Literary Devices – part 2

by juliusmsanz

It’s funny how things never turn out quite like we imagine them. I thought I could devote plenty of time to explain each and every literary device or technique, but as it turns out I won’t be doing that. I still plan to give this new series a bit of a push, so let’s see how this goes.

Today I want to talk about three different techniques, yes, you read that right: three.

First up is Deus Ex Machina. This is reminds me of a book by Martha Grimes I read a long time ago: Cold Flat Junction. The story was about a little girl who was investigating a series of occurrences and kept writing the name wrong, she had no idea what this was all about. This device is all about the usage of a higher power to help move the story along or just finish it. And how does this go? Well, imagine your protagonist is facing a huge challenge and he is barely holding on, it seems like everything will fall to pieces, basically the worst possible scenario. What happens next? Some powerful force just solves everything for the character and makes it good again. It can have no relation to what happened to the story until that point, it doesn’t matter. Deus means God by the way. This device has been used since the beginning of times and while we get to see it plenty of times, I think it’s a very cheap way of resolving conflict within a story. Just my own personal opinion mind you. If you build some conflict and you can’t resolve it properly you just didn’t set up the story properly and have to rely on this, sorry but I have to say it, cheap trick.

Next up is the story within a story.

I’ve actually used this before, and personally think it is a very interesting technique. A cool concept to work around with. You can create an endless loop. Let’s look at this situation: you are reading a story that is written by the main character and he writes about a story that was written by another character and this other story is about yet another story written by another character and it can go on and on and on, until the end of times actually. It’s a bit challenging to create a true plot out of it, but it’s not impossible to make something like that pretty interesting. Of course I’m taking this to extremes, you can just include a story going on inside your own story and that is cool. It can be a very good way to flesh out your setting and tone inside the story.

And now comes the ticking clock.

Remember 24? Jack Bauer? Remember Nick of Time, the film with Christopher Walken and Johnny Depp? Yep, those two were developed with this technique in mind. It’s very common in thrillers and can create plenty of tension very fast. A couple of people having to disarm a bomb can be stressful, but I think it’s much more stressful having just one hour to find the bomb and disarm it. But let me be clear about this: whenever you set a time, it has to be important, do it too much and the readers won’t be up for another of your stories. The ticking clock is, like I said before, the extra tension that you can create, but it can’t be the driving force of your story. Even in the example I gave just now, the main problem is getting rid of the bomb.

Well, that is all for now, see you again tomorrow!

Have a nice day!