Anaphora? Excuse me?
Epizeuxis? Holy s**t!
Polysyndenton? You lost me at asy…!
We call ourselves writers, dare we say authors, and yet the intricacies of our own language often escape us. And their titles? Well, that dog just don’t hunt (cliché – an idiomatic saying that means something other than what it actually states).
So why, you ask yourself, should a writer know what a litotes is? Or an eponym? Or, for heaven’s sake, onomatopoeia? Diversity I say! With my authoresk thick skin turned to the naysayer. If our goal as writers is to produce the best possible marketable manuscript then editing is critical. When we edit we must be able to communicate our edits and discuss the craftsmanship of our product. How does one do that efficiently without being able to pin down the problem with appropriate terms and label the issue at hand?
I recently had the opportunity to join “Write At Sea: Deep Editing Power Master Class” with the indomitable Margie Lawson and, I have to admit my eyes were opened to a whole new way of editing and diagnosing my manuscripts. Yes, DIAGNOSING. I learned to do the same thing a doctor does when faced with a heart wrenching disease in a young child – evaluate all of the symptoms, disregard the mitigating factors and pinpoint the problem, label the issues and prescribe a course of treatment. The process takes good observational skills, a certain amount of research and competency in the field.
Competency? That is an interesting word to use in reference to writers. Anyone can write a book, right? Right (conduplicatio- starting a sentence with a key word from the last sentence)! Yes and no. Anyone can put pencil to paper but it takes learning the craft of writing to become a good author.
We’ve all read it; the book with the golden cover that offers a handsome hunk rescuing a gorgeous damsel in distress (another cliché) on the cover. Your expectation drips from your chin as you salivate over the possibilities, like biting into a juicy apple (a wet metaphor – comparing two different things by asserting one is like the other). You reverently open the cover and read the jacket critiques. They twist your heart so beautifully (possibly an oxymoron- an ironic contrast using paradox). You do the Michael Phelps thing and dive right in (eponym – referring to a famous person who is recognized for an attribute). You can’t even breathe, think, move (asyndeton – omitting conjunctions between three or more words). The opening chapter is right there before you but still a million miles away (hyperbole – a deliberate exaggeration). Your eyes devour the first chapter and everything you have ever associated with Fabio seems not to be the least bit true (litotes – an understatement where the words deny the opposite of the word expected to be used)! You casually remind yourself you are reading Rogue. Suddenly it all comes back; the muscle fame, the Italian model fame, the hero worship- book cover-yummy fame (epistrophe – repeating the last word or phrase in three or more subsequent phrases or sentences)! And you are so sorry. So sorry. So very sorry (epizeuxis – the repetition of a word for emphasis). Left hanging and disappointed. Disappointed because the man and the myth do not correlate (anandiplosis – repeating the last word of one sentence at the beginning of the next). The cover and the text do not relate. The title of author and the actual book do not share a bond.
How many more rhetorical devices can I slide into this blog without becoming world-weary? Worn-out? Word-unwise (alliteration – repeating initial consonant sounds)? We still have allusion, amplification, anaphora, parallelism, personification, polysyndenton, simile, symploce and my personal favorite, ZEUGMA. But in the interest of giving my poor keyboard a break to recover (personification – attributing an inanimate object with human characteristics), I will simply state that knowledge of linguistic concepts are to our craftsmanship what bread is to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (simile – comparing two different things that resemble each other or demonstrate a relationship). But you know I have to get one zeugma in, so fancy this: as authors we strive to provide our readers with exciting entertainment. However without the technical structure, superb editing and rich imagination of the author rolled together in one package we may have, excitement, entertainment… and crap!