Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques: Paracatenation

a sequence of sentence fragments, each describing an item in a list.

"A flashlight, for power cuts, and a stock of AAs. A novel he should have selected more carefully if he was taking only one. An English-Swahili phrasebook, malaria pills, deet. Prescription cortisone cream for persistent eczema on his ankle, a tube that would soon run out."
from So Much for That by Lionel Shriver.

Paracatenation has several uses, but in this case it seems to bring the third person narration closer to the character's point-of-view. The absence of formal narration also suggests a distance between the list and any thinking about or reflection on the list. Many instances of paracatenation are metonymic for a character's internal stock-taking; the most well-known recent example is probably Tim O'Brien's short-story "The Things They Carried."

Previous Entry:

The Generalized Categorical


All entries in The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques are original to The Reading Ape, unless otherwise cited. (This means that they aren’t ‘real words,’ so don’t use them in your freshman comp essay)


  1. How cool. Who knew there was a word for this. It does seem to make you feel like you're more fully inside the character's head, though ironically, I don't know if I ever think that way.

  2. I do love your name for this one. It rolls off the tongue beautifully. I would add that in my experience PARACATENATION often results in/creates a satiric tone, or if not that, at least some level of mockery. I've come across it a lot but would have to delve back into my "archives" to find some examples.

  3. Stopping by from the blog hop and to tell you about a book giveaway.

    Giveaway for GREAT HOUSE by Nicole Krauss will begin on my blog on February 19th until February 23.

    I won't be the only blog giving away books.

    Stop back on Saturday for the full post and giveaway form.

    Mark your calendars.