Alliteration is the repetition of same or similar beginning sounds in words that are close together.
Remember tongue twisters? They’re the epitome of alliteration, and you’ve been using them since you were a kid. Alliteration is one of the easiest literary terms to find and to use.
Most people think of alliteration as a tool for poets, and it’s true that good poets use it often to add to the moods of their poems. Lots of “s” sounds might suggest the whisper of waves on the shore—lots of “t” or “k” sounds might suggest quick, crisp action. I incorporated quite a bit of alliteration into the poem Do Not Linger Here
. In this case, I used it simply to give the poem flow in the unity of sounds in specific phrases.
Alliterative titles are eye-catching, as are alliterative names. And if your piece is humorous, alliteration can really help to set the tone. Years ago, I had a light-hearted writing challenge entry called “Jingles by Joyce” that used alliteration in the title to set the tone.
However, if you choose to use alliteration in a title, be sure that it fits the mood of your work. Too often I see an alliterative title that suggests that the piece will be whimsical, and it turns out to be a serious story. Some of us (myself included) have a hard time thinking of titles, and a little trick like alliteration sometimes seems like a clever idea—but if the title is Penny’s Persnickety Problem
and her problem turns out to be an abusive husband, it’s off-putting for the reader. I made that mistake with a piece called “Tantalizing Tidbits,” where the title doesn’t fit the mood of the entry at all.
Alliteration has a place in prose writing, even though it’s often thought of as more of a poet’s tool. When I was writing for the challenge, I wrote Smoke and Shadows
as an exercise in alliteration. See if you can find the paragraphs where I worked it in; one of your homework questions will be about this story. I've said this before, but I'll repeat it: I don't link to my own stories because they're better than anyone else's. I just know where to find examples of many of these terms. Please, please, please feel free to link to your own works, and of course to freely critique mine.Homework (do as few or as many as you wish; I'll respond to each post):
1. Write 50 words or less, either prose or poetry, with some alliteration. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be of the “Peter Piper Picked a Peck” variety—the words don’t have to be right next to each other, and you’re not writing a tongue twister. Pick the beginning letter that you repeat for the effect it will have on the passage.
2. Comment on the use of alliteration in either of the linked pieces. Don’t be afraid to critique (I can take it). Too much? Too little? Was there any alliteration that you found particularly effective or ineffective?
3. If you use alliteration, tell why you think it works for you. Link to a challenge entry with alliteration, if you have one.
4. If you have not used alliteration in your writing, tell why.
5. If there's a work of literature that you like that has some good examples of alliteration, share an excerpt with us.
6. Make a comment or ask a question about alliteration.Please share this forum with other writers on this site.