I’m not the brightest English bulb in the library. There are plenty of others who can list off a litany of long laborious sounding English terms which students of English and literature around the globe study on a yearly basis.
chiasmus – euphony – spoonerism – ekphrastic
I suppose there’s some merit in understanding them if you want to discuss your way through a Shakepeare sonnet or a thick symbolic passage from Milton.
cacophony – metonymy – anastrophe – anthropomorphism
And while I probably should brush up on my terminology, when I sit down to write, literary terms are the furthest thing from my mind. Why clog a perfectly good writing session by throwing a bunch of hoity-toity literary terms into the mix.
But these and others are never a starting point. I would never say that I want to make sure to include a paradox into this chapter somewhere.
Writing, for me, is about telling a story. It’s about following a character or characters to their pinnacle until all the story walls come crashing down around them, and resolution abounds in a satisfactory outcome for the reader – not the English teacher.
It’s my opinion that the English establishment, wherever such a classroom can be found, spends far too much time on analysis and dissection and far too little time on creativity.
Now, of course, reading and analyzing writing techniques from the masters is crucial to giving a writer a well-rounded understanding of the scope and diversity of the craft of writing. And, yes, a test of literary terms might be required from time to time.
But English readers should be pushed out of their books and onto paper at some point. Maybe they won’t succeed or won’t become a famous author, but the creative storytelling process is a power means to getting students to think outside themselves and tell their own story. Let’s be honest: everyone has a story. Some of them are reluctant to be told. And once the story gets moving, one might find that an understatement, a pun, or a portmanteau secretly snuck in to take up residence within the working pieces of your story.
So if you are interested in literary terms (or if you have a test on them soon), by all means, study-up!
But if you want to write, just do it. Tell your story, and let the literary terms follow you.