Plot: the events of a story or
narrative with a variety of sequencing patterns. The plot is what
happens in the story.
- Exposition: the background
information of a story, the story before the story.
- Conflict: the struggle between two
forces, one generally being the protagonist of the story. The
antagonist can be the self, another person, animal, nature, technology/machine,
society, or the supernatural
- Climax: the point in the story where
the conflict is at its peak, when the conflict has reached its
crisis and one of the two forces "wins."
- Resolution: the conclusion of the
story, the unfolding of the theme, the "happy ending," the
tying together; what occurs in the resolution depends on the kind of
story and the author's purpose.
- Foreshadowing: clues in the
writing that lead the reader to predict what will happen later in
- Suspense: the author intentionally
leaves information out, or doesn't answer questions to prompt the
reader to wonder, often anxiously, about what will happen next.
Suspense is the quality of "being on the edge of our seat"
as we read to see what will happen.
- Flashback: a strategy of plot
sequencing where the author takes the reader back to events that
occurred before the present time in the story.
- Protagonist: the main character
of the story
- Antagonist: the force that works
against the protagonist; the antagonist does not have to be a person
(see types of conflicts)
- Foil: a foil character is either one
who is in most ways opposite to the main character or nearly the
same as the main character. The purpose of the foil character is to
emphasize the traits of the main character by comparison or
- Dynamic character: a dynamic
character is one who changes by the end of the story, learning
something that changes him or her in a permanent way.
- Static character: A static
character does not change; he or she is the same person at the end
of the story as he was at the beginning.
- Round character: a round
character is fully developed; readers may even be able to anticipate
the actions of a round character if the characterization is well
done and consistent.
- Flat character: we know very
little about a flat character; flat characters are not meant to
serve as main characters. They serve as necessary elements in plot
or as elements of the setting.
- First person point of view:
the narrator, usually the protagonist, tells the story from his/her
perspective using I, me, we, etc.
- Second person point of view:
a story told using "you," which places the reader immediately and
personally into the story
- Third person omniscient point of view:
the narrator uses third person pronouns (he/she/they etc.) and is
God-like: all knowing (omniscient). This type of narrator is not
limited by time or space.
- Third person limited point of view:
the narrator tells the story using third person pronouns but limits
herself to what one character can sense; the limitations are the same
as in first person.
- Objective point of view:
the narrator does not judge or interpret in any way; he/she simply
presents the story as if recording it on film as it happens
- Tone: The author or poet's attitude or
feeling toward a person, a thing, a place, event or situation. It is
also the emotional feeling in the poem/story.
- Theme: The theme is what the author
wants us to know about the general truth of the story. For example, if
the story is about "love," the author probably knows something about
love that he/she conveys through the story and the characters. Theme
is an idea that is true for most people over time and across cultures.
- Imagery: Imagery is language that
appeals to the senses. It is description that makes the reader feel he
or she is "in the setting." There are six basic kinds of imagery:
visual (sight), auditory (sound), olfactory (smell), gustatory
(taste), tactile (touch), and kinesthetic (movement).
- Figurative Language: The
general category of language meant to be taken symbolically or
metaphorically, including metaphor, simile, personification, etc.
- Symbol/Symbolism: A symbol
is a person, place, thing or idea that stands for something else.
Water can symbolize purity. Light (as in sun light) often is used to
symbolize knowledge or truth.
- Metaphor: a comparison of two
generally unlike things meant to illuminate truth. Direct metaphors
use "is" to make the comparison explicit. Implied metaphors suggest
- Simile: a metaphor using like, as,
than, or similar comparative words to make the connection between two
generally unlike things. The intent of a simile is to illuminate
- Allegory: an extended metaphor
wherein the characters, events, and situations of the story can be
taken on two levels: the literal level and the metaphoric/symbolic
level, each thing representing something else. Ex: Animal Farm
- Motif: a motif is a recurring image or
idea. The repetition of the idea reinforces the value of the image or
idea and usually gets the reader to think about theme.
- Verbal irony: a discrepancy
between what is said and what is meant
- Situational irony: a
discrepancy between what is expected, as in action, or as regards the
situation/setting, and what one would expect to happen
- Dramatic irony: a discrepancy
between what the character knows and what the reader knows to be true;
it's when the reader knows something the character does not know
- Diction: diction is the author's
choice of words. If she chooses one word over another, it is probably
because that word implies some social or connotative meaning.
- Denotation: the denotative meaning
is the dictionary meaning of the word without its social connotations.
