Literary Terms – 7/8

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Last updated: April 22, 2019

plot
the series of related actions or events in a literary work

sequence
the arrangement of events in a literary work

conflict
struggle between opposing forces; any problem that must be solved

internal and external
the two major types of conflict

internal conflict
a problem or struggle within a character

external conflict
a problem or struggle between a character and someone or something outside of the character

exposition
establishes the setting, identifies the characters, introduces the basic situation (problem may be revealed here)

initiating incident
introduces the central conflict (sometimes it occurs before the opening of the story)

rising action
any events leading up to the climax

climax
the point of highest interest, the conflict must be resolved one way or another or a character begins to take action to end the conflict

falling action
events that occur between the climax and the conclusion

conclusion/resolution
the story’s end

setting
the time and place of the story (where and when it takes place)

suspense
the quality of the story that makes the reader curious and excited about what will happen next

foreshadowing
an author’s use of hints or clues to suggest events that will occur later in the story

flashback
presents events of the past in the midst of a story in the present

mood
the feeling created in a reader by a literary work or passage

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

character
a person or animal who takes part in the action of a literary work

protagonist
the main character in a literary work

antagonist
a character or force in conflict with the main character

round character
this character is fully developed – the writer reveals good and bad traits as well as background

flat character
this character seems to possess only one or two personality traits – little or no background is revealed

dynamic character
this character changes as a result of the action in the story

static character
this character stays the same throughout the story

trait
one of the qualities that makes up a character’s personality

character motivation
a reason that explains, or partially explains a character’s thoughts, feelings, actions or speech

dialogue
conversation between characters

dialect
a form of language spoken by people in a particular region or group

jargon
the special words or terms used by the members of a particular profession or class

slang
an informal, often short-lived kind of language used in place of standard words

informal language
the language of everyday speech, may use contractions and slang

formal language
the standard language of written communication, formal speeches, and presentations; may not use contractions or slang

narrator
the speaker or character who tells the story

point of view
the relationship between the narrator and the story he/she is telling – the perspective from which the story is told

prose
the ordinary form of writing; most writing that is not poetry, drama, or song

fiction
prose writing that tells about imaginary characters and events

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

fantasy
highly imaginative writing that has elements not found in real life

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

autobiography
a form of nonfiction in which a writer tells his or her own life story

genre
a division or type of literature – generally prose, poetry or drama

theme
the message, central concern, or insight into life revealed in a literary work

stereotype
a fixed, generalized idea about a character, place, or situation

symbol
anything that stands for or represents something else

allusion
a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art

irony
the general name given to literary techniques that involve surprising, interesting, or amusing contradictions

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

situational irony
an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the character, the reader, or the audience (a surprise twist)

dramatic irony
a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be true (we, the audience, know more than the character/s)

euphemism
an inoffensive word or term used in place of another that is felt to be offensive

idiom
an expression having a special meaning different from the usual meanings of the words (example – “hit the road”)

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

figures of speech
types of figurative language

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

metaphor
a figure of speech that makes an indirect comparison between two unlike subjects (something is described as if it were something else)

hyperbole
a figure of speech that is an exaggeration for effect

personification
a figure of speech in which a non-human subject is given human characteristics

alliteration
the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words

onomatopoeia
the use of words that imitate sounds

stanza
a division of poetry similar to a paragraph in prose

refrain
a regularly repeated line or group of lines in a poem or song

author’s purpose
the author’s intent either to inform/teach, to entertain, or to persuade/convince the audience

voice
the fluency, rhythm and liveliness in writing that makes it unique to the writer

satire
literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness

primary source
text that tells a first-hand account of an event; original works used when researching (letters, journals)

secondary source
text used when researching that is derived from something original (biographies, magazine articles)

text structure
the author’s method of organizing text

inference
understanding gained by “reading between the lines;” a judgment based on reasoning rather than direct statement

imagery
a word or group of words in a literary work which appeal to one or more of the senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell

bias
a judgment based on personal point of view

generalization
a conclusion that is used to make a broad statement about a topic or person

editorial
a newspaper or magazine article that gives the opinions of the editors or publishers

propaganda
techniques used to influence people to believe, buy, or do something

name-calling
an attack on a person instead of an issue

bandwagon
tries to persuade the reader to do, think, or buy something because it is popular or everyone is doing it

red herring
an attempt to distract the reader with details not relevant to the argument

emotional appeal
tries to persuade the reader by using words that appeal to the reader’s emotions instead of to logic or reason

testimonial
attempts to persuade the reader by using a famous person to endorse a product or idea

sweeping generalization
makes an oversimplified statement about a group based on limited information

circular argument
states a conclusion as part of the proof of the argument

appeal to numbers, facts, and statistics
attempts to persuade the reader by showing how many people think something is true

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