Creative writing is hard but if you’re an SPM student taking the English paper or someone who has to submit a piece of creative writing work as part of your assignment, then there’s no avoiding it.
While there’s no one right way to write creatively, there’s still a couple of things you can do to make your writing better. One of them is to use literary devices.
To help further elaborate on how you can incorporate literary devices into your writing, here’s a look at how Olivia Rodrigo uses it in her debut album, Sour.
#1. Exaggerate through hyperbole
Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim and it’s not meant to be taken literally.
In good 4 u, Rodrigo employs this literary device by calling her ex a sociopath because he seems to be “doin’ great out there without” her. It feels a bit extreme but a lack of guilt or remorse is one of the traits of a sociopath. So while her ex may have not been an actual sociopath, his apathy towards their breakup does make it seem like he is one.
Hyperbole is a great way to add some spice to your writing. By overexaggerating certain things, it can help make your writing stand out.
#2. Be descriptive using imagery
Imagery is a type of descriptive language used to invoke the reader’s senses. Essentially, it’s when you use words to paint an image. Imagery is used for a variety of reasons including setting up a scene and adding depth to your character’s emotional state.
At the beginning of deja vu, Rodrigo sets the scene by illustrating the things she used to do with her lover (taking “car rides to Malibu”, eating “strawberry ice cream” with “one spoon for two” and people “tradin’ jackets” with each other). It’s like a montage of happy scenes from a movie.
But it’s not just about setting the scene. The imagery also helps add a layer to her storytelling. In the bridge, she repeats these images, this time making it clear that her lover is now doing it with someone else. The use of imagery here helps her play on the overarching concept of the song – deja vu. He’s with someone new but he’s done this thing before.
A picture paints a thousand words and nothing paints a visual better in writing than an imagery. So if you’re looking for a way to bring your writing to life, try setting up the scene with descriptive visuals.
#3. Use metaphors
A metaphor is a figure of speech that can be used to make a comparison between two things that are different but at the same time, share certain similar traits.
In her song 1 step forward, 3 steps back, Rodrigo compares her relationship to a rollercoaster. Throughout the song, Rodrigo talked about the push and pull of it. Her lover treats her inconsistently, sometimes nice, sometimes not. She easily sums all this up by likening it to the ups and downs of a rollercoaster ride.
One of the most oft-repeated advice in creative writing is to show, don’t tell. Using roller coasters as a metaphor, Rodrigo is not telling us about her relationship. She’s painting an illustration, letting us visualise it ourselves. It’s a picture of a doomed relationship and all it took was a clever use of metaphor.
#4. Make comparisons with similes
A simile, similar to a metaphor, is often used to compare between the two things. Unlike a metaphor, which is often more direct in how it makes its comparison, you usually make a simile by inserting words such as “like” or “as” in between the two things that are being compared.
You can see an example of this in good 4 u. In one line, Rodrigo sang, “But your apathy’s like a wound in salt.” She’s referring to her ex’s apathy about their breakup and how it makes her already brokenhearted self feel worse. She illustrates this by directly comparing it to wound in salt, a rephrase of the popular phrase, rubbing salt into the wound — which translates to making things worse.
Similar to metaphors, similes can be very helpful in making your writing more interesting.
#5. Refer to something popular through allusions
An allusion is a reference to a person, place, thing, event or other literary work. Rodrigo made use of this literary device multiple times throughout her album.
In drivers license, she refers to her ex’s new girl as “that blonde girl”. While some have speculated that it is about a specific actress, you can also read it as Rodrigo dealing with her feelings of insecurity. The new girl is blonde, older than her and embodies everything she is insecure about. This adds another meaning to her writing — he has not only moved on, but he’s moved on with someone she considers better than her.
She also made use of allusions in deja vu. In it, Rodrigo recalls memories of “watching reruns of Glee” and listening to “Billy Joel” together with her ex-lover. These allusions not only help ground Rodrigo’s song, it also helps provide specificity and add details to her writing.
Like other literary devices, allusions can have multiple functions. If you want to make your writing more unique, you should consider adding this to your arsenal.
If you’ve always been apprehensive about creative writing because you’re not good at expressing your ideas and telling stories, fret not. Literary devices are one of the most efficient cheats towards creating a unique and great piece of writing. So as long as you have it in your arsenal, then there’s nothing to worry about.