Important Terms

LITERARY DEVICES

Characterization
: Techniques a writer uses to create and develop a character by what he/she does or says, what other characters say about him/her, or how
they react to him/her, and what the author reveals directly or through a narrator. 


  • Direct: the author or narrator states the traits directly in the text.
  • Indirect: traits are inferred through the character’s thoughts and actions.

Dialect: Speech that reflects pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar typical of a specific region.

Figurative Language
: Language that has meaning beyond the literal meaning; also known as “figures of speech.” 


  • Alliteration: The repetition of initial consonant sounds
  • Allusion: A reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art to add meaning.
  • Hyperbole: a purposeful exaggeration for emphasis or humor. 

  • Idiom: An expression that has a different meaning than the literal meaning.
  • Metaphor: comparison of two different things that does not use “like” or “as.” 

  • Onomatopoeia: The use of words that imitate sounds. Examples would be hiss, buzz, swish, and crunch.
  • Personification: human qualities attributed to an animal, object, or idea, e.g. “The wind exhaled.” 

  • Simile: comparison of two different things with “like” or “as.”

Flashback: Interruption of the chronological (time) order to present something that occurred before the beginning of the story.

Foreshadowing: Important hints that an author drops to prepare the reader for what is to come, and help the reader anticipate the outcome.

Imagery: Words or phrases that appeal to the reader’s senses.

Humor: The quality of a literary or informative work that makes the character and/or situations seem funny, amusing, or ludicrous.

Irony: A technique that involves surprising, interesting, or amusing contrasts.

Point of View: Perspective from which the story is told

  • First-person: narrator is a character in the story; uses “I,” “we,” etc.
  • Third-person: narrator outside the story; uses “he,” “she,” “they”
  • Third-person limited: narrator tells only what one character perceives
  • Third-person omniscient: narrator can see into the minds of all characters.

Style: The way that a writer uses language such as word choice, sentence length, arrangement, and the use of figurative language/imagery.

Suspense: A feeling of excitement, curiosity, or expectation about what will happen.

Symbol: Person, place, or thing that represents something beyond itself.



LITERARY ELEMENTS     

Character
: One of the people (or animals) in a story.

  • Protagonist: the main character/characters in the story
  • Antagonist: the character who causes conflict for the protagonist
  • Round character: a character who you know a lot about
  • Flat character: a character who you do NOT know a lot about
  • Static character: a character who does not change throughout the story
  • Dynamic character: a character who undergoes some sort of change

Conflict: A problem or struggle between two opposing forces in a story. There are four basic conflicts:

  • Person vs. Person: A problem between characters. 

  • Person vs. Self: A problem within a character’s own mind.
  • Person vs. Society: A problem between a character and society, school, the law, or some tradition. 

  • Person vs. Nature: A problem between a character and some element of nature-a blizzard, a hurricane, a mountain climb, etc.

Dialogue: The conversations that characters have with one another. 


Mood: The feeling a piece of literature gives to the reader. 


Moral: The lesson a story teaches.

Narrator: The person or character who actually tells the story.

Plot: The action that makes up the story, following a plan called the plot line. 
The plot line has six parts: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Click for notes on: Plot Diagram 

  • Exposition: The part of the story, usually near the beginning, in which the characters are introduced, the background is explained, and the setting is described.
  • Inciting Incident: The event in the story that causes conflict.
  • Rising Action: The central part of the story during which various problems arise after a conflict is introduced.
  • Climax: The high point in the action of a story.
  • Falling Action: The action and dialogue following the climax that leads the reader into the
story’s end. 

  • Resolution: The part of the story in which the problems are solved and the action comes to a satisfying end.

Setting: The place and the time frame in which a story takes place.

Theme: The message about life or human nature that is “the focus” in the story that the writer tells.

Tone: the author’s attitude toward a subject/character.

NONFICTION TERMS  

Author’s Purpose
: author's reason for writing

  • To persuade
  • To inform
  • To explain/describe
  • To entertain

Author’s Style: the way the author puts ideas into words (humor, formal) 

Caption
: a label or brief explanation of a picture/illustration.

Footnote: usually provides more information or a definition located at the bottom of the text.

Headline: the title of an article in a newspaper/magazine/website.

Info-graphic/Graphic: Pictures added to a text that give more information about a topic.

Objective Summary: a short paragraph on what an article is about - without thoughts and opinions.

 Sidebar: an article (usually in a box) placed alongside a longer article with additional or contrasting information.

 Subtitle: the title of a certain section.

 Text Structure: the way information is organized in a text.

  • Description: author provides detailed description.
  • Sequence: author lists items or events in chronological order.
  • Problem and Solution: author presents the problem along with solutions.
  • Cause and Effect: author presents a "cause" which leads to a result, or "effect."
  • Compare and Contrast: author provides similarities and differences between two items.