Friday, August 3, 2012

Rhetoric, Part One: Anaphora & Amplification

By Jill Williamson

Rhetoric is the art of using language. As you write, you use words to tell a story. Your goal as a writer should be to do that in a way no other writer does. Style is learned over time by reading, studying the work of others, and practice.

Studying rhetoric is a great way to learn tools that add style to your writing. You’ll still need to practice these tools to develop your own style in using them, but learning what they are is the first step. There are many different types of rhetoric devices that can help you convey your story in a more literary or stylistic way. I’m going to focus on two today.

Click here for a more in-depth list.

Anaphora is repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of two or more successive verses, clauses, or sentences to add emphasis. Here is an example from The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo. Watch for the phrase “a mouse who” which is an example of anaphora.

“…A mouse who consorts with humans, a mouse who would sit right at the foot of a man, a mouse who would allow a human to touch him”—and here, the entire Mouse Council indulged in a collective shiver of disgust—“cannot be trusted.”

The repetition of the phrase “a mouse who” builds tension as the Mouse Council is about to decide the fate of little Desperaux. Here are a few more examples:

Will he study the readings? Will he learn what it has to teach him? Will he live according to the lessons he has learned?

She held her baby very gently, very carefully, very lovingly.

Still they kept on, not knowing what lay ahead, not knowing what they would find at the end of the tunnel, not knowing they were so near to their goal.

Amplification is repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it each time in order to emphasize.

In my hunger after ten days of rigorous dieting I saw visions of ice creammountains of creamy, luscious ice cream, dripping with gooey syrup and calories.

This orchard, this lovely, shady orchard, is the main reason I bought this property.

Prideboundless pride—is the bane of civilization.

He showed a rather simple taste, a taste for good art, good food, and good friends.

Amplification can combine with another rhetoric device. Below I used both anaphora and amplification to describe the royal fortress Noiz in my medieval fantasy novel, From Darkness Won, though I think it got edited out.

“Noiz was a sanctuary for the royal family, a sanctuary in troubled times.”

Want to try? Go for it! Write an example of anaphora or amplification in the comments.


  1. Thank you for the great tips! I love the book The Tales of Desperaux, that's a great example :)

  2. Nice post, Stephanie! I've always used anaphora and amplification in my writing yet I never knew what they were called... Whoops :) I just use techniques that I see in books, even when I have no idea what they're called and then WHAT DO YOU KNOW? it's a technique with a fancy title. :) Lol.

    Anyways, here's an example of amplification that just popped into my head.
    'The screams, the deafening screams of fear engulfed my ears with an inescapable terror.'

    Yeah. Not so creative - sorry, it's quite late at night where I am and I'm really tired.
    ll yawns ll :)

    Alrighty, thanks again for another great post that taught me something new (word nerds like me gobble up any new information about literature - WHENEVER possible)!! :) Hehe.

    1. You're welcome, Writer! And I like your example. It's a good one!

    2. Oh, man! I'm SO sorry! I didn't look at who wrote the post and assumed it was Steph! Whoopsy Daisy....:) Really sorry, Jill! Really sorry.

    3. I love when that happens--you use a technique then find out it has a fancy name ;) Great for sneaking into conversations when you want to sound smart. Lol

  3. Cool post!

    He looked at her with dark eyes, eyes that appeared to see directly into her soul, that could read everything she had hidden there.

    Best I can come up with. I was awake too late and up too early:)

    1. LOL! Good job! I was up late and early too. Next Gen Writers conference!

  4. Here's one I thought of!

    Everything was lost, everything he had worked for, everything was in vain.

  5. Awesome! I actual didn't like The Tale of Desperaux... hmm...

    The flames were coming, the red flames, licking up the stairway. :)

    1. Good one, Bethany!

      Despereaux was a different kind of book. The book was much better than the movie, imo.

  6. Okay, I'll give it a shot...

    "Nothing could help me, nothing could heal me, nothing could save me."

    "Every day he worked. Every day he tried. And every day he failed."

    1. Nicely done, L.D.! You guys all did great!

  7. Ooh, cool post! Thanks Jill! (Is it ok if we call you that, or would you prefer Ms. Williamson?)
    "She was a girl who wanted to write, a writer who wanted to teach, and a teacher who wanted to serve". I'm not sure if this is an Anaphora or not, but it sounds kinda cool.
    I love the Tale of Desperaux. It's sad, in some ways, but it's also happy and kind of wholesome, somehow.
    ~Amo Libros

  8. I use anaphora and amplification in my book - but I didn't know what they were called until today! Thanks. :]

    This is a sentence out of my writing: "It takes me a while, but I nod, a very small, unconvinced nod."

  9. Here are some examples from my first novel.

    "She still had the same dark hair, the same blue eyes with streaks of brown, the same fair skin, and the same stern expression."

    "The man watched the flat land flash by, watched the moon move from the horizon to the top of the sky, watched the start twinkle in all their majesty."

    This last one's a bit different, but I think it's still anaphora.
    "I had never asked to be Captain, never deserved to be Captain, never wanted to be Captain, never dreamed of being Captain, was never capable of being Captain, and had never displayed any Captain-like abilities."

  10. That's great! I didn't realize those kind of sentences had names. I use anaphora a lot! It's just so much fun and can add a dramatic sense to the story. Let me see if I can dig one out. . . Okay, nevermind. I have to leave in just a bit so I don't think I have time to look through my WIP. I'll just make something up.

    It was the dream. The dream that haunted her every waking nightmare. The dream that was all too easy to understand--Kathryn.

    She looked like a strong young woman, a woman that had been toughened and hardened by circumstance. She was one who's path you would never want to cross.

    Okay, so these aren't that great, I'm sure. I'm still trying to catch up on some rest--been a busy week. Thank you for the post, Mrs. Jill!

  11. Jill's writing, Jill's incredible, insight bringing writing gives me something new to think on every time I read it.

    ~thanks again, Jill! Appreciate you for it! I use anaphora a lot!

  12. "It was a page to be filled, a page to cry out, a page to tell a story."
    Also, thanks so much for your podcast on formatting a novel. Ugh, I stayed up too late last night, so I'm making way too many typos!

  13. I laugh at how my eyes got big and I was a little scared when I opened the post, after seeing the title. Thanks for making these two Big Mac words easy to digest, Jill!