Ever wondered why some books are so powerful that you can’t put them down?
Have you ever asked yourself what that secret sauce is that keeps you turning pages?
Did you ever fall in love with a story so much you wish the book hadn’t ended?
Well, it’s more than just the story that gets you turning pages. Chances are, the author has used a range of writing techniques to keep your interest piqued.
Today, we’ll show you how you can bring your writing to life and get your readers gasping for more. We’ll also explore how you can learn from your favorite writers and we’ll outline the storytelling techniques they use to create suspense and intrigue.
What Is a Writing Technique?
A writing technique is a way of writing that effectively creates meaning for an audience. Writing techniques are a way of getting your message across without explicitly stating it.
An analogy of writing techniques is to compare them with painting techniques. A painter can experiment with different media to see which best fits their subject. Say they’re creating an image of a mountain scene. What parts will they include? Which parts will they emphasize? What media will they use? Are oil paints most appropriate or perhaps acrylic and pastels?
Writing techniques work in the same way. Using everyday language is dull. Spice things up with imagery and play with the way words sound. By mixing things up, you can make people sit up and take notice of what you’re saying.
If you’re trying to describe an innate object or highlight an important point, writing techniques are a powerful way of creating word-pictures in your reader’s mind. The idea is to get your reader to visualize the idea or point in the manner you intend.
A painter chooses their colors and composition carefully to convey mood and emotions. With writing, it’s the same principle but instead of choosing the correct type of paint or colors, you’re using writing techniques instead.
Benefits of Using a Variety of Writing Techniques
Creativity is an innate skill that we all possess but cannot be meaningfully taught. That said, if you can learn to apply some writing techniques, you can better harness that creativity.
Incorporating different writing techniques in your content is the first step to transform your writing from good to great.
Writing techniques enable a writer to exaggerate, compare, highlight, and persuade. You can engage your readers to read right to the end of a piece of writing if you use the right techniques to get your point across.
If your writing lacks that secret sauce, your prose is likely to send a reader into a coma. To pique interest in your writing, experiment with different writing techniques in the same way that a painter might try out different angles, paints, and brush strokes.
The aim of using writing techniques, then, is simple. You want to bring your words to life so they appear to pop off the page and into the mind of your readers.
Effective writing techniques will transform an otherwise pedestrian text into something much more memorable. Engaging content needs to pull your reader in and writing techniques serve a valuable role here.
We’ll break down a range of usable techniques with some clear example and exercises so you can start livening up your prose right away.
5 Writing Techniques That Will Spice Up Your Content
The following 5 techniques are wordsmith dynamite that’ll improve your writing a million times over if properly employed.
So, sit back, relax and get ready to learn some literary hacks so you get your readers to sit up and straighten their backs – see what I did there?
Similes and Metaphors
Similes and metaphors breathe life into ideas and subjects by way of comparisons.
A simile is a figure of speech that uses a comparison to make a particular point using the form:
as – adjective – as
If you want to say something is useless, you could describe it as being “as useful as a chocolate teapot.” With similes, you are making figurative comparisons that aren’t to be taken literally. Similes bring words to life so they jump off the page and into your imagination.
Here are some examples:
- As happy as a pig in muck.
- As dull as dishwater.
- As dry as a bone.
- As innocent as an angel.
You can easily see the comparative language being used here to describe two very different objects and highlight a similarity. Properly executed, similes add clarity, meaning, and emotion to your writing.
Try completing these following sentences to practice creating basic similes:
- As hungry as…
- As desperate as…
- As exhausting…
- As fast as…
Now try completing these:
As _______ as a lion.
As _______ as an Olympic runner.
As _______ as an old donkey.
As________ as chimney smoke on a windy day.
If you’re struggling, try brainstorming as many problems as you can that are related to those words. For example, if you’re trying to create a simile to describe hunger, try to think of things that eat a lot or that are desperate for food. Think about animals like vultures and pigs. If you say ‘as hungry as a bear’, it triggers the image of a ravenous wild beast destroying anything in its path on the trail of food.
Creating striking similes requires you to think deeply. Let’s look at how you can transform standard-issue similes into more engaging and creative ones.
Let’s take a basic simile like “the night was as dark as coal.”
This is a solid simile but it’s a little predictive. We know that night is dark and coal is the default descriptor. To seize the interest of your reader, the simile needs to surprise them and must also evoke the correct mood.
To improve “the night was as dark as coal”, we could try spicing it up with “the darkness of the night was still as a lake.” Here, you assume that the reader knows what darkness is then go on to describe the quality of the darkness, which is its stillness. The stillness has a mildly threatening feel. This is compounded by comparing it with a lake. Lakes are typically cold, deep, dark, and dangerous.
