Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques: The Discrete Appositive

The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques is a running feature here at the Ape in which I observe, name, and discuss heretofore uncategorized (at least to my knowledge) literary devices. For a list of previous entries, please scroll to the bottom of this post.

The Discrete Appositive:
An appositive that exists as a sentence fragment immediately after its antecedent noun

"Fair-haired, solidly built and not tall--not taller than Nina--his eyes are light blue, like a dog's. A husky."
                          -I Married You For Happiness by Lily Tuck

The discrete appositive here is "a husky." I'm interested in how authors represent thought (especially in close third-person narration). Here Tuck uses this little device to mimic a slight cognitive pause. The result is that we can feel the character thinking, trying to remember the particular canine eyes.


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)

Previous entries in The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques:


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  1. I'm a follower, so how is it that I've somehow missed all of your fictional technique posts?  Love learning the names for things like this.

  2. I like fragments like that - they seem to mimic thought better.  I, for one, don't think in complete sentences, at least not normally.

  3. Note how if they had simply used the phrase "light blue, like a Husky's," Then they would be Proxy Detailing, another of your phrases. I sense the writer wrote themselves into this technique by trying to avoid the awkward phrase "Like a husky dog's." Which itself is an unclear statement (as husky is both an adjective and a breed) unless you say "a Husky dog's eyes, which repeats the word 'eye' twice in the same sentence, which writers are trained not to do. I'm not sure I have a point with this.