Literary Terms - not including drama or poetry terms.

List without definitions:

(List with definitions after this one)


  • Allusion
  • Anachronism
  • Anecdote
  • Antagonist
  • Atmosphere
  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Character
  • Characterization
    • Direct characterization
    • Indirect characterization
      • S.T.E.A.L.
    • Static character
    • Dynamic character
    • Flat character
    • Round character
  • Conflict
    • Internal conflict
    • External conflict
    • Types of conflict
      • character vs. self
      • character vs. character
      • character vs. society
      • character vs. nature
      • character vs. fate and/or the gods
  • Connotation
  • Denotation
  • Description
  • Dialect
  • Diction
  • Essay
  • Exposition
  • Fable
  • Farce
  • Fiction
  • Figure of speech
  • Flashback
  • Foil
  • Foreshadowing
  • Frame story
  • Imagery
  • Inversion
  • Irony
    • Verbal irony
    • Situational irony
    • Dramatic irony
  • Metaphor
    • Direct metaphor
    • Implied metaphor
    • Extended metaphor
    • Dead metaphor
    • Mixed metaphor
  • Motif
  • Myth
  • Narration
  • Nonfiction
  • Novel
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Overstatement
  • Parable
  • Parallelism
  • Parody
  • Personification
  • Persuasion
  • Plot
    • Climax
    • Complications
    • Conflict
    • Denouement
    • Exposition
    • Falling Action
    • Rising Action
    • Suspense
    • Plot structure traditional order:
      • Exposition
      • Rising Action
      • Climax
      • Falling Action
      • Denouement
  • Point of view
    • First Person
    • Third Person Limited
    • Omniscient
  • Protagonist
  • Pun
  • Romance
  • Satire
  • Setting
  • Short story
  • Simile
  • Suspense
  • Symbol
  • Theme
  • Tone



List with definitions:

