Spice Up Your Story with Literary Techniques

| Posted in Novels, Writing.

Why so seriousIt’s been mentioned before that a lot of things go into creating a basic story. You need an idea, a progressive story, characters, settings, and good planning. Extra things to think about include genre and time, and so on. While these things may seem like a lot of work, once you get into it, the whole writing experience can be very rewarding. But writing a complex, clever, well-put together story takes even more work than creating a basic one. It may be complicated, but it is certainly more rewarding.

Here are some tools known by in literary circles as ‘literary techniques’. There is a vast number of them. But only a few will be shared here to whet your appetite. Some are already known so they won’t be explored here. These are the rest of the extra features that go into your story to make it more interesting.

A gun?

An important tool is known as ‘Chekhov’s Gun’. According to Wikipedia, it was introduced by Anton Chekhov, who was a Russian playwright. The idea here is to put an object into the story without explaining its function in the story. In Chekhov’s original analogy this object was a gun. Usually, the object’s function is easily recognizable, such as a sword or a gun. The basis behind this idea is that the object has to be used later in the story. Readers will think that the object has a simple, random status but will be surprised later on when the object is used at a critical moment. Alternatively, you could include an object that readers will assume has an important role, but will be surprised later on when it doesn’t.

What kind of catastrophe?

Another tool suggested by Wikipedia is an ‘eucatastrophe’. We all know that coming up with an original story can be tricky, especially if you end up following the normal course of events such as:

  • The hero discovers there’s a problem.
  • He goes about fixing it.
  • He solves it.

The problem with this sort of sequence is that it’s too predictable. Experienced readers find this sort of sequence boring and forgettable. A eucatastrophe breaks away from this tradition. It refers to that point in the story where an alternative character, not the main character, who ends up unintentionally solving the problem or completing the goal. Such a technique adds some more flavour to your story and makes readers would pay more attention.

Unexpected twists

Another feature to consider is bringing unexpected changes to the story line. This too will keep the reader engaged, because it adds to the unpredictable nature of your story. Such a feature is known as a ‘plot twist’. An example would be from the film, The Dark Knight, when the Joker gets captured the first time. His capture is so dramatic that the audience may have thought the story was approaching its end. But the twist comes when two of Batman’s allies are kidnapped, which forces the story in another direction.

How to invent a theme

Theme is a familiar subject when it comes to writing a story. But creating a theme takes detailed work. In the case of a written story, a theme is presented in small ways through various actions and depictions which all come together. An example would be the theme of exile. Be careful not to be literal with a theme like this. It could run in the idea that a man does something or something happens to him that causes the community around him to ostracize him. This would automatically create a theme of exile in your story. So creating a theme means creating actions and objects which emphasize this theme.

There are more useful tools

There are many more other features which can go into creating a unique story. You do not need to use all of them. In fact, using these techniques also takes a certain level of skill, because the originality will come when you figure out a way to use these techniques in your story in a surprising and unexpected way.


Written by David Hendricks

Image credit: lamazone, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr


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