Your heart knows the words you want to put on the page. But do you know how to make your poetry and prose truly stand out? You need to use the right literary techniques to capture your audience’s attention and keep them riveted through to the end. Ready to make that happen? Here are five smart tactics to use in making your poetry pop and sizzle.
Meter is one of the first things you learn when studying how to write poetry, and for good reason. The meter you choose determines how the words make your reader feel as they move from line to line.
The iambic pentameter, for example, leads the readers through a series of five stressed/unstressed syllable pairs. This meter was popular with William Shakespeare and is exactly why ‘Sonnet 18’ is so magical.
Experiment with all the different types of meters to find the ones that sharpen the words in each line of your poem. Beyond the iambic metrical style, your options include anapest, trochee, and dactyl.
As you write your poem, your words naturally invoke a certain mood, helping bring even more meaning to your prose. If you want to elevate that mood even more, you need alliteration on your side. This technique centers around grouping words with similar sounds.
If you use a series of ‘d’ sounds, for example, the percussive nature of the letter darkens the mood. Dr. Suess was a master of this approach, and he used it to great effect in ‘Fox in Socks’. As he grouped up letter sounds, the poem quickly took readers on a frantic ride through his zany world.
Metaphors are the lifeblood of poetry, so why not go even further with that approach by using conceit? Also known as an extended metaphor, conceit uses the metaphor as the central device of the poem. This is difficult to do, so use your metaphor as a guiding light as you write each line.
In ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death,’ Emily Dickinson uses conceit to great effect by taking readers on a carriage ride journey with Death himself. The extended metaphor weaves even more meaning into every line. The prose evokes strong feelings as a result while bringing vivid imagery to life.
A relic from ancient Latin and Greek poems, zeugma involves the use of one single verb to mean two different things. When done correctly, this technique shows your incredible ability to build meaning and overall mastery of the language.
Although she wrote stories, not poems, Jane Austen loved to use this technique in her writing. Most famously, perhaps, is when she wrote that “time and her aunt moved slowly,” ensuring that the words brought forth the right imagery in an instant.
Onomatopoeia is a fun way to add more pizzazz to your poems. This literary technique uses words that create the sound you want to describe, such as:
When you use these words effectively, your readers will hear the sound in their minds. These descriptive words make your prose more powerful while beautifully setting the mood. You can use these words sparingly, but it’s often more fun to be daring with them and fill line after line with onomatopoeias.
Stick with one literary technique at a time to master the basics. Then, see what you can do with a combination of tactics. Also, remember to write and rewrite your prose as many times as it takes to create the desired effect.