Meetup 150: Rhetorical Devices in Writing


Last Saturday, Sagar hosted a session at Write Club on rhetorical devices. It has been a long time at Write Club since we had the host bring handouts and engage us in a technical discussion of writing. Even being a professional author I must say I don’t spend as much time as I need to (perhaps) thinking about rhetorical devices. So it was excellent value for everyone present.

Since the material is too long to fit into a blog post, I put it into a Word document. You can download it from the link below.

Click here to download the material

Exercise One

My prompts for this exercise were anxiety and a pus-filled cyst. I had to write a piece with ‘anxiety’ as the theme and a ‘pus-filled cyst’ as the dominant image. Here’s what I came up with.


As soon as I woke up, I ran the tip of my tongue on the inside of my lip, hoping that the bump had disappeared during the night. But it hadn’t. It had become smoother, more rubbery, as though it were a water balloon. I ran to the mirror and turned my lip inside out. There it was, wedged in between my thumb and forefinger, popping out, throbbing. The fluid inside looked clear to my eye – clear as salt water.

My phone buzzed against the cushion of my pillow. It would be Niharika, confirming our date for tonight. For once I wished that she would cancel. Today was going to be our third time out. We had walked at a respectable distance on the first, stealing shy glances at each other every minute or so, keeping to the busier streets. On the second date we had dinner together, and walked in light of the silver street lamps in the park. We held hands. Today, if all had been well, I would have kissed her. It was going to be a full moon’s night too. I’d checked the calendar.

It was not the pain. I could grit my teeth and bear the play of her mouth over my cyst. The softness and moisture of her lips would be distraction enough. But what if the cyst popped while we were kissing? Into the sweetness would come a dash of harsh salt water. On the full moon’s face would creep a shadow. She would stop, maybe even draw away, ask ‘What have you got in your mouth?’ and I would have to show her. What if she grimaces? What if she flinches? What if she makes a face?

That would be my one chance to kiss her, gone forever. I knew Niharika. She was not the kind of woman who would take lightly to a cyst popping in a man’s mouth mid-kiss.

The phone went quiet for a while, then buzzed some more. I sighed. There was only one thing to do. I closed my eyes and bit my incisors into the bubble. Once. Twice. The third time it popped, and the salt water oozed into my mouth. As it slid down my throat, I frowned at my reflection. But a smile was beginning to form on my lips. Tonight was not going to be a flop after all.

I went into the bedroom, and checked my message. It was from Niharika. It said: ‘So sorry, have to cancel tonight. Can we do dinner next week?’

Exercise Two

My prompts for the second exercise were serenity and a long-haired cat. Once again, the intent is to write a piece with serenity as the theme and a long-haired cat as the dominant image.


Lakshmi filled the steel bowl with milk, dropped some chocolate-flavoured cornflakes into it, and set it next to the main door of her apartment. Polly had not come these last few days, but today he might. She left the door open just wide enough so that he could sneak in, and walked back to her armchair, set next to the window. She looked at the bus stop outside. A red bus had stopped, and a young man with a purple backpack slung over his shoulder was sitting at the last window seat, waving to a woman by the side of the road. They were both smiling. On the outside. All cheeks and lips and teeth. Nothing in the eyes.

She thought she heard the sound of claws scratching against the wood of the door. With a start she sat up. But no, it was the Nair boy again, dragging his toy car over the marble. I have to talk them again, she thought, and settled back. The bus had gone now, disappeared around the corner. But the woman stood, her hand held against her forehead. To shade herself against the cool morning sun, or to hide her tears?

Akash would probably call today. She held her phone to her eyes so that she could see the letters. She pressed a few buttons. Did she have enough credit to take a roaming call? Yes. Just about. She reminded herself to tell the milkman tomorrow to get her a recharge.

She cleared her throat. The sound hit the wall, lingered in the air for a moment, then slid down to the ground. She thought of pink paws, long hair, wet nose, broken whiskers, waving tail. Lakshmi rolled her head sideways. The bowl sat there, untouched. The shadows were lengthening. Polly didn’t come today either.

Maybe she will come tomorrow.

Image Courtesy: 1, 2, 3

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  1. EXERCISE 1: My prompts were Love and Pickle Jar. You could find it on my blog or read it below :

    Douglas Adams once said, ‘Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so’. I do not disagree with him. It’s been ten years, but only on the calendars. In my head, it’s as if it was just yesterday…

    …It was the summer of 2004; bright, sunny and soothing. The time of the year when the community parks are crowded. When the barbeque grill owners make more than the usual. When the girls wear floral dresses or barely anything. When the world is a happier place and beer is the most preferred drink. The kind of English weather that is often considered a myth.

