You also know them as literary devices. And the list goes on for quite a ways. I love reading books that use them well. The problem is, there’s been a real dearth of them as of late – at least in the stories I’ve been reading.
I’m not talking about short stories; after all, it’s rather difficult to use too many of them without it being overwhelming. But I expect them in full-length novels. Again, as I’ve stated previously in other posts, this goes right along with my appreciation of a work that challenges my intellect – or at least keeps me on my toes by not being so linear and obvious.
So why doesn’t everyone use these gems nowadays? Have we really gotten away from the classic era of literature where it was commonplace to find such usage?
Not a slam on any particular author, but as a general observation, it appears that most don’t like to use them because…well, they just don’t structure their stories that well. More attention is paid to telling the story than structuring the overall flow with the help of some well-placed devices. Not that focusing on story telling is a bad thing, but I feel that the depth of a story suffers without the proper usage of them.
That’s also not to say that there aren’t authors that don’t use them in the modern era. There are some out there that craft their stories using them at just the right time – enough to put it in the mind of the reader for later retrieval. You know the feeling, the ‘ah! I knew something was up when…’.
I suppose an argument could be made for the lack of usage as simply that many don’t use them well, or just don’t have a good grasp on how they can be used properly. It is true that poor usage actually takes away from the story. A road bump, if you will. Something that catches the reader’s eye and disrupts the flow of the story – so much that the reader is put off by it.
I think another argument (and this is my own personal opinion based on observation as of late) is that a lot of authors focus on word count. I cringe every time hear someone say that they ‘forced’ themselves to write 1000, 2000, even 3000 words in one sitting. Maybe if you’re Stephen King, you can get away with that – pretty much everything that comes from that guy’s mind is gold – but that’s not usually the case. So my guess here is that because the author is focused on just getting out as many words as possible in one day, that they lack the attention to detail that literary devices require. Me personally – I’ve always been of the opinion that if you tell the story, and structure it well, the word count will come naturally. If you force the word count, the story suffers, and you’re left with a sense that the author wandered…a lot.
So what can be done about this? I don’t believe we’ve moved out of the classical era, and I think we can enrich the literary world with works of fiction that use them (appropriately, of course) to tell a deep, rich story. Focus on structuring your work (again, unless you are one of those types of authors that can just write a story ad hoc without worry of structure) and step out of your comfort zone – try using one of the devices.
Once you get comfortable using them in the right way, you’ll be appreciative of how it adds an additional dimension to your storytelling.