Writer’s Toys is a series of blogs outlining a bunch of different literary devices. I’m writing it as much for my benefit as yours – while I know I use some of these things, I have no idea what they are!! I’m hoping to educate both of us, so we can use these devices on purpose and with purpose. This thing called writing is much more complicated than you could ever imagine!
Dull as dishwater.
All of the above use alliteration. It’s the technique of using the same sound at the beginning of a number of words. It is used to emphasise, to distinguish, to create mood and rhythm.
As a prose writer (rather than a poet), alliteration is used most often to comic effect.
Book titles, and newspaper articles use alliteration to gain interest.
Note that it’s not the written letters that need to be the same – it is the sounds of them. So you can use “ph” and “f” or even “th” in a pinch to create alliteration in your work.
A few awesome examples:
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. I will admit to being a massive EAP fan, and The Raven is equally creepy and such a great example of alliteration, I couldn’t help but give you the first stanza:
Can you see where alliteration has been used? weak and weary; While I nodded, nearly napping.
(There are quite a few other literary devices used here as well, which I hope to cover in future blogs… stay tuned!)
OK, so for the novel writer? Alliteration would mostly be used for comedy. But don’t go too crazy with it, because all that will happen is you will come across as a know it all douchebag. Sprinkle it across your comedic novel – maybe give a character the gift of alliteration. Use it to create mood and feeling – think about how the ‘s’ in ‘precious’ was used to good effect by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings, where Gollum’s words sounded snake-like, chilling and a little bit insane.
How have you used alliteration in your writing? Can you think of any good examples? Feel free to post them – folks learning about alliteration will love you for it!