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University Writing Center

Writer’s Tricks

Grabber or Hook - a sentence that is so interesting, shocking, or mysterious it captures the reader’s attention right away.

Ex: Darcy, T-beau, and the other slaves hadn’t eaten in three weeks and knew they hadn’t long to live.

Descriptive Language - words that create a picture in the reader’s mind of what the author wants the reader to imagine.

Ex: Murphey’s shaggy, brown fur was tangled, matted, and dripping with muddy water.

Color Word - a specific color name.

Ex: Raspberry red, school bus yellow, turquoise, oyster white, dove gray

Strong Verb - an active verb that adds special meaning to the sentence.

Ex: The wounded wolf crawled across the frozen field and struggled his way down into the den.

Emotion Word - a word that names exactly what a character feels

Ex: Annie felt pity for the orphaned kitty.

Sensory Word - a word that helps the reader see, hear, smell, feel, or taste something described in the story.

Ex: The spicy smell of orange marmalade came from Grandma’s kitchen.

Simile - words that compare two things using the words like or as.

Ex: The goalie defended the net like a fighting tiger.

Tagged Dialogue - telling what someone says and letting the reader know who is speaking by using he said or she said.

Ex: “The snow is perfect for sledding,” Carrie said.

Special Tags - dialogue tags other than said that give clues about the mood of the person speaking.

Ex: “You’re grounded for a week,” snapped Jason’s mom.

Flashback - taking the reader back in the time to let him know something that has happened beforehand.

Plot Clues - giving the reader clues so he can figure out the action of the story.

Foreshadowing - hinting about something important that is going to happen later on in the story.

Surprise Ending - giving the reader an ending that will be a total surprise.

Metaphor - comparing two things that don’t normally go together to make a special point.

Ex: Thomas was a big ox who could move a piano all by himself.

Onomatopoeia - words that sound like sound effects.

Ex: buzz, drip, beep, crunch, rip, sizzle, pop, snap

Catchy Title - a title that creates interest and makes the reader want to read the story to find out what will happen.

Show, don’t Tell - giving the reader clues through descriptive language instead of stating the obvious.

Telling: Coach blew the whistle and motioned for Thad to take the bench. Thad felt sick and exhausted.

Showing: Coach blew the whistle and motioned for Thad to take the bench. Thad’s knees began to tremble and his face turned ashen white.

Transitional phrases or words - using phrases that naturally move the story to the text next sequence or show its relation to the rest of the story.

Ex: An hour after Gary’s warning light went on, his engine died.

Updated 1.12.2012