literary devices that authors can use to significant effect.

18. Paradox

One of the essential literary devices for authors is the paradox. A paradox is a figure of speech that appears to contradict itself but conveys a truth. For example, the statement “less is more” is a paradox. It doesn’t make sense on the surface – how can less be more? But when you think about it, you realize that it’s true. In many cases, simplicity can be more effective than complexity.

Authors can use paradoxes to create depth and intrigue in their writing. By playing with contradiction and expectation, they can keep readers engaged and thinking about their work long after they’ve finished reading it. If you’re looking to add some literary flair to your writing, experiment with using paradoxes in your work. You might find that they’re the key to unlocking your creativity!

19. Personification

Literary devices are literary techniques that writers use to create a unique and noticeable effect in their writing, convey information, or help readers understand their writing on a deeper level. Personification is one literary device that can be used for these purposes. Personification gives human characteristics, such as thoughts, feelings, and actions, to non-human objects or animals.

This literary device can be used to make writing more interesting or to help readers relate to and understand an idea better. For example, if an author writes, “the wind was howling in frustration,” they use personification to give human emotions to the wind. In this way, literary devices like personification can be essential tools for authors who want to create a particular effect in their writing.

20. Irony

The irony is one literary device that can be particularly useful. Irony occurs when there’s a discrepancy between what’s expected and what happens. There are three main types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic. Verbal irony is when someone says the opposite of what they mean, often to emphasize a point. Situational irony is when the opposite of what’s expected occurs.

And finally, dramatic irony is when the reader or audience knows something that the characters do not. As you can see, there are many different ways that authors can use irony in their writing. So, if you’re looking for a literary device to add some flair to your writing, why not give irony a try?

Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about literary devices.

How do you identify literary devices?

There are a few different ways to identify literary devices in a text. First, look for unusual or literary language. These could be words that are not often used in everyday speech or phrases that are used in peculiar ways. For instance, an author might use metaphor or simile to describe a character or scene.

Another way to identify literary devices is to look for patterns in how the language is used. An author might repeat certain words or phrases for emphasis or use alliteration to create a musical effect. Finally, pay attention to the overall structure of the text. Authors often use literary devices to create suspense or tension or resolve plot problems.

How can you remember literary devices?

There are many different literary devices, and they can be used in various ways. So how can you remember them all? The best way is to familiarize yourself with the most common literary devices and then look for them as you read.

By doing this, you’ll better understand how literary devices work and how they can enhance your writing. In addition, it’s helpful to keep a list of literary devices handy so that you can refer to them when needed. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to identify literary devices easily.

What are literary elements?

Literary elements are the tools writers use to express their ideas and enhance their stories. Characters, settings, plots, and dialogue are all examples of literary elements. By combining these elements in different ways, writers can create a wide range of effects. For instance, a story with a strong plot may be less effective if the characters are not well-developed.

Similarly, a story with interesting characters may be less engaging if the plot is thin. To create a truly successful story, writers must carefully balance all of the different elements. With practice, however, this becomes easier and more intuitive. Soon enough, incorporating literary elements into your stories will feel like second nature.


As you can see, literary devices are a powerful tool for writers. By understanding how they work, you can use them to enhance your own writing and create the effect you want. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different literary devices in your own work. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use them like a pro.

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