    That day, I was walking my dog to the City Central park, the closest park from my house in the late afternoon. Unlike humans, dogs do not care about the time of the year or maybe they do. I can’t tell.

    Sensing the dog wanted to have a little playful time, I took out the plastic bone from my pocket and threw it in the air. The dog by its very nature, ran after it and brought it back to me. I repeated it; once, twice, thrice. Until I threw it far away and it dropped inside a shiny object.

    The dog ran after it, but he didn’t return soon. I noticed his disturbing body language from far. His head was stuck in a jar. A pickle jar. Seeing him grapple I ran up to him and saw him scuffling with himself. As if he was being dragged to death by some unknown forces. I wouldn’t deny the fact that it did tickle me a little. Yes, I am a horrible person at times. When push come to shove, I tried pulling the jar, but he panted and I couldn’t bear it. Five minutes of struggle and no results almost made me give up.

    The next moment, I saw a fine lady picking the dog up and rushing towards the north.I followed her without questioning her intentions. Obviously a dog stealer doesn’t like a dog with a pickle jar stuck to his head and an impatient owner right behind her. She rushed to the nearest vet and got him rescued just before he was about to die. I was ashamed, that it didn’t occur to me first.

    It’s been ten years. The dog is no more, but I am married to the rescuer.


  2. pradeepthyagaraja says:

    This is excellent way to bring out the stories inside us. I liked the concept of using prompts and situations to build a story. This is similar to using props for a dance show, like a table or a ladder etc..

    Exercise 1: My prompts were War and Precocious teen girl.

    “Baba, will I be able to go to school at least from tomorrow?” Fatima questioned her father, Mustafa. “No Fatima!” replied mustafa in a sad voice. “But why Baba ? It’s been more than 8 months since I went to school. I am missing all the lessons, I am missing all my friends. It’s difficult to stay at home and do nothing”, said Fatima in one single breath. Mustafa tried to convince his daughter, “you don’t understand Fatima, the whole country is ravaged with war now, all the streets are filled with war jeeps, there are bomb droppings here and there and there are firings happening in every corner of the street and nobody is safe outside the house, as a matter of fact, we are not safe even inside our house, you know right, we are living in shadbagh, it’s taken over by taliban and now there is unrest everywhere. In this situation, I cannot let you out to go to school”, replied Mustafa.

    Mustafa was thinking “what will happen to my vegetable business if this war continues for so long?, How shall I send my daughter to school?”. Outside their village, every road, every government building was occupied by Taliban. They are not letting anyone to come out of the house. They were allowing only for few hours, that too, only during the prayer times. They have declared their taliban norms across the village, no woman should come out of the house, even if they have to come, they have to wear their hijabs and should be accompanied by some male person from their house. No regular schools are allowed to teach children. In this tough situation, Fatima was aspiring to get a good education and she always wanted to become a teacher.

    Fatima, unlike any teenage girl of 13, is a well mannered girl, not quarrelling with anyone, always less spoken and to the point, like any young adults would do. She was intelligent and always one among the topper in her school tests and other co-curricular activities. She was the favorite student of her teachers in the school. She was always the first to go with the questions for everyday lessons to her teachers. She already knew basic maths and english, she also recites various poems of Rumi and other classical Afghan authors. She was also helping her father in his vegetable business by calculating everyday sales, counting money, checking the inventory, etc… At present moment, she was house arrested for no reason, her hopes of getting a good education is on the verge of collapse due to this unnecessary war.

    One morning, Fatima was gazing out of the window into the narrow streets of her village. She was wondering, “what if suddenly all these war stops and the school just opens up and everything goes normal, like the way it used to be?”. Then in few moments, she heard a blast from 3 streets away. Fatima got very scared of that sound and ran towards her Baba. “Baba, did you hear that sound?”. Mustafa hugging her daughter and saying, “looks like, It’s that one of the Taliban fellow has blown up something, I will ask somebody”. Mustafa went across to the corner of the street to see what had happened. When he came back home, Fatima asked her Baba, “What was that Baba?”. Mustafa replied in his usual tone, “Fatima, the Taliban has bombed your school. Entire school was burned down to ashes, I am sorry”.

    Shadbagh – village name, I took it from ‘And The Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini
    Remaining fictional story – Inspired from Malala Autobiography!


  3. As the writer sometime ! i have to face these kinds of problems. i am pretty much sure that, this article will surely help me to keeping my self pretty much calm and cooler while writing.


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