9 Ways To Write With Literary Flair

9 Ways To Write With Literary Flair


Do you write in a crisp tone using plain language at all times? Are you looking for a change? In this post, the author suggests nine ways to write with literary flair.

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Do you grow heartsick every time someone compliments you for your ‘breezy, workmanlike prose’ — your ‘eminent readability’?

Fear not.

I’ve done the legwork for you and collected this list of literary techniques employed by the contemporary luminaries of fiction. Whether you wish to capture the spare, muscular minimalism of Carver, or the edgy, evocative maximalism of Pynchon— there’s something here for writers of every disposition.

This is a delightful little grab-bag of tricks, ready-made for you to sprinkle across your writing as liberally as you choose. Hybridise, if you wish. We live in an age when ‘nothing is out, and everything is in’.

To heck with tonal consistency or compatibility: why not see if you can sew together a Frankenstein’s prose-monster that’s equal parts Faulkner and Hemingway?

Ready? Let’s get to it.

9 Ways To Write With Literary Flair

1.) Archaism: outmoded diction, syntax, or both.

Stylistic origins: Minimalism
Famed practitioner: Cormac McCarthy
Example: For by his use of the King James’ idiom shall ye know the truly serious writer.
When to use it: Anytime you wish to alert the reader to the majesty— the sublimity— of a moment in your story, archaise.

2.) Extensive use of figurative language: multiple metaphors or similes strung together in quick succession.

Stylistic origins: Maximalism
Famed practitioner: Annie Proulx
Example: The cast stone tap-tap-tap-danced across the pond’s mirrored surface, pirouetting with every leap, and finally sunk like a millstone tied around the neck of a ballerina who’d run afoul of the mafia.
When to use it: Use this technique to amplify an otherwise mundane character, action, or setting.

3.) Fragments: Telegram-like omission of pronouns and articles.

Stylistic origins: Minimalism
Famed practitioner: also Annie Proulx
Example: Worked multiple odd jobs throughout college. Read. Wrote. Read and wrote some more. Ate too little. Drank too much. Never slept.
When to use it: Worried that your thrilling prose might slacken during moments of necessary exposition? Enliven it with some impressionistic fragments.

4.) Jargon: arcane, esoteric words and phrases.

Stylistic origins: Maximalism
Famed practitioner: Michael Chabon
Example: Even the ontological origins of her art in simulacra couldn’t dissuade her from seeking in it a potent, emotionally resonant form of self-individuation.
When to use it: If you fear the reader might be growing too comfortable with your style, shock them out of the story with the bold use of jargon.

5.) Listing: an overwhelming list of items in lieu of carefully selected details.

Stylistic origins: Maximalism
Famed practitioner: Don DeLillo
Example: The pub was packed with burgermeisters, barflies, sots, gluttons, tarts, and minors smoking, drinking, eating, flirting, shooting pool, throwing darts, and crying in corners.
When to use it: Don’t want to take the time to really set the scene? Just list a bunch of random details to create a sense of panoramic sweep.

6.) Modification of every syntactic slot: Modify the subject, verb, and object, each with their own clause.

Stylistic origins: Maximalism
Famed practitioner: David Guterson
Example: The professor, her hair a grey helmet framing her pinched face, strode stiffly, like a creaky automaton, joints long overdue for a good oiling, into the cinderblock and cracked linoleum classroom, lit intermittently by flickering, buzzing halogen lights.
When to use it: Ditto the section on figurative language.

7.) Polysyndeton: Repetition of the word ‘and.’

Stylistic origins: Minimalism
Famed practitioner: Paul Auster
Example: And he rose before the dawn and he showered and he shaved and he donned his best suit and he drove to work as the rest of the world was still only yawning and stretching.
When to use it: Raise the quotidian moments in your story to a more writerly pitch with this revered, biblical technique.

8.) Stream-of-consciousness: unfiltered, unpunctuated interior experience of the point-of-view character.

Stylistic origins: Maximalism
Famed practitioner: George Saunders
Example: he was really getting going now hey watch him go head bobbing like a pigeons legs wobbling like who knows what if only sara could see him now under the black light the disco ball fragmenting specks that pockmarked the room with bullet holes of light like tommy gun fire the beat four on the floor pulsing through the speakers into his chest rattling his molars
When to use it: Sharing interiority directly via italics or through free indirect speech is too obvious; try this method instead.

9.) Tautology: restating the same thing using synonyms, or alternative phrasing.

Stylistic origins: Maximalism
Famed practitioner: Really— what self-respecting literary author doesn’t use this technique?
Example: His dog, his best friend, canis familiaris, trotted after him, plodding along, tail tucked, abashed, ashamed of himself.
When to use it: Worried the reader didn’t grasp your meaning the first time around? Say the same thing again in a slightly different way. Crack open that thesaurus and use every synonym for maximum accumulation of meaning. Because, remember, there really is no such thing as a synonym.

And that’s it. Use these tried and true techniques at every opportunity and you’re guaranteed to catch the attention of the literati.

 by Oliver Fox

Oliver was raised on fairy tales, mythology, and tall tales told at family gatherings. He was so in love with stories that he wrote, illustrated and bound his first book at age 6. From age 12 on he filled countless journals with terrible, angsty poetry. Currently, he is an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans remote program and he works as an editorial assistant at The Spun Yarn. Follow him on Facebook.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Kathy Brown

    This was a hoot—beginning writers, although we are urged to study the masters, cannot emulate them, if we expect to sell anything.

  2. Avuyile Pikelela

    This could really help me out. Considering the fact that I really like writing. To be more precise, I am already working on something, but I get awfully scared sometimes and feel like I’ll never make it as a writer. I’ll sure use these.

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