The Le Guin Binary. The Nivenette.
The best short-story writers maintain an arsenal of short-cuts. Learn how to write concisely without lessening impact.
The catalog of literary devices is vast. How can anyone remember them all? Especially with names like litote, polysyndeton, and zeugma. I can’t keep them all straight, but when I run across an unfamiliar device that deserves a highlight, I give it a temporary name, something that will help me remember why I enjoyed it.
Le Guin Binary
The work of Ursula Le Guin is a treasure trove of brilliant ideas and inventive language.
Le Guin starts with a soft contrast between land and sea. Then she boils that contrast down to two words separated by a colon. It captures the reader’s attention; primes them for the explicit comparison that follows. It’s not something I had ever encountered before, but it seems perfectly natural.
Larry Niven may be best known for his novels, but his short-story chops earned him a place in the famed anthology Dangerous Visions. In the category of brevity:
Niven cuts an entire dialogue section down to one character! Almost like a parenthetical in a screenplay. It’s difficult not to imagine that question mark translated into a facial expression. And it proves that Niven is a master of the short-story shortcut.