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Writing prose involves more than simply recording events as they happen, or telling a straight story. Sometimes stylistic prose techniques are used to add depth and character to the story. Perhaps the two most common techniques are the use of simile and metaphor, though other techniques exist as well. Motifs are prominent in both fiction and nonfiction, as is the use of irony. Fiction tends to adhere to a plot structure that helps guide the story along in a logical manner, though techniques such as frame stories and flashbacks can be used to change the plot structure.
Similes are comparisons between unrelated ideas, people, or objects. The comparison will include the words "like" or "as" in them to draw attention to the comparison. This is one of the most commonly used stylistic prose techniques because it is logical, easy to recognize, and often freeing for the writer: he or she can use figurative language without having to hide the meaning or disguise the technique. A simile might read something like this:
"The truck came barreling down the street like a fastball headed for the catcher's glove."
The use of metaphors is also one of the most common stylistic prose techniques, and it is similar to a simile in that a comparison is made between two different people, places, things, ideas, actions, and so on. Metaphors do not use the words "like" or "as" in them, however, and they can be somewhat harder to spot. An example of a metaphor might read something like this:
"Bill's apartment was cavernous."
The comparison is made between the apartment and a cavern, but it is made more subtly than a simile would have structured it.
Motifs are recurring themes throughout a story or text. This is one of the more difficult stylistic prose techniques to recognize, as the reader must be astute enough to pick up on the recurring theme or event. A character in a story might, for example, have a habit of touching his nose every time he lies. This is considered a motif that is indicative of a repetition in the story. The astute reader will begin to understand the character is lying because he has touched his nose.
Irony occurs when the reader expects one situation or event, but another occurs. There are three general types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic. Using these techniques well can be tricky, and an ironic situation may not present itself until the very end of a story, making it an exceptionally difficult irony to spot until the story has been finished.