No matter what you write—emails, short stories, novels, or nonfiction—your prose can be more persuasive and impact your reader more effectively by using poetic devices.
Below are three blog posts to help you discover the power of using rhetorical techniques to create more poetic prose.
This Thursday, May 13, I’d love to have you on my webinar Adding Poetry to Your Prose.
You can buy the entire webinar series featuring well-known writers, including Donald Maass, Emma Dryden, and James Scott Bell, or scroll down to May 13 and grab my webinar. If you can’t make it live, you’ll receive the recording and all my handouts afterwards.
I’d love to see you there!
Until then, please enjoy these posts:
Use rhetorical devices to evoke readers’ emotions
Rhetorical devices: Your secret writing weapon
Add alliteration to make your pages pop!
My mom loved puzzles. She spent most of my childhood in our little mom amd pop grocery store, and in between ringing up customers, stocking shelves, and keeping me occupied, she loved to work on puzzles. Crosswords. Cryptograms. Hangman. Word search. Maybe this is where my love of words came from.
I never enjoyed puzzles like Mom did, but it dawned on me a few years ago that writing poetry is my form of puzzle work. I enjoy hunting for just the right word. Sometimes I wonder if the joy I feel when a poem finally comes together is what Mom felt when she successfully completed a crossword.
Another part of puzzling together a poem is the fun I have in playing with rhetorical devices. What are rhetorical devices? Read more
In my earlier post, “Rhetorical Devices: Your Secret Writing Weapon,” I mentioned that, as a poet, I often use alliteration, which is the repetition of the same sounds or the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables.
I never really thought about using alliteration purposely in my prose writing…it just kind of happened naturally as I wrote and tuned in to my “poet’s ear.” But after taking Margie Lawson’s online class on Deep Editing and Rhetorical Devices, I realized what a great tool alliteration (and other rhetorical devices) can be to make my pages pop.
You don’t want to overdo alliteration making your prose sound forced or “writerly” but you can learn to use it to add sparkle to your sentences. Read more
In an earlier post, “Use all six senses to make your story come alive,” I write about the importance of using all our senses when creating a scene. Too often, writers rely on sight or visual cues in the scene and forget to include the other senses.
Touch, sound, taste, and smell are just as important as sight, yet are often overlooked.
What senses do you use the most in your writing?
Find out by taking a chapter and highlighting the five senses with five different colored markers or pencils. I did this recently and discovered that after sight, my most used sense was smell, then sound, then touch. I didn’t use taste at all in that particular chapter.
You don’t need to use every sense in every chapter but you do want your writing to come alive and varying the senses will help you reach this goal.
One way to play with sound is through onomatopoeia—words that imitate the sounds the words describe. We’ve all seen this device used in comic books or in cartoons: POW, WHAM, BAM, etc. But you can also invent word sounds to match anything you want. Read more
Before I sit down and “go in” to my writing for the day, I like to do a few warm ups—kind of like a singer going through her repertoire before going on stage.
I might reread a few pages from the day before or maybe do a free-write on an aspect of my story I’m still trying to figure out. Sometimes, I’ll play around with creating metaphors or similes that I might use in my story. All of these are a great way to get my creative juices flowing.
Reminder: a simile compares two different things and usually uses the words “like” or “as” in the comparison; a metaphor describes two different things by stating that one thing is the other or has some of its qualities.
Simile: his eyes were as blue as the ocean
Metaphor: his eyes were the ocean
What are the benefits of creating a metaphor practice? Read more
When a book instantly grabs me and draws me in, I like to go back later and analyze why. Sometimes, it’s the subject matter. Sometimes, it’s the narrator’s voice. Sometimes, it’s a simile or metaphor that hooks me. Always, it’s the strong writing. Strong writing means that the arrangement of words on the page “works.” Strong writing is an art that we can learn.
Many award-winning, best-selling authors have a secret weapon that helps them produce strong writing. That secret success weapon is the use of rhetorical devices.
Award-winning poet and author Jack Remick discusses his use of rhetorical devices in his interview with Joel Chafetz. He says that the devices all conspire to create a certain cadence in his work. He goes on to say:
…”it’s not enough to put the words down, that’s information. You have to make the words dance and rhetoric can make your words dance. Most people dismiss rhetoric but rhetoric cannot be dismissed. Rhetoric can give you rhythm, rhetoric can give you cadence, rhetoric can give your writing new life. So the writing in Blood is thick with rhetorical devices. And that’s what you’re picking up—the poetry of violence couched in rhetorical devices driving images at full speed so the story spins out ahead of you, drawing you along with each one.”
I’ve used rhetorical devices in my poetry for years–alliteration, assonance, similes, metaphors, etc. These are some of the more common devices with their definitions below: Read more
I like to say that good writing is about getting the right words in the right order.
In the novel, A Feather on the Breath of God, author Sigrid Nunez infuses her sentences with a tone of sadness and distance by using several techniques, including lists and a rhetorical device called anaphora.
Anaphora is a technique that involves repetition of a word or words at the beginning of two or more successive verses, clauses, or sentences. It lends emphasis and can enhance the emotional impact. Read more