- Connotation: the connotative
meaning of the word is the associated meanings that come from its use
in various social contexts. Connotative meanings will vary from
location to location. They will change or die over time. For example:
if someone said, "I'm down with that" in 1955, no one would understand
what he/she meant. Connotative meaning also means the emotional
connections to words. For example, the word test often carries a
negative meaning for students.
- Narrative poetry: The
narration of an event or story, stressing details of plot, incident
- Dramatic poetry:
A composition in verse portraying a story of life or
character, usually involving conflict and emotions, in a plot evolving
through action and dialogue.
- Epic poetry: an extended
narrative poem that includes heroic or romantic (adventures of the
romantic hero) events or themes. Ex: The Odyssey
- Lyrical poetry: Lyric/lyrical
poetry is perhaps the most common; it is that which expresses the
emotional response of the poet to events, people and situations
- Sonnet: poems of strict form:
fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. Two types: English or
Shakespearean, consisting of four quatrains (abab, cdcd, efef)
and a couplet (gg) and Italian or Petrarchan, consisting of an octave
(set of eight lines) ryhming abbaabba and a sestet (six lines) with a
variety of schemes (cdecde, for example).
- Ballad: a poem that tells a story,
usually in four line stanzas with a refrain; the subject of ballads is
generally folk lore or popular legend.
- Haiku: A Japanese form of poetry,
consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables.
Haiku are very brief descriptions of nature that convey some implicit
insight or essence of a moment. Traditionally, they contain either a
direct or oblique reference to a season.
- Personification: giving
human characteristics to non human things in order to give light to
human action, emotion, ideas etc.
- Onomatopoeia: words that sound
like what they mean. Ex: "hiss" sounds like the snake
- Hyperbole: exaggeration. The
opposite of hyperbole is understatement. By using contrast, an idea
can be emphasized.
- Alliteration: the repetition of
beginning sounds in words. Ex: I rarely rush past red roses
- Assonance: The repetition of
the same or similar vowel sounds, but with different end consonants in
a line, as in the words, date and fade.
- Consonance: the repetition of
consonant sounds at the end of words. Ex: night, cat, plot
- Rhyme: words that sound alike. There
are either exact rhymes, where the end sounds of the words are
identical, like lark and spark, or there are slant rhymes where the
words sound similar but are not identical, like lake and lark.
- Exact Rhyme: This is when words
sound exactly alike: cat, hat, rat
- Slant or Approximate
Rhyme: When words share the same vowel sound or similar vowel
sound and same end sound, they "sort of" rhyme, but not exactly. Ex:
which and fish have the same vowel sound, but the end sounds are not
exactly the same. If you were scanning for a rhyme scheme, you could
say that these two words do rhyme.
- End Rhyme: This is what we call it
when the words at the ends of the lines rhyme. Ex: Line one: The
maiden called to me/ Line two: As I went out to sea.
- Internal Rhyme: Words that
rhyme can occur within a line. Ex: The cat sat on the hat.
- Rhythm: the regular or repetitive
patterns of sounds created in language with stressed and unstressed
- Meter: the rhythm created in poetry by
the repetition of similar units of sound patterns (stressed and
unstressed syllable combinations): iambic (U/),
trochaic (/U), anapestic (UU/), dactyllic (/UU), spondaic (//), and
- Foot: a two or three syllable unit of
meter. Ex: (U/) is one iambic foot.
- Iambic Pentameter: A five
foot line of iambic meter. This is the most common meter in English.
- Blank verse: unrhymed iambic
- Free verse: lines of poetry that
do not have exact patterns, either rhyme, meter or both
- Stanza: a group of lines in a poem
that stand as one unit
- Couplet: two lines of a poem that
rhyme; a couplet usually stands as a complete idea or grammatical
"sentence" within the poem.
- Refrain: a phrase or stanza that
repeats in a ballad or song lyric; a refrain may hold the main theme
or idea of the poem or song.
- Structure: the structure of the
poem is how the poet builds it from the various poetic elements. Think
of the elements of a house: wood, windows, doors, bricks, shingles,
etc. These elements do not always combine to make identical
structures. Most houses look different from one another. A poet uses
the building blocks of poems and creates a poem that is not exactly
like any other.
- Scansion (scanning): the
process of looking closely at a poem to determine meter, rhyme, rhyme
scheme, or other patterns.
- Allusion: An allusion is a
reference to something in history, culture, or literature (especially
historical). An allusion adds to the depth of our understanding. If we
know the reference then the poet or writer's comparison helps us to
see the poem or prose piece more fully.
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