Style Guide 3 – Rhetorical Device: Ominatia

Ominatia, in all its entirety, is often times used in the rhetorical context to allude to or foreshadow future events, specifically those of an ominous, prophetic type. It is most commonly incorporated into works that require some sort of invocation of fear or suspense. Therefore, Ominatia is very much so prevalent in the horror genre for its superlative qualities to instill a sense of anticipation and build-up in the audience.


We can see this in action as we rhetorically analyze our storium projects; “The Tape” for example, takes advantage of Ominatio a multitude of times as the story line condenses and takes shape. Even in the exposition, the audience can sense a presence of something dreadful with the type or rhetoric the authors use such as “dead silence filling the lifeless chambers of their home” in order to describe the house’s appearance and ambience. Already engaged, the audience are then exposed to the character development that the authors carefully coordinated after this enticing introduction. “The Tape” also includes a lot of descriptive imagery, which can sometimes be confused with Ominatia, but the differentiating characteristic is symbolic meaning. An event, action, character, or other aspect of a horror story can serve as a symbol for premonition — It is more subtle and often goes unnoticed unlike imagery. In the passage, “The house is freezing cold; however, their hands become sweaty as their heart rates increase and their surroundings get more intense” is juxtaposed with the mother coming into the scene and offering comfort to the children, deescalating the climactic action.  Therefore, Ominatia does not apply here. Towards the end of “The Tape” though, we see Ominatia to make another appearance as the authors make the decision to leave the story on a cliffhanger. This is another archetypal move by authors of the horror genre. It invokes a sense of curiosity and urgency to know what the next scenes have to offer. The authors utilize the mother, Stacy, to employ Ominatia in her final scene when she stares off into the night sky: “She looks off into the distance. Her eyes meet the clouded moonlight. A strange red flicker glimmers in her eyes, and a wicked grin overcomes her face. In a matter of minutes, the siblings’ childhood home filled with loving memories becomes a haunted house with no escape.” At this point, the audience members understand that the following scenes will bring some sort of plight to the characters, Becca and James (The children, Stacy’s children). The cautious use of the word “wicked” when describing the mother’s smile is vital to understanding the meaning in combination with the estranged “red flicker” when referring to her eyes.


The use of Ominatia as a form of rhetoric is often times thought of to be exclusive to the horror genre, but it does make appearances in other forms of plot development in other genres. It serves the purpose of establishing a climax, intensifying the anxiousness of the reader/viewer and inducing a desire to remain fixated to the scene. We can see how the “Violin” storium is able to implement Ominatia in this way. Set in a futuristic, utopian time period, where technology is more advanced than ever, Jink is tasked with solving her father’s mysterious death. In the third scene, she comes across a trail of blood that causes the audience to expect a dire end result. When the authors choose to portray Jink’s emotions in response to seeing blood, her reaction complements the use of Ominatia: “Jink shed a tear as she put her evidence scanners back on and saw less and less of Jhins blood trail and more and more of her father’s.”  It is understood now that Jink will probably be forced to face the grueling image of her father lying dead at the site of his death, and perhaps encounter something even more sinister. This offers versatility to the authors, allowing them to either reinforce these assumptions of what will transpire or undercut them and add an unexpected twist to the short story. The latter is what the authors decide to go with, revealing Jhin, Jink’s brother to be the real killer.


Though the storiums sparsely incorporated Ominatia into their individual plots, its practical use in establishing a thematic sequence of events in movies, books, etc. serves an important role in shaping our impressions, inferences, and intuition. It drives our creative minds, giving us the privilege of forming our own predictions  and possibly affording us the pleasure of confirming these predictions.