A few weeks ago I wrote a post introducing rhetoric to you all. Learning to use different types of rhetoric is fun because it gives more inspiration. Spontaneous creativity is awesome, but intentional creativity is cool too. And once you learn some of these, they'll start to come naturally as you write. Today we're talking about asyndeton, climax, and metaphor.
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Asyndeton is the omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses, in a list of items. Using "and" before the last item in the list tends to emphasize that last item. Omitting "and" at the end of the list implies to the reader that the list is endless.
|Asyndeton seems to go on forever|
Asyndeton way: Mangy liked bananas, sausage, pickles, potato chips, ice cream, waffles.
See the difference? Here are some more examples of asyndeton:
He has provided the poor with jobs, with opportunity, with self-respect.
On his return he received medals, honors, treasures, titles, fame.
He was a winner, a hero.
Climax is arranging a series of items in order of importance so that each surpasses the preceding in force or intensity and the biggest emphasis is on the end. One of my favorites comes from one of my favorite novels, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
“I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.”
We see that the main character is most concerned with how she feels (the stomachache) over how she looks (the skirt) or what she owns (new notebooks). The rhetoric climax doesn’t have to be in a single sentence form but can be used in several sentences. Here are some more examples.
The woman was ugly, a parasite, a demon, and my betrothed.
The concerto was applauded at the house of Baron von Schnooty, it was praised highly at court, it was voted best concerto of the year by the Academy, it was considered by Mozart the highlight of his career, and it has become known today as the best concerto in the world.
At 6:20 a.m. the ground began to heave. Windows rattled; then they broke. Objects started falling from shelves. Water heaters fell from their pedestals, tearing out plumbing.Outside, the road began to break up. Water mains and gas lines were wrenched apart, causing flooding and the danger of explosion. Office buildings began cracking; soon twenty, thirty, forty stories of concrete were diving at the helpless pedestrians panicking below.
Metaphor compares two things by declaring they are the same. Unlike a simile which declares they are like each other, a metaphor declares they are each other. For example, “A mighty fortress is our God.” God is not a castle fortress, but when compared to a castle fortress in a metaphor we understand God’s character.
Consider the power of a metaphor. A good one can describe better than a paragraph of detailed description. Choose a carefully thought out metaphor and your reader gets it. Look at the differences in the metaphors below and notice how vast the contrast is between each fraternity because of one metaphoric word.
That fraternity is blossoming.
That fraternity is on fire.
That fraternity is cancerous.
That fraternity is your typical rated R movie.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has some of the best metaphors and similes I’ve read in a young adult novel. I highly recommend it for the studying writer.
“I stand in the center aisle of the auditoruim, a wounded zebra in a National Geographic special, looking for someone, anyone, to sit next to. A predator approaches: gray jock buzz cut, whistle around a neck thicker than his head. Probably a social studies teacher, hired to coach a blood sport.”
“We are the trees whom shaking fastens more. ” –George Herbert
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” –The Bible, John 6:51.
“The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter.” –Joshua Reynolds
You don’t always need to use the “a is b” form in writing a metaphor.
The fountain of knowledge will dry up unless it is continuously replenished by streams of new learning.
And one from my new spy novel The New Recruit:
“It felt like my heart was stopping and starting again, beating wildly, irregular. A generator running out of gas.”
Care to share a metaphor from one of your works in progress?