Allusion
A reference to a statement, person, place, event, or thing that is known from literature, history, religion, politics, sports, science, or pop culture
Anachronism
An event or detail in a literary work that is placed outside its proper historical time period
Anecdote
A brief account of a particular incident;
personal stories often used to point out truths about life
Antagonist
Character who blocks the protagonist; against the protagonist; sometimes even a true “villain”
Atmosphere
The mood or feeling in a work of literature;
Created through descriptive details and evocative language
Autobiography
An account of a person’s own life written by him or her
Biography
An account of a person’s life written or told by another person
Character
An individual in a story or play;
The people in a story
Characterization
Process by which writers reveal the personality of a character
Direct characterization
When author directly tells what a character is like
Indirect characterization
When an author reveals what a character is like through the character’s speech, thoughts and feelings, actions, and looks, as well as the character’s effect on others
Static character
Character who does not change much in the course of the story
Dynamic character
Character who changes in some important way as a result of the story’s action
Flat character
Character with only one or two personality traits; one-dimensional character who can be summed up in one sentence
Round character
Character with many dimensions to his/her personality; complex and multi-faceted, like real people
Conflict
A struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions
Internal conflict
Struggle within oneself;
Character vs. self
External conflict
Struggle against an outside force
Types of conflict
Character vs. character
Character vs. society
Character vs. nature
Character vs. fate and/or the gods
Connotation
Dictionary definition of a word plus all the meanings and emotions associated with that word;
For example, the flag is a piece of cloth which also is a symbol of freedom.
Denotation
Literal, dictionary definition of a word
Description
Writing intended to recreate a person, place, thing, event or experience;
Writing that uses images to draw a picture with words for the reader
Dialect
A way of speaking that is characteristic of a particular region or group of people
Diction
Word choice;
a writer’s or speaker’s choice of words;
it is an essential element of a writer’s style
Essay
A short piece of nonfiction prose that examines a single subject from a limited point of view;
Types include formal and informal;
Ms. Lee often assigns you to write these in response to literature. Many of you freak out about them on tests. There are none of these on this test.
Exposition
A kind of writing that explains a subject, gives information, or clarifies an idea;
Also the term for the beginning part of a plot
Fable
A very brief story in prose or verse that teaches a moral, or a practical lesson about life; characters are usually animals that behave and speak like human beings;
Similar to an allegory or parable
Farce
A type of comedy in which ridiculous and often stereotyped characters are involved in farfetched, silly situations
Fiction
Prose writing that includes invented material and that does not claim to be factually true
Figure of speech
A word or phrase that describes one thing in terms of another and is meant to be understood on a literal level;
metaphors, similes, and personification
Flashback
A scene in a movie, play, short story, novel, or narrative poem that interrupts the present action of the plot to “flash backward” and tell what happened at an earlier time
Foil
A character who is used as a contrast to another character;
Character opposite used to point out truths in another character;
For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell are character foils.
Foreshadowing
The use of clues to hint at what is going to happen later in the plot;
The effect arouses the reader’s curiosity and increases suspense
Frame story
A story that contains another story or stories
Imagery
Language that appeals to the senses;
It is used in all writing, especially in poetry
Inversion
The reversal of the normal word order of a sentence
Irony
A contrast or discrepancy between expectation and reality—between what is said and what is really meant, between what is expected and what really happens, or between what appears to be true and what is really true
Verbal irony
When a speaker says one thing but means the opposite;
Sarcasm, for example
Situational irony
When what actually happens is the opposite of what is expected or appropriate
Dramatic irony
When the reader or audience knows something important that a character in a story or drama does not know
Metaphor
A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two seemingly unlike things without using the connective words like, as, than, or resembles
Direct
A direct comparison between two unlike things;
Example: My heart is an ocean of love.
Implied
Suggested comparison between two unlike things;
Example: Angrily the mother barked commands at her child. The mother is being compared to a barking dog.
Extended metaphor
A metaphor that is extended, or developed, over several lines of writing or even throughout an entire poem
Dead metaphor
A metaphor that has become so common that we no longer even notice that it is a figure of speech;
Our everyday speech is filled with these, such as the hands of a clock, or an iron will.
Mixed metaphor
The inconsistent measure of two or more metaphors; most often unintentional
Motif
A particular element in a folktale or literary work that is found in many other stories
Myth
An anonymous traditional story that is basically religious in nature, and that usually serves to explain a believe, ritual, or mysterious natural phenomenon;
Your 2013-14 Homecoming theme is based on Greek ones
Narration
Kind of writing that tells a story or relates a series of events
Nonfiction
Prose writing that deals with real people, events, and places;
Common forms include essays, biographies, and autobiographies
Novel
A long fictional prose narrative, usually fifty thousand words;
Much longer than a short story;
You’re reading one for class
Onomatopoeia
The use of a word whose sound imitates or suggests its meaning;
Examples: buzz, bang, pop, bark, splash, whizz
Overstatement
A figure of speech that uses exaggeration to express strong emotion or create a comic effect;
Also known as hyperbole;
Does not express the literal truth, but is often used in the service of truth to capture a sense of intensity or to emphasize the essential nature of something;
Example: I was freezing at the football game. It was about -30 degrees.
Parable
A story that teaches a lesson about life;
Often used in the Bible;
Similar to a fable except its characters are human and its lesson illustrates a moral attitude or religious principle
Parallelism
The repetition of words, phrases, or sentences that have the same grammatical structure, or that restate a similar idea;
Also known as parallel structure, and is often found in poetry , dram, and speeches because it can help make lines emotional, rhythmic, and memorable
Parody
The imitation of a work of literature, art, or music for amusement or instruction;
Often done by comedians; Saturday Night Live is based on this
Personification
A kind of metaphor in which a nonhuman thing or quality is talked about as if it were human;
Giving human characteristics to inanimate objects;
Example: The tree wept as its leaves fell to the ground.
Persuasion
A kind of writing that aims at convincing the reader or listener to think or act in a certain way
Plot
The series of related events that make up a story or drama
Climax
The most tense and most exciting part of the plot
Complications
Problems that arise for characters; most often arise in the Rising Action
Conflict
Struggle between forces
Denouement
The part of plot where all the problems are unraveled;
Also known as the resolution, but Ms. Lee doesn’t allow that term.
Exposition
Part of plot; the beginning of a story that introduces the basic situation, the main characters and their conflicts
Falling Action
Part of plot following the climax
Rising Action
Part of plot where complications are introduced leading to the climax
Suspense
The uncertainty or anxiety
Plot structure traditional order:
Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Denouement
Point of view
The vantage or view point from which a writer tells a story
First Person
Narrator telling the story is a character in the story
Third Person Limited
Narrator telling the story is outside the story, but tells the story from the vantage point of only one character;
this narrator can enter the mind of this character, but cannot tell what any other characters are thinking except by observation;
this narrator can also only go where the chosen character goes
Omniscient
The all-knowing point of view;
Outside of the story, a god-like observer who can tell us what all the characters are thinking and feeling, as well as what is happening anywhere in the story
Protagonist
Main character in fiction or drama;
Character on whom we focus our attention; character who sets the plot in motion
Pun
A play on the multiple meanings of a word, or on two words that sound alike but have different meanings.
Example: The skydiver was enjoying himself so much and decided not to open his parachute because it would be a drag.
Romance
Historically, a medieval verse narrative chronicling the adventures of a hero who undergoes a quest for a high ideal;
Later this term came to mean any story set in a world of wish fulfillment with larger than life characters who often have supernatural powers.
Satire
A kind of writing that ridicules human weakness, vice, or folly in order to bring about social reforms
Setting
The time and place of a story or play; where and when a story takes place
Short story
A short fictional prose narrative
Simile
A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two seemingly unlike things by using a connective word such as like, as, than, or resembles.
Suspense
The uncertainty or anxiety we feel about what is going to happen next in a story
Symbol
A person, place, thing, or event that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself;
Examples: a snake representing evil; a heart as representing love
Theme
The central idea or insight of a work of literature;
Ms. Lee’s specific definition of this term is that it’s an author’s insight about life
Tone
The attitude a writer takes toward the reader, subject, or a character