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Boost Your Stories with these Literary Devices 4.6/5 (5)



You have stories in your mind and your English is good. You have written quite a few stories that have been liked by your relatives and friends. But a simple linear tale may not be what the readers out there will be interested in. Your narrative has to be engaging so that you can keep the readers glued to your story till the end.

You will be amazed at how tweaking your story will make it more interesting. With some practice, you will be able to write like any professional writer wowing the readers.

Literary devices are what distinguishes a story written by a master or an amateur. Here is a list, not in any particular order, of a few literary devices that you can use. The list also includes some Literary Elements of fiction writing.



Many reviewers would suggest that the story should have had some Backstory about the characters. A back story helps readers to understand a character better. It also explains why a character is doing what it is shown to be doing.  Backstory helps in adding depth and credibility to the story. 

Always remember that a Backstory is about events that precede the main story and lead up to the events that occur in the main story. Backstories can be revealed in bits and pieces as well as in full. You can have backstory anywhere in the narrative where you think it will be most effective, fitting in the context of a character’s description or action. When you reveal it in full, it might take the form of a Flashback. Ascertain if it helps the story or drags it down.

Sometimes there may be so much of material in the Backstory that it may turn out to be an independent work, and become a ‘Prequel’.  Incidentally, Harry Potter stories are full of Backstory that makes them more interesting and offers the readers a rationale for the character’s behavior and actions.



 Diction implies the speaking style of the narrator or characters in the story. It comprises of word choices, phrases and the way sentences are constructed. Diction is very important to make the story appear authentic. Moreover, the Tone is conveyed and rides on the Diction.

Dicken’s ‘Great Expectations’ and Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ provide classic examples of how to use Diction effectively to bring alive the characters in a story or novel.



 This is when a character comes to know something suddenly. Do you remember any such moments in a story?  A typical example is when the detective notices something and smiles to no one in particular!! Epiphany is the moment which if well-written makes the readers exclaim in delight, “Ahaa !!!”

One of the most epiphanic moments I experienced was decades ago when watching the movie ‘Parindey’. A character reveals to Nana Patekar, the antagonist, who has been bumping off his henchmen, and his face lights up with epiphany as he smiles to himself knowingly!!



While narrating the story, when you go back in time to provide some background, it is called a Flashback. The idea is to present some incidence or events that have occurred in the past that has a great impact on the present. These often come as an interruption in the linear narrative of the story. This is to give more information, especially the background information about the story and the characters. This helps the readers to understand and appreciate the story better. 

Sometimes the entire story is in flashback, with the opening and concluding scene set in the present time. There have been several successful movies that employed this technique. Think of a few to help you grasp how powerful this device is.



Foil is a technique of characterization, where a side character who is not the Antagonist, has several attributes and values that contrasts with the main character’s. The idea is to emphasize the main character’s attributes and provide a comparison in the minds of the readers.,

The character who is the Foil will share some similarities or backgrounds, yet they may differ in ideas and actions under the same or similar situations. Harry Potter stories have a lot of characters that are Foil to other prominent characters.



You must have come across this word several times. The reviews will often mention this, or the lack of it. Foreshadowing is a technique wherein the writer hints at what may happen in the future. The clues may be subtle but the events that are hinted may be very impactful. 

It can be something as simple and short as, “It never occurred to her that it would be their last meeting.” You might miss this sentence, which may often come at the end of a paragraph. If you have noticed it – the particular statement, sentence or comment- then you will know that although no information or details are there but it portends that something big is going to happen. It is like the Hindi phrase, ‘Jor ka jhatka, dheerey se lagey’ or the big jolt that sneaks up quietly !!!

A good writer will use “show, don’t tell” to make you read further with renewed interest and anticipation. Sometimes, the Foreshadowing hints may be so subtle that these are almost invisible. The readers only realize the foreshadowing at the end of the story, or when the ‘big reveal’ has taken place. This usually happens in Thrillers or Detective stories. Foreshadowing can also be done through a description of certain symbolic events that happen. 


Frame Narrative

This refers to the technique of ‘story within a story’. In this technique, the main narrative or the main story is being narrated, remembered or told through someone who is not in the main narrative but outside it.

It is very popular in films and the iconic films like ‘Deewar’, ‘Shakti’, ‘Titanic’ used this technique. You will easily recall scores of films that used the Frame Narrative Technique. 

Read my story where the narrator recalls the story of the protagonist.

A Sordid Life

Remember that Frame Narrative is a narrative style, and not a component or element of the story. Do not confuse it with a Flashback, where the readers are taken back in time; or a Backstory, where the readers come to know the background of the characters and events chronologically preceding the main story.



The Mood is something very important which pervades the entire narrative. It provides the overall feeling that the readers should experience. The general atmosphere is brought about by careful use of words, phrases, setting, dialogues, and descriptions in the narrative.

If you are writing a grim sad story, you should be able to create the mood that you want the readers to feel. A light-hearted romantic story will have an entirely different mood; so will a detective thriller. A horror story will have a chilling and scary mood.

Read the classic stories and novels and feel the mood that the writer wanted to convey. You will be amazed at the fact that you did feel the mood but never noticed it. This is the hallmark of a good writer – create the mood without making it too obvious.


Red Herring

Red Herring is a stock device in Detective Thrillers and Whodunits. Here you take the minds of the reader away from the actual antagonist or the murderer and make them go off track by focusing on the usual suspects.

A red herring is a very powerful tool and gives the readers the feeling of the carpet being pulled at the last moment. In short stories, it often provides the twist at the end or the sting in the tail/tale. Again, think of Harry Potter and you will realize how Red Herrings have been used effectively to keep the excitement running high.



Tone reflects the writer’s or narrator’s attitude towards a subject or an event in the story. While Mood is something that a writer creates to let the readers feel the atmosphere of the story, the Tone is something entirely different. 

You may narrate a story and the events, but how – using the words and phrases – you are narrating it, is what Tone is all about. The tone of a story may be distant or unemotional. Many good writers narrate exceptional stories without the narrator getting emotionally involved with the subject or the leading characters.

A reader may not agree or concur with the tone of the narrator or the writer. His viewpoint or feelings may totally contrast with the writer. But that is a deliberate attempt and the idea is to provoke the reader to think on his own, rather than simply follow what the writer wants to covey.

In a much critically acclaimed and Sahitya Akademi award-winning anthology, the writer has two stories, one was on the exploitation of poor women. The writer describes the sexually-explicit scenes without any emotion or being judgmental. He simply states the event in a non-participatory, un-emotional and detached manner.

If you read these two short stories of about a thousand words, published earlier in ArtoonsInn, you will find how the narrator simply states his observation in a clinical manner without getting emotionally involved. The idea is to let the reader feel the impact on his own without influencing his feelings.

Read my stories here:

The Well-Being

A Sordid Life

Hope you have now grasped what is Tone and how important it is in the narrative of the story. However, it is recommended that you do not experiment in the initial phase of your writing career. A Tone can be very dicey and you should attempt to maintain the Tone in a manner that suits the narrative and is compatible with the plot, setting and the mood of the story. The idea should be to enhances the reader’s reading experience

There are several more Literary Devices and Literary Elements, a few of which are very interesting and exciting like Deus ex machina, Chekhov’s gun, Unreliable narrator, The Shaggy Dog story, etc., but more about them later. Meanwhile, keep writing!



Thanks for reading.

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