How about if you want to convey the threatening or foreboding aspect of a dark night? Well, you could ratchet things up by using a simile combined with personification – more on that below.
‘The darkness of the night was so still that it swallowed me up like a lake so I felt cold and alone.’
Here, the sentence doesn’t state the obvious but instead attributes human characteristics to the darkness to evoke a dark, threatening mood. The reader feels the coldness, darkness, and loneliness of the night swallowing them up. The end of the sentence tells us how the darkness makes the writer feel: ‘cold and alone.’
As you can see, the more information you pack into a simile, the more powerful it becomes.
Many get confused with the difference between a simile and a metaphor.
Both similes and metaphors use comparison. You can spot a simile from the words “like” and “as”. A metaphor, on the other hand, is when two things are compared without specifics. For example, you could say “life is like a box of chocolates” to form a simile. But you could also employ “life is a box of chocolates” as a metaphor.
Metaphors typically use variations of the verb “be”: is, was, are, were.
We’ll illustrate this by example…
Let’s start with the simile “as sly as a fox.” To turn the simile into a metaphor, we remove the comparison words “like” and “as”, and use the reference literally: “He is a sly fox.” When referring to a person, we obviously don’t mean that he has four legs and red fur. We are referring to their personality by likening them to a cunning fox.
Other examples of metaphors include:
- It’s raining cats and dogs.
- A sandwich short of a picnic.
- They swam in a sea of diamonds.
- A heart of gold.
Use metaphors liberally to make your writing more engaging. When you’re writing, use comparisons as often as possible. If you’re describing a girl brushing her hair, maybe the way she handles the brush reminds you of a queen preparing for bedtime? Or perhaps she takes less care and uses the brush to barely skim her hair. In this case, we could think of metaphors to convey carelessness.
Personification is where you lend human characteristics to an inanimate object. For example, you could say:
- The pouring rain cried through the night.
- The old car groaned up the steep hill.
- The beautiful flowers danced in the mountain meadow.
These are all examples of personification not to be taken literally. Flowers don’t dance and a car doesn’t groan. We all know this but we also clearly understand what is implied here. We know that flowers don’t have legs and we know that flowers can’t dance. But, if we said instead that the ‘flowers moved in the wind,’ it sounds rather flat and uninteresting. A simple change to “the flowers danced in the wind” ensures the image becomes more alive in the mind of your readers.
Personification is heavily used in many types of writing, particularly poetry. Poets rely on strong imagery to appeal to the imagination of the reader.
Personification not only brings imagery to life in a more engaging way, it also helps to unify a poem’s central theme. For example, in the poem Mirror by Sylvia Plath, the whole story is related from the point of view of a mirror.
Again, we know a mirror doesn’t have eyes, thoughts, opinions, or feelings. In Sylvia Plath’s poem it does so the reader suspends their disbelief and takes this narrative at face value.
In this poem, the mirror is described wholly with human characteristics, “I have no preconceptions” and “whatever you see, I swallow immediately” are not words you would instinctively associate with a mirror.
We know mirrors do not have emotions, we know they don’t meditate. This writing technique is so effective that it helps the reader conjure up the image of a stationary mirror that almost flickers when someone uses it, ‘but it flickers, faces and darkness separate us over and over.’ Words are powerful.
The general mood of the poem is one of isolation and loneliness. Perhaps Sylvia Plath is trying to convey her own isolation, which is “reflected” when she looks in the mirror.
To break it down further, you can use a verb you normally apply to humans or living things for inanimate objects.
Here’s a list of verbs you can refer to when creating imagery. Try applying them to some regular objects around your home to practice.
To practice personification, try spicing up these rather dry sentences to liven them up. Feel free to use your own verbs or use a thesaurus to find alternative words.
- The candle flickered in the dark.
- The lorry drove along the freeway.
- The thunder made a loud rumbling noise.
- The kettle boiled.
- The grass grew.
Like Sylvia Plath, try writing a poem or short story from the perspective on an inanimate object. Perhaps there’s a picture on your wall that seems to watch you in the room. Try imagining the picture as a spectator in your home. What does it feel? What does it think?
Try writing some short pieces using the suggestions above to practice describing objects in more engaging and creative ways.
The word alliteration comes from the Latin word littera (letter of the alphabet).
Alliteration is a way of making writing more entertaining by rhyming consonants when two or more words in a sentence begin with the same consonant.
This creative writing technique imparts a kind of musical rhythm to your written text. Alliteration can help you create a certain atmosphere or mood.
