November 8th, 2020 Writing

Better Creative Writing – 10 Most Common Literary Devices

Creative writing Literary devices and the 10 most commonly used literary devices

As a creative writer, you must captivate your reader’s attention and enhance their experience by providing ways to better understand the text. For this, creative writing experts use literary devices to help them evoke the admiration of the text and make their writing impressive.

What are the literary devices? and why do we need literary devices for creative writing?

Literary devices are tools used by the writers to better express their ideas and enhance their creative writing. These devices help highlight special concepts and ideas using text. As a result, it enhances the readers understanding of the text.

10 most common literary devices used in creative writing

  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Hyperbole
  • Imagery
  • Symbolism
  • Flashbacks
  • Foreshadowing
  • Motif
  • Allegory

Now let’s learn more about each literary devices.


A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things by highlighting the similarities. Similes use “like” and “as” to establish the similarity relationship. Whenever you see the use of “as” in a sentence, it is most likely a simile.

“The truck parked on the driveway was as big as an elephant.”
“Martha won the race. She was as fast as lightning.”
“Zak is a shy boy but as soon as he starts singing he is as brave as a lion.”

The purpose of a simile is to help paint the picture in the readers’ mind by comparing the characteristics with another well-known subject. For example, by comparing something with snow you help the reader imagine how white that thing is.


metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true but helps explain an idea or make a point. It states that one thing is another thing even when literally it is not.

A metaphor should not be confused with a simile. Both are ways to compare a subject with another thing. A metaphor states that the subject “is” another thing whereas a simile highlights the similarity.

“Martha’s new school English teacher is a dragon”
“When Evie’s mum returned from work, she found the children’s room was a war zone.”
“The next day of Christmas was amazing. The streets were covered with a white blanket of snow.”

The purpose of a metaphor is to paint striking images in the readers’ mind to help better express the ideas and to make the writing more effective.


Personification is when something non-human, object or animal, is given human-like qualities like yelling, howling, waving, crying etc. It’s a way of describing something as if it was a person to make the sentence sound more exciting.

“I could not get enough sleep as the wind was howling all night”
“My clock yelled at me in the morning and scared me to death”
“When we returned from a weekend holiday, the plants in the pots were begging for water”

The purpose of personification is to evoke human emotions for non-human things so that the readers can better connect to the things. It helps to convey ideas in a way that people can relate to.


The art of exaggerating or stretching the truth to express a feeling or idea even though literally it is not possible.


Imagery is a powerful sensory language technique that helps the reader imagine the world using descriptive details of the five senses i.e. tastetouchsightsmell, and sound. Imagery can also pertain to movement, emotions and feelings.

“We carefully held hands as we crawled through the prickly bushes surrounding us.”
“On our way back to the camp site we saw a black bear standing 8 feet tall with claws clamped on the trunk of a tree.”
“The repulsive sweaty odour of his workout clothes made it difficult to continue the conversation.”

The purpose of imagery is to bring the writing to life, create the mood, help the reader visualise the imaginary world and make the reader feel like they are part of the experience that the author has created.


The symbolism is the use of symbols to depict deeper meanings and qualities. Like, dove is the symbol of peace, black is the symbol of evil. Most symbols are not universal and may be used to signify different ideas and qualities. Like, the colour white can be used to signify death in one context and purity in another context.

“A river of red flowed through the battle ground”
“Everyone was asked to dress in white at the funeral of the famous Bollywood actor.”

The purpose of symbolism is to signify ideas and qualities that are different from their literal sense.


Flashbacks are used to introduce the past events. It is either used to introduce events that happened before the story or to reflect on the events that happened earlier in the story.

“As she fastened the seat belt, she remembered the time when she fell off of the top of a slide in her childhood.”

The purpose of a flashback is to convey to the reader some information about the characters background or the motives for the existing conflicts in the story.


Foreshadowing is the technique used by writers to inform their readers about an event that has to happen later in the story. It is a hint to what is going to happen later in the story.

“Parents who recently moved to San Fransisco, reassures their daughter that everything at her new school is going to be fine.” – foreshadows that something might happen at the school.
“The main character always looks worried and careful when going out” – foreshadows of something bad happening later and keeps the readers thinking of what may happen later.

The purpose of the foreshadowing is to help readers develop some expectations from the story or build suspense.


A motif is a recurring pattern or an idea that repeats in the story to reinforce the theme.

In the Harry Potter movie, Harry’s scar is highlighted multiple times throughout the story.

The purpose of a motif is to reinforce the core theme and remind the readers of what the whole idea of the story is about.


An allegory is a literary device to express deeper meaning, concept or a hidden idea. In other words, it is a type of writing that speaks to imply a different idea that represents a larger point about human nature or society.

In Animal Farm by George Orwell, the author shows how animals fight for equality which mirrors the Russian revolution of 1917 is a good example of allegory.

The purpose of the allegory is the make the reader understand a deeper concept that is not directly represented in the surface story. Like, you can use allegory to express the pain and suffering experienced by the characters without explicitly talking about it.

Join Our 11+ Creative Writing Course and Master the Literary Devices

Master the use of literary devices in your creative writing and know when to use them. Too less use would be an injustice to your writing and too much use can result in melodramatic text.

More reading

Examples of allegory
BBC Bitesize – What is symbolism
Rhetorical Devices – 10 most common rhetorical devices

KS1, KS2, SATS & 11+ Practice
A modern app with research based learning techniques to enhance the experience and retention of the information.