Monday, August 4, 2008

The Top 10 Literary Devices of All Time

When you are writing a work of literature, it is important to use "devices" to your best advantage. For you history buffs out there, the literary device was accidentally invented by Linus Pauling in 1894. Though he had initially been attempting to develop a crude prototype of the Brain-to-Machine Interface, Pauling left his test brains out overnight next to a leaky Erlenmeyer flask containing some spare cations and in the morning, he was thrilled to find literary devices all over his laboratory! Today, writers have developed at least 1,704 individual literary devices, although they are sometimes combined for greater effect. These devices are seen the condiments of the novel--bringing out the flavor ("themes") of the meat ("the plot") and pretty much telling the reader what he/she really needs to know for the quiz. We have performed an exhaustive meta-analysis to bring you the top ten literary devices...

10. It was ultimately about the journey, and not the destination.

Technically a literary technique and not a literary device, this is our Tropical Storm on a list chock-full of Cat 5 Hurricanes. Frankly, I think this is a bullshit number 10, but meta-analyses don't lie, so whatever. This technique works best when the destination has been blown up or washed away by a flood. That way, your heroes have no chance to go to an awesome party in the destination and reconsider their conclusions.

9. We are part of a secret experiment run by the government!

Usually, this only works if your setting is an island or space station, although it is rumored that the original ending of the beloved television series Cheers was an all-out deployment of this literary device.

8. Love conquered all, however, the main characters died.

The desired effect here is to confuse the reader. You want the reader to say, "Hey! John and Mary both died... this was a sad book and therefore I am unhappy!" However, they will also be struck by thoughts of, "But wait, through John and Mary's deaths, the supporting characters gained a better understanding of their own existences... and so have I?" The average reader will then most likely descend into a spiral of self-torment and deep, existential anxiety. If you are friends with a licensed therapist, you can put their phone number at the end of the book and work out some sort of deal for a portion of the profits!

7. We offer high-quality boxsprings at competitive prices!

Note: This is usually only used in home furnishing catalogues and the plays of Anton Chekov.

6. The President, it turns out, was a robot! But you are somehow his son?

If you can work in lasers and a monologue about the illusory nature of human consciousness, you are fucking golden.

5. Through good times and bad, the band kept rocking in the free world. Later, in 1988, they would reach their ultimate goal of putting out a moderately successful greatest hits album.

Congratulations! You have written a novel about the band Journey. Excellent titles for your novel would be "Any Way You Want It", "Neal and Steve's Crazy Idea That Just So Happened to Work", or "It Was All About the Journey". If you choose option three, you have successfully combined two literary devices/techniques!

4. While attempting suicide, the protagonist realized that he remembered where the money was. He wouldn't be going to prison after all!

The success of this device is totally dependent on the awesomeness of your protagonist's suicide-method-of-choice. No one wants to read a book that ends, "'Oh, duh,' thought Eugene, 'it's totally in my sock drawer!' And with that, he put the gun down and led a happy, full life." However, if Eugene has rigged himself up to some sort of highspeed train-bomb or--even better--if he has hurled himself into the cougar enclosure at the zoo, then you have a real pressure-cooker of a finale! Do that!

3. All of the main characters are actually cats.

Note: Do NOT under any circumstances disclose or make references to this fact prior to deploying the literary device. If on page 250 of "Cat Party: The Party That Was For Cats" you throw in a line like, "By the way, Ernst, Gabby, and Martinique are all shorthair tabbies," no one will care. But imagine how much better Crime and Punishment could have been!!!

2. You have chosen the wrong option and your Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel has ended in a fiery disaster.

It is very important that you don't rig the book to explode when your reader chooses the wrong option, however, no matter how much sense that might make to you. PS: If that makes sense to you, I'm totally with you! It's like, fuck you, dude--you make choices and you have to live with them. Sometimes, in a place called REAL LIFE, you can't just close the book when you have stumbled into the cave of an angry yeti. You are just screwed... yeti-style.

1. The secret/treasure/artifact was inside us all along.

Definitely the best literary device you can use. It makes the reader feel good, because maybe they can be a hero too, although, in all likelihood, they won't be. But it's like, hey... maybe you can just not work on self-betterment at all, and still, someday, the key to saving the universe will magically pop out of you. This works doubly well when your main character's love interest actually IS the artifact AND she has to be DESTROYED for the universe to be saved. WHOA! Conflict! But we'll save "conflict" for another list entirely...

No comments: