• Cognitive design is defined as the crafted impact a piece of writing has on its audience.  Central to this design are the subject and theme of the work.  The subject is what the work is about. The theme is the attitude the author has taken toward the subject or the perspective on that subject.  This attitude or perspective controls the way the writer develops his or her work.
  • Design elements are ways of underlining or emphasizing the subject and theme.  They include
    • structure,
    • character,
    • location,
    • tropology,
    • rhetoric,
    • and perspective.


  • Visual structure: the way the book looks on the page
    • Indentation of specific lines
    • Specific types of poetry (concrete; sonnets – Petrarchan and Shakespearean; limericks)
    • Stanza breaks and length
    • Use of specific typefaces: italics, bold, CAPITALS, any change in typeface
    • Line length
    • Length of paragraphs (short paragraphs tend to make the work choppy; long paragraphs tend to make the work feel “dignified” or “academic”)
    • Sections within chapters (denoted by white space, ******, or other visual dividers ☼)
    • Chapter breaks
    • “books” within books
    • Aural structure: the way in which the work strikes the ear (especially in poetry)
  • Rhythm
    • The repeated pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
    • The ‘foot’ is the basic meter of poetry; types of feet include: iambic, trochaic, dactylic, anapestic, spondaic
    • Generally, the more feet per line, the more grave or somber the line becomes
  • Rhyme
    • Acts a mnemonic, a way for readers to remember the poem (e.g. nursery rhymes are simple examples of this)
    • A break in rhyme can signify some importance
    • Creates direction for the poem
    • Sets up an expectation
    • Creates an impression that the poem is an artistic construct
    • Developmental structure: the way in which the writer takes the reader through the work
      • Order (chronological; argumentative; fragmented; starting somewhere other than the beginning and using techniques such as flashbacks to tell the narrative)
      • Use of sub-plots
Writing about Literature


  • How the character acts in a specific situation
  • Reasons behind a character’s actions
  • The ‘morality’ connected to a character’s actions
  • How the character is developed (speed; depth; through stereotypes, caricatures, or a particular physical attribute; round or flat)
  • What the character tells us about him/ herself in actions words and thoughts
  • How the characters interact with others
  • How the characters react in situations
  • How the characters react to the setting
  • Purpose of a character (a means of moving along the plot; a foil for the main character)
  • Number of characters


  • Features of the physical setting
  • Relationship of that setting to the actual world
  • Time of year, day, life
  • Era, century, a decade
  • Duration of the narrative
  • Relationship between time and place
  • Movement from place to place
  • Details of the passage of time
  • Sequencing of time
  • Use of time in the narrative (e.g. flashbacks, flash-forwards)
  • Creations of new societies (e.g. futuristic, fantastical)
  • The physical height of the action and the relationship of other objects around
  • The angle from which the action is viewed
  • Urban vs. rural settings
  • Presence of the elements (weather)


  • Denotation and connotation of figurative language
  • Image- triggers to the recall of visual, olfactory, tactile, auditory, and gustatory memories the reader has of the physical object being described
  • Simile- explicit comparison between two things using the words like, as, or than
  • Metaphor- the implicit analogy between two things; it depends more on the readers’ imagination; it is more abstract
  • A symbol like an image should bring to the reader’s mind a picture of the object; however, a symbol goes much farther in that it should also summon up abstract associations with that object (e.g. in Christian symbolism, a cross: two intersecting pieces of wood [the object] symbolize the death of Christ, atonement, sacrifice, mercy, love, [the abstractions]
  • A symbol can be private to the author only, but with repetition through work or a series of works, this symbol comes to vary the abstraction as well as the specific reference to an object and becomes obvious to the reader
  • Symbols are often culturally based
  • Archetype- symbol or groups of symbols that exist beneath the human consciousness; they are said to be experiences common to the human race (e.g. the journey, the hero). We often speak of “universals”- universal themes, universal characters; however, in our understanding of the post-colonial world, many would argue that archetypes do not exist except within cultural contexts.


  • Word order
    • Manipulation of common word order to create an effect
  • Word choice
    • Figurative language (oxymoron, onomatopoeia, assonance, alliteration, hyperbole, understatement, irony, allusion, pun)
    • Jargon, slang, dialect, colloquial, concrete
    • Word complexity and abstraction
  • Sentence structure
    • Sentence type (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex)
    • Sentence design (loose, periodic, balanced, allowable fragments)
    • Use of semi-colon, appositives, colons, dashes
    • Order (natural, inverted, split)
    • Type (assertive, interrogatory, imperative, exclamatory)
Producing an Excellent Radio Drama


  • First-person – participant, observer, reporter
  • Second person – placing the reader in the main character’s position (choose your own adventure!)
  • Third – omniscient, limited omniscient (i.e. fly on the wall), reporter

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