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Fiction texts

Language techniques in fiction texts

Language techniques in fiction texts

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Language techniques in fiction texts

​​In a nutshell

Authors choose their language carefully when writing a text. In fiction texts, language is used deliberately and every word is purposeful whether it's telling you something about a character, the setting, or contributing to the theme or atmosphere of a story. In this summary, you'll learn about some of the ways that language is used in fiction texts and what effect it can have.

Figurative language 

Figurative language is mainly used in descriptive writing. Using techniques such as metaphors, similes and imagery, a writer can paint a vivid picture for the reader of whatever they are trying to describe. 


'In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.'

(From 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

This line from 'The Great Gatsby' uses a simile effectively to call a particular image to mind. The simile likens the movement of Gatsby's guests to the way that moths flit around a bright light. 


Key words and specific pieces of imagery which are repeated throughout a text are often symbolic. If an image is repeated a lot, it's probably done intentionally to emphasise its importance and it is potentially a symbol. All sorts of things can be symbolic from colours to numbers, nature, the weather, animals, settings and more. Symbols are often tied to the theme of a story.


''Then I’ll give him the conch... That’s what this shell’s called. I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.''

(From 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding)

In 'Lord of the Flies' the conch is a symbol for law and order. When someone is holding the conch, everyone else has to respect and listen to them. When the conch is destroyed, so is any notion of law, order or respect on the island and everything falls apart. 


Authors make deliberate choices about language even when writing the dialogue in a story. What characters say, and how they say it, often tells the reader a lot about them. Sometimes you have to read between the lines of what a character says to figure out their motivation. Other times writers use dialogue as a way of giving a character a distinctive voice.


''Las' time I saw you, you was only a baby,' said the giant. 'Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh've got yer mum's eyes.''

(From 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' by J. K. Rowling)

The character Hagrid in the 'Harry Potter' series has a distinct character voice. Rowling chose to write Hagrid's dialogue in this way, using non-standard verb inflections, to give him a regional accent mimicking that of the West Country and to distinguish him from other characters. 

Unfamiliar language

When reading a text, it's almost inevitable that a reader will encounter a word which is unfamiliar to them. This happens frequently in texts which are old or written in the past. This is also sometimes a feature of books set in different countries or cultures. At times the reader might be able to work out the meaning of the unfamiliar word from the context; if not, they might need to look it up to understand the sentence. 

Old-fashioned language

Texts written or set in the past often feature unfamiliar language as well as long-winded sentences. The unfamiliar language in old texts is often made up of words which have fallen out of fashion and aren't used as much anymore.


'Joseph was an elderly, nay, an old man: very old, perhaps, though hale and sinewy. 'The Lord help us!' he soliloquised in an undertone of peevish displeasure, while relieving me of my horse: looking, meantime, in my face so sourly that I charitably conjectured he must have need of divine aid to digest his dinner, and his pious ejaculation had no reference to my unexpected advent.'

(From 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë)

Foreign languages

Texts which are set in countries where a different language is spoken to the one that the text is written in, sometimes feature words in that language. In some instances these words are translated for the reader but in others, the reader is given no context at all. This technique adds to the immersion of these texts, making them feel authentic. 


''Well I'm Mama Number Two then.' She looked over at her husband. 'And him over there.' She seemed to collect the words in her hand, pat them together and hurl them across the table. 'That Saukerl, that filthy pig - you call him Papa, verstehst? Understand?''

(From 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak)

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