Original Publication: January 9, 2014
Grammarians like to say Figures of Speech but I like to call them spices. I do that because I believer one should always add a little spice to one’s writing. Just as you do in cooking, seasoning brings out the flavor of your favorite dish. Spice can change the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Here’s how it works in a travel listing for example:
Charleston Place Hotel, Charleston SC.
Thought by many to be the city’s best hotel, the place could use a few repairs. It is located downtown on King Street.
Viewed by many as the town’s grande dame. Although she could use a little Botox here and there, she sits right in the thick of things on King Street. (Condé Nast Traveler.)
Get the idea? This blog will present eight literary condiments for you to use. They can make all the difference in your writing.
1. METAPHOR: One thing is compared to another to show a similarity between the two. This spice isn’t just a writing adornment. It gives your reader a fresh way of viewing an idea or situation.
Ex: I’m a night owl and he gets up with the chickens. He falls in love at the drop of a hat. Her room is a pigsty. Life is a jungle. “It’s raining men here in Fort Lauderdale,” she said gleefully.
2. SIMILE: Just as with metaphors, one thing is also compared to another to suggest a similarity between the two via “like” or “as.” Similes make our writing more interesting and helps us to better visualize our subjects.
Ex. He is strong as an ox. She’s as big as the side of a house. She’s as pretty as a June rose. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. She said my name like she was cooling soup.
3. HYPERBOLE: This spice is used in an exaggerated manner to emphasize a point you’re trying to make. This seasoning can make your writing more colorful, entertaining and interesting.
Ex. I was quaking from head to foot and could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far. (Mark Twain, Old Times on the Mississippi), Your mama’s so FAT, after she got off the merry-go-round, the horse limped for a week.
4. ANTITHESIS: Stating contrasting ideas in a parallel arrangement of words, phrases, clauses or sentences.
Ex. Damned if she does; damned if she doesn’t. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. (John F. Kennedy), It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
5. EUPHEMISM: Using a meek or obscure word or phrase as a stand-in for a disagreeable term. This is the language of avoidance, hypocrisy, prudery, and pretense. Euphemism is a good way to establish the personal nuances of the characters in your novel, screenplays, etc.
Ex. I’m afraid you’re being let go. (fired) He passed away in 2008. (died), Sleep together. (have sex) Portly or full-figured. ( fat) Break wind or pass gas. (fart) Powder your nose or go to the rest room. (toilet). The birds and the bees. (sex)
6. IRONY: The intended meaning is the exact opposite of the words used.
Ex. Clear as mud. As much fun as having a tooth pulled. I used to be Snow White but I drifted. (Mae West) Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room. (film Dr. Strangelove)
7. OXYMORON: A unit of two words that are a complete contradiction to one another.
Ex. Random order, original copy, found missing, old news, deafening silence. Joe, if you’re gonna be a phony, you might as well be a real phony. How is it possible to have a civil war? (George Carlin), I’m an atheist, thank God. (Luis Buñel).
8. PUN: A double meaning is applied to a word or group of words; two words have the same or almost same sound but different meanings.
Ex. I’d love to go to Holland. Wooden shoe? What food these morsels be!” (slogan of Heinz pickles), Boo’s Liquor (East Terrell, Texas) Carl’s Pane in the Glass (glass and window services in Garland, Texas) C’est Cheese (cheese shop in Santa Barbara, California).
These 8 spices will do a lot to make your writing colorful, fresh and more interesting to your readers. Good writing!