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Incorporating Figurative Language in Prose

One of the qualities of truly rich and enjoyable prose—language that you can bite off and chew—includes figurative devices.

There is so much more to telling a story than describing events.  Especially when romance is involved.  Reading a book is not about absorbing words and hearing a story.  A good storyteller conveys their story by having their reader experience events.  Even description of a landscape becomes a totally different animal when figurative language is involved.  To wit:

“The long grass blew in the breeze and the lake’s surfaced shimmered in the distance.”


“Emerald fields danced in the breeze and diamonds glimmered on the surface of the water.”

Prose that employs figurative language, such as personification, metaphor, simile, and alliteration, is rich and thick and can be savored.  Not only is the language more appreciable, but the telling of the story itself comes across much more powerfully.

The best way to do this?  Read and write poetry!   It is compact, figurative.  It is the literary equivalent of a snapshot.  But not only does it provide a visual. Poetry packs a punch emotionally as well.

For figurative language I highly suggest the Metaphysical poets like John Donne,  or, later, the poems of  Gerard Manley Hopkins, and still later, T.S. Eliot, the figurative master.  They are difficult to understand, but they stack a lot of visuals on top of each other, each one quicker than the last.  Read them, study them.  Read them aloud and savor the sound of the language on your tongue.

Try your hand at a few poems.  For practice, take the theme of your novel and write a poem about it.  Then write a poem for both your hero and your heroine.  Lastly, write a poem about your setting.

When you get back t o your work-in-progress, you will be able to draw upon the phrasing from those poems to start layering more figurative language in your prose.

Here are links to some online resources about improving your figurative language in writing:

Examples of Figurative Speech in the Poems of Robert Frost

Metaphors, Similes and Personification

Using Figurative Language 

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