Once students have a solid foundation of mechanical writing skills, they should begin experimenting with different aspects of writing craft. This is what will distinguish their writing from that of others, and help them develop their “voice” as an author.
One aspect of writing craft is word choice. When students are first learning how to write, their main focus is on communicating what they want to say. Beginning writers typically choose basic words that will get their point across but aren’t necessarily unique or particularly descriptive. This is why elementary teachers often “ban“ certain words from students’ writing, like “said,” “good,” and “happy.” While these words will always get the job done, there are dozens of possible synonyms for each that are far more interesting. Experienced authors know that word choice is important and that using interesting and descriptive words can make a big difference in the way readers perceive a text.
Another part of writing craft that authors need to consider is the point-of-view from which they are writing. For informational texts, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room. The author is usually just presenting information and the points-of-view don’t typically vary. There isn’t any question about who the speaker is. On the other hand, for narrative writing, authors need to choose whether they want to tell their story from first or third person. First person perspective tells the story through the voice of a character and uses words like “I” and “we.” Third person perspective uses the voice of a narrator, and contains words like “she/he” and “they.” Although the story itself might be the same either way, how the reader interprets it can change significantly depending on which point-of-view is used.
Before you begin writing, it’s important to identify your purpose in putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). While this purpose may not explicitly come through in your writing, it’s an important piece of the planning process. The main categories for author’s purpose are to persuade, inform, and entertain. Within each of these purposes, there are more specific tasks an author might want to accomplish. For example, there are different ways in which authors entertain their readers. Some authors write to move their readers emotionally. Some write to give their readers thrills through mystery and suspense. And some want their readers to walk away having learned a lesson through their main character’s plight.
Literary devices are tools that authors use to help tell a story or convey a message to the reader. They elevate writing by making it more interesting, more original, and more vivid. Text without any literary devices at all is often boring and rarely engages the reader. Literary devices, when used well, can help bring otherwise plain text to life.
There are many types of literary devices. Here are some that are most commonly taught in school:
Simile: A comparison of two unlike things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ (example: The nights were as cold as ice)
Metaphor: A comparison of two things without the use of ‘like’ or ‘as’ (example: The frigid nights melted into hot days)
Alliteration: A string of subsequent words that all begin with the same letter sound (example: Christopher couldn’t catch the clever caterpillars)
Flashback: Most typically used in fiction writing, a flashback is a scene that takes place before the main events of the story (example: Suddenly, he remembered all the way back to his 5th birthday)
Foreshadowing: A hint of what’s to come (example: The storm clouds began to gather as they made their way to the beach)
Onomatopoeia: Words that are themselves sound effects for what they mean (example: Crash, Beep, Buzz, etc)