Monday, February 20, 2012

A Quick Glossary of Literary Terms

Today's post comes courtesy of Lisa K., a member of my weekly Writing Practicum. Lisa is a teacher of children's and young adult literature at a branch campus of Western Michigan University. 

At a weekly meeting, one of our Practicum members asked Lisa for some basic notes on literary terms that she uses when she teaches her literature courses. She obliged with the following glossary of terms she uses in her lectures. With her permission, I'm sharing them here. They provide a good jumping-off point for understanding common vocabulary used in the "writing world."   

Allegory – When objects, persons, and actions in a piece of literature, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the literature itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy.

Ambiguity - A statement which can contain two or more meanings

Antagonist – the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. Does not have to be a single character or characters at all; it can be a force of nature, or circumstances beyond the protagonist's control.

Choose your words carefully...
Characterization -- The method a writer uses to develop a character. The method includes:
 (1) showing the character's appearance
 (2) displaying the character's actions
 (3) revealing the character's thoughts
 (4) letting the character speak, and 
 (5) getting the reactions of others.

Diction - An author's choice of words. Since words have specific meanings, and since one's choice of words can affect feelings, a writer's choice of words can have great impact in a literary work

Dramatic Monologue - the occurrence of a single speaker saying something to a silent reader.

Elements of Plot:
  Setting - Determines Time and Place.
  Rising Action - The part of a book which begins with the problem and sets the stage for the climax
  Climax - The turning point of the plot to which the rising action leads.
  Conflict – The struggle. (A good novel should have 3 out of the 4 conflicts if not all of them)
  1. Character against character
  2. Character against self
  3. Character against society
  4. Character against nature
 Falling Action - The series of events which take place after the climax.
 Resolution – Tying up loose ends of the plot.

Flat/Static Character – A character who has few character traits and does not have an emotional change in the story.

Flashback - Action that interrupts to show an event that happened at an earlier time which is necessary to better understanding.

Foreshadowing – The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in the story.

Irony – The result of an action is the reverse of what the reader expected – 
  1. Dramatic irony - the reader knows something that the characters do not.
  2. Verbal irony - the contrast between the literal meaning of what is said and what is meant. A character may refer to a plan as brilliant, while actually meaning that (s)he thinks the plan is foolish

Metaphors – Direct comparisons made between characters and ideas.

Mood - The emotional attitude the author takes towards his/her subject. A work may contain a mood of horror, mystery, holiness, or childlike simplicity, to name a few, depending on the author's treatment of the work.

Personification -- Giving human qualities to animals or objects.

Point of View - Literature contains a character who is speaking either in the first person (telling things from his or her own perspective) or in the third person (telling things from the perspective of an onlooker). The perspective used is called the Point of View, and is referred to either as first person or third person

    If the speaker knows everything including the actions, motives, and thoughts of all the characters, the speaker is referred to as omniscient (all-knowing). 
    If the speaker is unable to know what is in any character's mind but his or her own, this is called limited omniscience.

Hero? Villain? Round or Flat? You make the call...
Protagonist – The hero or central character of a literary work. In accomplishing his or her objective, the protagonist is hindered by some opposing force either human, animal, or natural force (see "Antagonist").

Round Character - A character who has many character traits and undergoes a dramatic emotional change in the story.

Style - Several things enter into the style of a work: the author's use of figurative language, diction, sound effects and other literary devices.

Symbols – A device in literature where an object represents an idea.

Theme – An ingredient of a literary work which gives the work unity. The theme provides an answer to the question What is the work about?

Tone -- The attitude a writer takes toward a subject or character: e.g. serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objective.

Types of Narratives:
-       Nonfiction – All true
-       Historical fiction – true setting/time period but made up characters
-       Realistic fiction – characters and setting are easy to identify with; takes place in today’s society.
-       Fantasy fiction – one element is completely made up. Generally feature two worlds the author creates: Primary World = the realistic world// Secondary World = magic or a setting beyond our grasp.
-    Character driven -- The focus is on the character. Character's development and journey is the most important part of the story.
-    Plot driven -- The focus is on the story. Story's action is more important than character development.


Samuel_Clemons said...

plot driven. dat's me. i wuv to tell stories. why just the other day, i told everyone about the dogs. and uncle freddie. he had WAY too much to drink.

thought i'd stop by and so a bit o' readin'

i tweet @samuel_clemons

Ami Hendrickson said...

You are SO plot driven! A crumpled foil PopTart wrapper is all you need for a rollicking action yarn! :)
Thanks for commenting.