Character Katniss from the Hunger Games book standing in front of a setting sun representing simile.Example of a simile from The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

When talking about language in prose fiction, there are a number of things you could look for:

Many words can be understood in different ways:

  • denotations - their dictionary meaning
  • connotations - the ideas they link to

For example, the word 'desk' literally denotes a table, but it has connotations of work and study.

Words can reveal a theme, such as death, or love, or create a particular mood in a section of the narrative.

Patterns in language

It’s useful to look for any patterns in the language chosen by the writer, as these patterns may suggest important themes or deeper meanings beyond the obvious. For example:

  • Is there a particular semantic field used by the writer? (For example words linked to the military or hospitals.)
  • Does the writer repeat any ideas or images? (These could act as a motif in the text.)
  • Does the writer favour a particular type of word? (For example using lots of abstract nouns like dream, love, peace, friendship.)
  • Can words or phrases from different parts of the text be linked in some way?