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Literary Terms
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The action in a story.  Usually a series of related incidents which builds and grows as the story develops.  There are five basic parts
or elements in a plot which make up a plot line.

Plot line (you need to draw the lines yourself)

The graphic representation of the action or events in a story.


               Action                    Falling

Exposition                                   Resolution


Writing which is intended to explain something which
might otherwise be difficult to understand.  The portion of the story that helps the reader to understand the background or situation in which the work is set.

Rising Action

The series of conflicts which build a story toward a climax.


The high point or turning point in a story. Usually the most intense point.

Falling Action

The action of a story which works out the decision arrived at during the climax.  It ends with the resolution.


The portion of the story where the problem is solved.  It comes after the climax and falling action and is intended to bring the story to a satisfactory end.


The main character or hero of the story.


The person or thing working against the protagonist or hero.  When this is a person, he is usually called the villain.

Point of View

The vantage point from which the story is told.  There are four types.      

1) First Person          2) Third Person Limited         3) Camera View  (objective)    4) Omniscient Narrator


The statement about life a particular work is trying to get across to the reader.


The “problem” in a story which triggers the action.  There are five basic types of conflict:

     Man Vs. Man     -     One character in a story has a
                         problem with one or more of the
                         other characters.

     Man Vs. Society -     A character has a problem with
                         some element of society.

     Man Vs. Himself -     A character has trouble deciding
                         what to do in a particular

     Man Vs. Nature -     A character has a problem with
                         some natural happening: a
                         snowstorm, an avalanche, the
                         bitter cold, or any of the other
                         elements common to nature.

     Man Vs. Fate (God)- A character has to battle what
                         seems to be an uncontrollable
                         problem. Whenever the problem
                         seems to be a strange or
                         unbelievable coincidence, fate
                         can be considered the cause.

idiom - a phrase or expression having a special meaning that cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its words. (i.e. - "to fly off the handle")

standard - of or relating to a kind of language that is most widely accepted by educated speakers.

dialect - a variety of language spoken in a particular region by a particular group.

lexicon - a stock of terms used in a particular subject or profession. A vocabulary.

jargon -      1) nonsensical or meaningless talk, gibberish
                 2) the specialized language of a trade, profession or class

folklore - records customs, traditions, and beliefs of a people and also consists of arts & crafts, dances, games, riddles, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, proverbs, songs and superstitions.

myths - often explain early ideas about nature, feature gods, goddesses and supernatural beings.

legends - a widely told story about the past that may or may not have a foundation in fact. Usually contain fantastic details such as feats of incredible strength.

folktales - present customs and beliefs of a culture and often teach a lesson.

alliteration - the repetition of initial consonant sounds, used to create a musical or rhythmic effect in poetry.

allusion - a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art. Writers usually don't explain their allusions, they expect the reader to be familiar with what they're writing about.

anecdote - a brief story about an interesting, amusing, or strange event. Used to entertain and make specific points.

antagonist - a character or force in conflict with the main character.

autobiography - a form of nonfiction in which a person tells his or her own life story.

ballad - a songlike poem that tells a story.

biography - a form of nonfiction in which a writer tells the life story of another person.

characterizaion - the act of creating and developing a character.

concrete poem - a poem with a shape that suggests its subject.

conflict - a struggle between opposing forces.

dialogue - conversation between two characters.

drama - a story written to be performed by actors.

essay - a short, nonfiction work about a particular subject.  An expository essay presents information, discusses ideas, or explains a process.

exposition - writing or speech that explains or informs.

fable - a brief story usually with animal characters that teaches a lesson or moral.

fantasy - highly imaginative writing that contains elements not found in real life.

fiction - prose writing that tells about imaginary characters and events.

figurative language - writing or speech that is not meant to be taken literally.

flashback - a section of a literary work that interrupts the sequence of events to relate an event from an earlier time.

foreshadowing - the use of clues that suggest events that have yet to occur.

free verse - poetry not written in a regular rhythmical pattern.

genre - a division or type of literature. Literature is generally divided into three major genres: poetry, prose, and drama.  Each of these major genres can be broken down into other categories.

hero/heroine - a character whose actions are inspiring or noble.

hyperbole - obvious and intentional exaggeration, not to be taken seriously.

image - a word or phrase that appeals to one or more of the five senses.

irony - literary techniques that involve surprising, interesting or amusing contradictions.

verbal irony - words are used to suggest the opposite of their usual meaning

dramatic irony - a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the audience or reader knows to be true.

irony of situation - an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the characters or the reader.

lyric poem - a highly musical verse that expresses the observations and feelings of a single speaker.

metaphor - a figure of speech in which something is described as though it were something else.

mood - or atmosphere, is the feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage.

moral - a lesson taught by a literary work.

motivation - a reason that explains or partially explains a character's thoughts.

narrative poem - a story told in verse (a poem that tells a story)

narrator - a speaker or character who tells a story.

nonfiction - prose writing that presents and explains ideas or that tells about real people, places, objects or events.

novel - a long work of fiction.

onomatopoeia - the use of words that imitate sounds.

personification - a type of figurative language in which a nonhuman subject is given human characteristics.

persuasion - writing or speech that attempts to convince the reader to adopt an opinion or course of action.

plot - the sequence of events in a literary work.

point of view - the perspective or vantage point from which a story is told.  We went over the four types many many times this year.

prose - the ordinary form of written language.  Most writing that is not poetry, drama or song is considered prose.

protagonist - the main character in a literary work

science fiction - writing that tells about imaginary events that involve science or technology.

setting - the time and place of the action in a literary work.

short story - a brief work of fiction.

simile - a figure of speech that makes a direct comparison between two unlike subjects, using like or as.

stanza - a group of lines in a poem.

symbol - anything that stands for or represents something else. Usually concrete objects or images that represent abstract ideas.

theme - a central message, concern, or insight into life expressed in a literary work. A theme can usually be expressed by a one- or two-sentence statement about human beings or about life.

tone - the attitude toward the subject and audience conveyed by the language and rhythm of the speaker in a literary work.