In this article, we're going to talk about ways that you can strengthen your story, give it depth, and make it that much more engaging for your readers. Think about it; the best books are those that you can completely get lost in, so let's look at a few ways you can do that for your story.

Literary Devices

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a technique a writer uses to produce a special effect in their writing

Metaphors

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Metaphors can be a great device to stress the importance of a certain aspect of your story, help your reader remember important plot points, or even add a little bit of lyricism to your writing. In some instances in literature, there are metaphors that even carry a large percentage of the weight in a story like the green light in The Great Gatsby.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.”
- As You Like It, William Shakespeare

Allusion

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I think there's something so beautiful in allusion. The fact that you can mention a pomegranate and your reader will think of Hades and Persephone without being explicit in your intentions. It's magical!

In my opinion, utilizing this device should be one of your greatest inspirations to read broadly and to be familiar with many of the common uses of allusion. These would be:

  • Biblical: apocalypse, garden of Eden, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, baptism, seven deadly sins, Lazarus
  • Mythology: Hades and Persephone, the Odyssey, Atlas, Prometheus, Aphrodite, Narcissus, fall of Icarus, Camelot, etc.
  • Historical: wars, Hitler, El Dorado, Uncle Sam, Great Depression, slavery, etc.
  • Literature: fairytales, famous classics, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

Foreshadow

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Foreshadowing is one of the hardest things to write, but I think it's also one of the most strengthening aspects you could add to a story. It gives the reader an almost eerie feeling when they realize, "wow... this thing has been hinted at for awhile now and I hadn't known." However, because most people will add major parts to their story as they are writing, this is something that usually makes its way into the work during the editing stages.

Characters

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In my opinion, characters can make or break your story. If you have an amazing story with subpar characters, your entire book will still feel like it's missing some depth.

Arcs

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Arc: the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story

Your characters should not be the same at the beginning of the book as they are at the end. That's boring. Your characters should learn something over the course of your story, or have something happen to them that causes them to undergo change. Now, this doesn't always mean that it has to be positive growth. Characters that go darker and darker as the story goes on still have changed. I like to draw an actual arc beside my characters before I start writing so I have an idea of where I'd like their morality, innocence, strength etc. is at any given part of my story.

Motivations

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The easiest way to make sure your characters are not stagnant is by constantly asking yourself what they want, and making every move they make either be towards getting that goal OR fighting the conflict that is keeping them from reaching the goal. This makes them interesting and relatable because we all have motivations that drive our decisions. It also gives your story a bit of logic and reasoning behind the actions of your characters rather than just a way to move the story along.

Flaws

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Important! No one wants to read about a perfect character. Make sure that they have flaws and make sure that they screw up. It makes the story interesting and also strengthens the tension of the story.

Foils

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Foil: a foil is a character who contrasts with another character, usually the protagonist, to highlight qualities of the other character.

I think it's also good to have foil characters especially for your main characters. It strengthens the positive aspects of your character and also their weaknesses. This, in turn, gives the story more layers. Make the characters compliment each other and highlight each other's negative and positive traits. That being said, minor characters can have/be foils as well.

Realism

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How fictional is too fictional? I personally think that the line can be stretched extremely far. Mermaids? Bring it on. Magic? The more the merrier. But when it comes to characters, I think that it gets a little more complex than that. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm completely aware that an 18-year-old wouldn't be the face of a rebellion (and yet we all still love Katniss Everdeen.) However, I do think that there are some parts of writing young characters that should remain realistic. If you are writing a teenager, they're going to be immature. They're going to react differently than an adult with many more years of life experience will. I think we owe it to our young readers to show that you can be strong and powerful while still being a child. I'd love to hear your opinions on this, so feel free to message me your thoughts!

Subplots

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There are many types of subplots that can be revolving around your main plot. These can include plotical unrest involving your fictional world, romantic subplots, even subplots involving other characters within the story. I think although this should not be your main area of focus, it should also be present in your story as it's not realistic for one thing to happen at once. This is also an excellent way to provide conflict in your story and obstacles that keep your main character from achieving what they want.

Balance

Comic Relief

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The first time I heard balance explained to me, it was by my grandfather and it stuck with me so much that I thought I'd share it with you all. He used Les Miserables as an example. This story is famously depressing. I mean, think about it. It's a super depressing time in history, everyone is dying, and it's overall just not a great time for any of the characters. All the characters seem to be just going through it, and then there's the Thénardiers that are just so ridiculous that you have to laugh at their antics. This is comic relief, and it's necessary for the story. If those characters weren't there, this story would be so dark that no one would want to read it.

Conflict

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Even if you have a lighthearted story, there needs to be some conflict. If not, it seems like each page will drag on an on without a point or a direction in which it's going. It's necessary to keep your pacing going.

How to Achieve It

Planning

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As I've mentioned in previous articles, I like to keep a journal for each work in progress that I have. I write out an outline and in little sections I will write out the best places to insert metaphors, foreshadows, irony, etc. Sometimes little ideas will come to you and you'll want to remember.

Time

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I've found that stories like these will take time to find themselves. You're not going to know every detail all at once. Be patient. It will come <3

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elodie iver
elodie iver
@authorelodie  
I hope you enjoyed this article! Feel free to message me with any requests, comments, or questions. Happy writing friends- el♡

This article was written by @authorelodie on the We Heart It Writers Team