Figurative language is any literary device used by a writer to communicate something beyond the literal meaning of the words being used. That might sound complicated, but it just means that a writer can use words to paint a word picture to help their readers more accurately visualize what they are reading, or imagine the emotions and the feelings of the characters. You may find the following literary devices helpful to make your own writing more interesting and meaningful, both for your readers and for yourself.
A simile is comparing two very different things, using the words “like” or “as.” In order to be a simile, one of those two words must be used.
An example of a simile is the sentence, “He is as sweet as pie.” A person is not really like a pie, but the idea conveys to a reader that the boy in question has a sweet nature and is very amenable.
A metaphor is very similar to a simile in many ways. However, a metaphor compares two very different things without using the words “like” or as.”
An example of a metaphor would be the sentence, “He’s a real tiger in the courtroom.” A comparison is made between a person and a tiger; however, because the words “like” or “as” are never used, it is a metaphor rather than a simile.
Hyperbole is intentional exaggeration that is made for a specific effect. For example, if a mother tells her children that she has “told them a thousand times not to climb on the curtain,” the reader understands this is not to be taken literally. Rather, the mother simply means she has told her children repeatedly. The exaggeration is clear, and its intended effect of illustrating the parent’s frustration is accomplished.
While difficult to spell and fun to pronounce, the concept is quite simple. Onomatopoeia refers to words that make the sound they are emulating. In other words, they sound like what you are saying. An example of this is the word “creak.” As you say it, you can hear the creaking of a door or rusty hinge.
Alliteration repeats the initial sound in a group of words and is usually used in poetry or in prose with a specific rhythm. The effect emphasizes the sound through the repetition. An example would be, “Sally saw Simon selling seashells.”
Personification is attributing human characteristics, thoughts, and feelings to objects and animals that are not human. In some cases, they may not even be living. An example would be talking animals in stories, such as the popular Aesop Fables.
All of these types of figurative language add color and personality to your writing. The next time you read a book, take the time to notice how the author uses these techniques to draw you into the story.