"A" is for Alliteration
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
When planning this blog, I decided quickly that I didn't want to waste my readers' precious minutes with navel gazing. This blog journey isn't going to be about my favorite sandwich while on a writing spree or my favorite bike to ride while dreaming up stories. Rather, it's going to be about the tools that have helped me capture my ideas and frame them in ways that most accurately express my thoughts. When I attended UC Irvine a few years ago for my degree in English (Creative Writing Emphasis), my favorite resource quickly became the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms.
With this paperback dictionary at my side, I earned multiple A grades in creative writing, as well as Literary Journalism, all the while developing a good grasp of the literary devices that have sustained writers for centuries. So, here, I hope to examine, explain, question and describe my experiences with some of these language tools, show examples in my work, and perhaps spark an interest in my readers.
As for alliteration, it is one of the most popular literary devices in history that is still commonly employed today. You'll see it at work in fiction and nonfiction headlines, TV commercials, speeches, songs, poetry, rap, literature and more. They use it because it draws attention to a line, making it memorable. Even better, it can add a touch of humor to a situation. You may remember the story about the exploding whale, and a lot of people can still quote the infamous key line, "The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds." Who doesn't smile when recalling that?
The entertainment and film industries commonly use alliteration in their marketing, because they want people to remember their products while buying theater tickets. From Peter Pan (play and film) to Donnie Darko, it lights up titles. Sleepless in Seattle was one of my favorite films. But much more than titles, the film industry has used it in taglines. Army of Darkness used, "Trapped in time..." to start theirs. For Saving Private Ryan it was, "The mission is a man." Schindler's List used "The list is life." And of course, for The Men Who Stare at Goats, "No goats, no glory." That last one is pretty funny, considering the film. Of course, they use plenty of other devices, and we'll look at them in future posts. But this is a pretty simple way to attract attention and achieve your ambitions, right? Yet, though it may be simple to understand, it isn't always easy to compose. The classics are filled with examples of alliteration raised to high artistic levels. So I keep alliteration in my literary toolkit and hope that most of the time I am inspired to create something others enjoy reading.
While at UCI, I struggled with the issues of determining when and how to appropriately use Literary tropes such as alliteration. At one point, I toyed with it in a short story I wrote for the Advanced Creative Writing workshop. "How They Play the Game" was later published in an anthology alongside works by writers I greatly admire. But the most valuable part of writing that story, for me, was playing with the questions of, "What is a literary trope?" and "What is the value of using a trope in any given piece of work?" It is a never-ending discussion, as styles change and readers develop new tastes. But I continue to believe that a skillful storyteller can tell the best tales. And yes, that was a little alliteration, right there!