5 Essential Literary Devices You Need In Your Book

No matter in which genre you’re writing, there are certain literary devices writers employ to create complexity within their story. While you don’t need to find a place for one in every scene, you should be thinking about how and where you can add bits and pieces to deepen the story and character developments.


Foreshadowing is when authors hint at what’s to come, without just coming right out and saying it. Without spelling it out for the reader. Foreshadowing is often used to create suspense and up the tension within the story, but it should leave the reader with enough unanswered questions—with enough intrigue—to make them keep reading.


Unlike some other, lesser used literary devices, metaphors are heavily used in all types of fiction. They’re so common, you’re unlikely to find a novel that doesn’t have one. Metaphors make sense of things that might otherwise be a little abstract. They help the reader better visualize and understand things, by comparing the commonalities of two otherwise unlike objects or things.


Flashbacks can perfectly stitch together present and past, when used well. They can build suspense towards future scenes, offer background and context surrounding a scene or character, and can be an intriguing way to present exposition without showing too much too soon. But as with any literary device, they need to both answer and ask questions about your characters and journey. They need to explain something and drum up new questions for your characters—and readers—to wonder about.


Symbolism is often used in literary to represent otherwise abstract concepts within a story. By using symbols or symbolism, authors can create something tangible out of something that’s otherwise just an underlying motif. Themes can fly under the radar, but by using symbols and symbolism throughout your story, you can express your themes in a way that is both relevant to your story and isn’t expressly in-your-face.


In writing, the tone is the perspective or attitude of the story, whether that be in regard to a specific character—often the protagonist—place or certain plot development. Because it can range from happy to sad, from grave to heavenly, it’s critical to pay close attention to the writing within each scene to ensure the tone you set for each chapter or scene directly correlates to the feelings, emotions, or influence you want to show your reader. Tone helps your readers understand your story and the motives and inspirations behind your character’s decisions.

Which are your favorite literary devices to use? Tell us about your most and least favorites and why!