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  • Writer's picture Beth Black

Loving the Terms

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

My love for literary devices goes back to UCI, where the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms became my favorite writing resource. I thought I'd outgrow it as a writer but never really did. There are just too many uses for these fun and intriguing ways to twist the English language. In a current project, I've helped my friend and colleague Tobi Menotti create a coven of Wiccans who are ordinary women attempting to find agency in life. The Taste of Truth is part of a series that will debut soon under Tobi's pen name. The challenge: It boasts a pretty large cast.

In orchestrating the characters, we sought various abilities that women hope to experience, including courage, power, connection, empathy. In reaching for the way each woman spoke, we linked a particular literary device to each one. Of course, the characters are not "tied" to their trope. But when a moment of stress or emotion occurs in the story, they tend to fall back on that way of speaking. Fiona Beal, aka Mistress Firefly Evening Ember, is given to bouts of hyperbole. This dazzling character is our invitation into the book's Wiccan world ... and her style is colorful, brilliant, unforgettable.

The chart below is an early draft -- Tobi's first way of orchestrating everyone. We ended up with something like six spreadsheets. But this version shows that characters were assigned to tropes. I don't do this in other works, at least not for so many characters. But this time, it helped Tobi to make each character unique and easily identifiable in an ensemble piece. You can see that we also worked out their various strengths, weaknesses, physical attributes, etc. There were several more characters, but this portion of the worksheet shows the essence of the task laid out for us.

Most often, stories come to me when the characters whisper it into my ear. I do often come up with at least a basic paragraph of a character description, if only to keep that person straight in my head through what will undoubtedly be revisions and edits. But this system with the Excel spreadsheets seems to work for multiple characters and detailed settings, especially in longer works.

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