english elements of literature and poetry

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Last updated: May 3, 2019
introduction of characters, background, setting

inciting incident
the event or change that sparks the story

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rising action
building tension caused by complications and conflict for characters

highest point of tension

falling action
tension fades as story heads toward its end

final decisions are made an conflict is resolved

main struggle or problem; can be…character vs. charactercharacter vs.

self character vs. nature character vs. societyidea vs. idea

big idea about people or life that the author wants to get across to the reader

an object, person, or place that evokes meaning beyond what it actually is; it can be a simple thing that stands for something bigger

time, place, atmosphere

emotion, mood; feeling set by the story

a suggestion or hint about what is going to happen in the future

state of tension and uncertainty in the reader that’s created by the author; as readers, we are anxious to see what will happen and what will come next

recurring concept or two contrasting elements

a sudden revelation of an underlying truth about a person or situation; an awakening; an arrival at an important understanding about life

first person
the “I” of the story presents one character’s point of view; reader is restricted to the thoughts and views of one character

second person
uses “you”; reader is put into the place of main character

third person limited
story is limited to the point of view of ONE character; uses “he”, “she”, or a proper name

third person objective
narrator does not see into the mind of ANY character; like a reporter, this narrator gives an impersonal account of events without revealing what characters think and feel

third person omniscient
story told from the point of view of more than one character; author knows all and can relate what MANY characters see, think, and feel

the person who tells the story

unreliable narrator
interprets events differently from author of story; could be untrustworthy due to inexperience, lack of self knowledge, mental problems or distress

hero, main character

character or force that opposes protagonist and gives rise to story’s conflict

the way a character acts, speaks, thinks, and looks

static/flat character
stays the same throughout the story; a minor character who does not undergo substancial change or growth. Flat characters play a supporting role to the main character, who as a rule should be round, and are often necessary in a story

round/dynamic character
a major character in a work of fiction who encounters conflict and is changed by it. (round characters tend to be more fully developed and described than flat, or static, characters; they seem as real to you as people you know in real life.)

types of literature

a commonly used expression that means something other than its literal meaning

a group of words which appeal to one or more of the senses (sound, tastes, smell, sight, or touch)

an interruption in a story that tells about an earlier episode

dramatic irony
creates a discrepancy between what a character says of believes and what the reader knows to be true

situational irony
exists when there is a difference between what is expected to happen and what actually happens (usually due to forces beyond human control)

dramatic monologue
what the narrator’s saying is the story; the author speaks aloud to another character for a reason

interior monologue
what the narrator’s thinking is the story; stream-of-consciousness is often used in interior monologues; this type of writing suggests a real-time flow of thought inside a character’s mind

diary narration
the narrator is recording events on paper in a diary format; the story is what has been written down

sequence of words printed separately on a page

grouping of lines set off by a space


broken rhyme
result of diving a word at the end of a line to force a rhyme

a repeating word, sound, or syllable that reinforces a poem’s meaning, offers a predictable structure, or highlights a key part of the poem

phrase, line, or group of lines that is repeated throughout a poem, usually after every stanza

speaker/ persona
voice used by author of the poem (not necessarily the poet herself)

writer’s attitude toward the subject; the mood of the poem Ex. playful, sad, serious, angry, affectionate, bitter

reflects the real, informal speech of a particular person

brief reference to a person, place, thing, event, or idea in history or literature

overall feeling that the poem gives the reader

expression of words used to convey an opposite meaning from the usual sense.

comparison of two things without using ‘like’ or ‘as’; used to treat two things that are not the same as equals in order to impart meaning

comparison of two things using ‘like’ or ‘as’

repetition of the same consonant sounds at the beginnings (and sometimes the middles) of words near each other; based on sounds. Ex. luscious lemons, descending dewdrops

repetition of identical and concluding syllables at the end of lines

rhyme scheme
pattern of end rhymes; can mark the rhymes using letters

broken rhyme
result of dividing a word at the end of a line to force a rhyme (split rhyme)

repetition or a pattern of similar sounds, especially vowel sounds

the repetition of consonants (or consonant patterns) especially at the ends of words

iambic pentameter
ten-syllable lines; pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables: always five pairs of unstressed and then stressed syllables (iambs); called ‘blank verse’

a metrical foot consisting of two syllables, a short, unaccented syllable followed by a long, accented syllable

rhythmic pattern of stresses that appear in a poem = marks stressed syllable = marks unstressed syllable. Meter is a measure of rhyme.

The unit of meter is called the ‘foot.’ Metrical lines are named for the number of feet in a line: (1) monometer, (2) dimeter, (3) trimeter, (4) tetrameter, (5) pentameter, (6) hexameter, (7) heptameter, and (8) octameter

narrative poem
poem that tells the story

long narrative poem on a serious subject or historical events

traditionally, a tragic story passed down from generation to generation; ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme; written using quatrains; sad in tone; in third person

Shakespearian sonnet
poem arranged into 3 quatrains and a rhyming couplet; rhymes scheme of abab cdcd efef gg (RHYMING COUPLET at the end; in iambic pentameter; love poem

double acrostic
poem in which a word or words are spelled by the first letters and the last letters of the lines

7-line, diamond-shaped poem with specific parts of speech in each line

poetry originating from Japan; about nature; 3 lines with 5-7-5 syllables

classic form of Japanese poetry (related to the haiku) with five unrhymed lines of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllables

poem about people or emotions with 3 lines and 5-7-5 syllables

rhyming humorous or nonsense poem of five lines; originated in Ireland; set rhyme scheme of a-a-b-b-a with a syllable structure of: 9-9-6-6-9

a short, usually unrhymed poem consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines.

free verse
a form of poetry in which the content is free of traditional rules such as fixed meter or rhyme; the poet’s main consideration is inserting line breaks by breaking the line where there is a natural pause or at a point of suspense for the reader.

a poem that depicts rural life in a peaceful, idealized way

a trite poem with clichéd subject matter and obvious rhyme Ex.: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! or Roses are red, violets are blue..


joining of two words that seem to be contradictory (opposites), but offer a unique effect. Ex.: living deaths, freezing fires, deafening silence, pretty ugly

a play on words that sound similar for a humorous effect

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