Saturday, August 7, 2010

Craft: Polysyndeton and Asyndeton

A craft discussion from Dawn Marie Hamilton

So what are they? Diseases?

No. Rhetorical devices.

I probably should have learned about these writing techniques at some point during my education. But if I did, I don't remember. (Granted, it was a long time ago.)

Recently, I had fun taking Margie Lawson's Deep Editing workshop presented by WriterU, where polysyndeton and asyndeton were discussed along with other wonderful writing techniques. If you have a chance, do yourself a favor and take the Deep Editing workshop. And be prepared to work hard.

Rhetorical devises use language to create literary effect. Polysyndeton is the use of several conjunctions (And, Or) in close succession. Asyndeton is the opposite, where conjunctions are deliberately omitted. I like the rhythm the use of these techniques create.

Though I wouldn't use them in technical writing, they make quite an impact in fiction. Not something to use in abundance but to sprinkle throughout like a flavorful spice. Since taking the workshop, I've noticed the devices used in many of the books I read. And I've tried to use them in my stories.

An example of polysyndeton from my manuscript, Sea Panther:

The dank smells of stale beer and perspiration and moldy wood, mixed with a hint of urine, assaulted Kimberly as she entered the decrepit bar.

And an example of asyndeton from my manuscript, Just Beyond the Garden Gate:

He took in everything, missing naught, including the plaide wrapped around her shoulders clasped by a familiar brooch, the fabric clutched in a death grip by a delicate hand with elegant fingers, beautiful, unusual, enticing, each nail the color of oyster shells. He clearly imagined the sensual sensation of those fingernails grazing across his bare chest and more sensitive skin.

Both devices used in this excerpt from Just Beyond the Garden Gate, asyndeton in the first sentence and polysyndeton in the second:

The vaporous mist wrapped around him, pressed against him, suffocated him. He inhaled deeply then recoiled, recognizing the exotic oriental scent, the fragrance of peony and freesia and sandalwood. That infuriating sithiche must have come out of hiding. That must be who spun the magic.

What rhetorical devices do you use in your writing? Share a sample with us.


Joan Leacott said...

Ooo, isn't Margie wonderful? All those lovely devices. Great examples, Dawn Marie. In my example, I've used an Allusion, or is it a Simile. "Everything in this house was old-fashioned, like that eighties TV series."

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Great, Joan! Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Joanne said...

You took a class from one of my favorite writing instructors--Margie Lawson. I've learned so much from her. Thanks for sharing your new-found knowledge.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi Joanne. I learned so much from Margie and I hope to take another of her workshops in the future. Thanks for dropping by.

Lisa Dale said...

I am in love with these new words. Thank you!!!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi Lisa. I'm glad. Thanks for checking out my post.

Clarissa Southwick said...

I can never remember the names, but I love these techniques. Thanks for reminding us to use them.

Pat McDermott said...

Isn't it great when you find you've been using techniques you can barely pronounce all along? Love those words! Thanks for sharing what you've learned, Dawn.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Clarissa and Pat, Thanks for stopping by.