In order to end up with a finished work, in which there are parallelism and all kinds of other rhetorical devices, do you need to do anything to prepare for it in your rough draft, or can you add this ornamentation to any kind of rough draft?


When You See It, Add It:

It is easier to have fancy story and rhetorical elements from the beginning. If you start out with them in mind, you seamlessly integrate them into your story as you are writing. Then you simply have to make sure you don't break them up when you edit.

If you are that clever, you don't need to be asking questions. You are the Mozart of literature. You can view copies of his first drafts in the library of congress. He almost never changed a single note. Send us pictures of your awards.

Most of us see things that are clever and go back afterwards to play up those elements. When I was writing my first novel, I used a lot of Greek influence. When I finished the draft I researched some of the things I had written, and realized my story paralleled the Oresteia (the Greek equivalent to the backstory of the Trojan war). So in editing, I played up those elements that emphasized this. A clever reader could see it, but most wouldn't.

So if you decide to get fancy with your structure, it's best if you do it from the start. But what happens when your story changes? You need to adapt on the fly. What about seeing things you could have done after you wrote your draft? Until it's published, EVRYTHING can be edited. Doing it afterwards makes for a lot more work. The real work of writing is in editing things over and over and OVER and OVER.

Don't stress if you want these elements in your story you've already written. Go ahead and add them. None of us are Mozart. That's what editing is for.


It's not what you do, but how and why you do it that's important.

In the classical rhetorical tradition, there were five steps involved in composition (usually applied to a speech, but they apply equally to written work):

1 - Inventio (Invention) - thinking of ideas - deciding what you want to say

2 - Dispositio (Disposition/Arrangement) - getting the structure sorted

3 - Elocutio (Eloquence) - deciding how to say what you want to say

4 - Memoria (Memorising) - committing it to memory/internalising

5 - Actio (Delivery/Action) - presentation

I personally don't think of rhetorical devices as 'decoration' - the icing on the cake, if you like. They're an essential part of a writer's toolkit. They add variety, depth, and can also add humour and wit where relevant - all things that help keep readers interested, and keep them interested in reading.

Apart from the first and last needing to go first and last, and there needing to be something to memorise, the structural work and stylistic work can often go hand in hand. They are, by nature, very closely related, although the structural work often focuses on what you're going to say and in what order; the stylistic work on how you're going to say it.

What this model is founded on is a sense of stance - moral value - why you are bothering to compose something in the first place - what you stand for. That will inform your message, and the combination of the five elements above (which link thought, word, and deed) will support an effective act of communication when they work effectively and are in balance.

And then there's the Ancient Egyptian model of rhetoric, reconstructed by authors such as Michael Fox and David Hutto, which boils down to five rules:

  1. Keep silence.
  2. Find the right words and tone for the moment.
  3. Restrain yourself from speaking until the right moment appears.
  4. Find the truth in your gut.
  5. Speak fluently from there.

True eloquence, as Daniel Webster said at Bunker Hill goes beyond the practised art of using rhetorical devices.

"True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labor and learning may toil for it, but they toil in vain. Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire to it; they cannot reach it. It comes, it comes at all, life the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. The graces taught in the schools, the costly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men, when their own lives, and the fate of their wives, their children, and their country hang on the decision of the hour. Then words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself then feels rebuked and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then patriotism is eloquent; then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit, speaking of the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his object,— this, this is eloquence; or rather it is something greater and higher than all eloquence, it is action, noble, sublime godlike actions."

So in short, as I said, it's not what you do, but how and why you do it that count.

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