Examples of alliteration include:
- Busy as a bee
- Dead as a doornail
- Good as gold
- Many moons
Alliteration is used all the time. When you’re reading or listening to music, identify examples of alliteration. It’s used in rap, slogans, and poetry all the time. Tongue twisters are an excellent illustration of alliteration. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled Pepper” is perhaps the most well-known example.
For example, in Rakim’s song, Follow The Leader, he raps, “Music mixed mellow maintains to make melodies for MCs motivates the breaks.” Quite a mouthful and quite a commanding statement.
Alliteration is a classic device used in poetry. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, and the forrow followed free.” The repeating sounds in “breeze flew” and “foam flew” make the sounds work together to form a rhythm. This, in turn, further engages the interest of the reader.
Try writing a rap song about a subject of your choice making sure you focus on alliteration. You don’t have to stick with one consonant. Feel free to mix and match. Try putting on some music and performing your skit with a friend. This exercise will certainly get your creativity flowing and it should give you a giggle, too.
If you know Dr. Zeus’s story of The Cat in The Hat, you already know what assonance is.
You use assonance when you rhyme words with similar-sounding vowels in a sentence. Think of the film My Fair Lady when Eliza Doolittle is trained to talk properly: “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.”
Assonance helps to engage a reader in a piece of text. It imparts a rhythm into a sentence that focuses the reader’s attention on particular words.
Assonance, then, is a way of flagging the reader’s attention to certain words without saying, “Hey, look at these words, they are really important for you to understand this sentence.”
Assonance is peppered throughout song and rap lyrics. Think about, “floating down, the sound resounds around the icy waters underground” from Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine.
Or how about Public Enemy in Don’t Believe The Hype: “I’m like an addict reeling for static, I see the tape recorder and I grab it, no you can’t have it back, silly rabbit.”
You can see how “static,” “grab it” and “silly rabbit” rhyme. When we hear those words in the song, our ears pick up on these words and they act as an anchor on which to attach meaning.
Write a poem or a short story using assonance. Remember that assonance is used to emphasize the importance of certain words.
Don’t go over the top, though. The whole passage doesn’t have to rhyme, just the most important sections. Thinking of going OTT…
Hyperbole is an exaggerative technique used to emphasize meaning, to persuade someone of something, or to add humor. You might say to someone, “My bag weighs a ton.” Of course, if your bag literally weighed a ton, you wouldn’t be able to lift it. It’s a way of implying that your bag is excessively heavy.
Other ways of using hyperbole could include, “I had to wait forever to wait for my train” when in fact you waited for ten minutes.
“I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse” is a hyperbolic way of saying you could use some food while, “My feet are killing me” is shorthand for a hard day and not indicative of looming death.
Hyperbole is commonly used in advertising and throughout the media. You might see on the front cover of a woman’s magazine “The best summer shoes ever” or website pop-ups promising “The best deals on sports shoes, period.”
Exaggeration builds intensity in a text as well as crafting a sense of urgency. Authors use hyperbole to exaggerate the personality of their characters so they come alive on the page.
The story of Johnny Appleseed made apples popular back in the 1800s. Johnny was based on a real person. A committed philanthropist, Johnny Appleseed was reported to walk in bare feet having donated his shoes to someone in need. The story goes that his feet were so tough that he survived a snake bite to his foot. This is a way of using hyperbole to say how selfless he was rather than how physically tough his feet were.
Hyperbole is a way of suggesting something without explicitly stating it. By describing a person’s characteristics, you make an inference about their character.
In advertising, hyperbole is used constantly to prod people to buy. Hyperbole creates urgency, or at least a sense of urgency.
Look at an Altoids slogan, for example: “Mints so strong they come in a metal tin.” The metal tin isn’t really needed because of the strength of the mints. That doesn’t stop the advertiser using the image of solid metal to convey the powerful taste of the mints inside.
Practice hyperbole by writing ten magazine or newspaper cover headlines. Remember, headlines are the most vital aspect of publishing content and need to grab a reader’s attention. Consider your headline as performing one job only: to get your reader to read the next line. Using exaggeration techniques that appeal to a reader’s need is a surefire way to get them buying a magazine or clicking a link.
Some Final Thoughts
Now you know some tips and tricks for creating engaging content and improving your writing, it’s over to you.
Improving your writing is a work-in-progress. A lot can be learned from reading other authors and content writers. Keep an eye out for the way they use similes, metaphors, and hyperbole. As you keep researching your favorite writers, start to consciously incorporate those techniques into your own work.
Remember, you don’t want to copy the work of others. Treat it as inspiration. As they say in the art world, nothing is original any longer. Dig deeper and you’ll fine things are always inspired by someone or something else. The key is to add your own flavor and stamp your prose with your own creative fingerprint.
Get writing and start using these techniques to get your content to rock more than an Iron Maiden concert!