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Literary Terms

Abstract:
Language that refers to intangible concepts and qualities Ex: Love, freedom, peace.
Accent:
Poetic term that means stress. Ex: In the word "Ac-cent," the stress, or accent, is on the first syllable.
Action:
The occurrences within a literary piece that make up the plot.
Alliteration:
A form of slant rhyme created by repeating the same sound at the beginning of words. Ex: The silver sky screams at the shining beams from the shimmering moon.
Allusion:
A figure-of-speech used to make a reference to something commonly known outside of the work. Ex: "John was not his brother's keeper" is an allusion to the biblical story of Cain and Abel.
Ambiguity:
A work, or passage within a work, which may be interpreted in several different ways.
Analogy:
A way of describing one thing by comparing it to another. Ex: He was like a tyrant and ordered us around without explanation.
Antagonist:
The character that causes conflict within a story, often the enemy or rival of the main character. Ex: The Wicked Witch of the West is the antagonist in The Wizard of Oz.
Archaic:
Language that is obsolete; generally no longer considered appropriate for contemporary poetry. Ex: yore, thee, hence, 'tis, o'er.
Atmosphere:
The mood of the work. Ex: cheery, gloomy, nervous.
Character:
A personage of the imagination in a work.
Characterization:
Technique used to create a character including what that character says and does, as well as what other characters think and feel toward that character.
Cliche:
Also called a "dead metaphor," a cliche is a description that is overused to the point that the metaphor is no longer even recognized Ex: "Kill two birds with one stone," "to rise to the occasion," "passion burned," "broken heart."
Climax:
The moment of a work in which the tension or conflict is at its highest; often this is also the major turning point.
Concrete:
Language that uses material, tangible objects and descriptions of their qualities and characteristics; opposite of abstract. Ex: The leather binding on the book was rough to the touch, and it cracked and creaked as I opened the book to the marked page.
Conflict:
Tension and actions caused by different forces within a plot.
Connotation:
A subjective meaning or association held by a particular word. Ex: The word "sauntered" creates a different image than the word "walked" in the sentence, "Karen sauntered down the street."
Convention:
An accepted means of expression within a certain literary form; the "rules" of writing works of various structures. Ex: Starting a new paragraph in a story each time the speaker changes is a convention of prose dialogue.
Couplet:
A two-line unit in poetry.
Denotation:
The dictionary definition of a word.
Dialect:
Regional or cultural differences within speech; sometimes called an accent. Ex: Cajun dialect in Louisiana.
Dialogue Tag:
The statements that identify a speaker within written dialogue. Ex: "he said," "she whispers," "they screamed."
Diction:
The word choice used in a work.
Draft:
A version of a work in progress.
End Rhyme:
Rhymes that occur at the ends of lines of poetry.
End-Stopped lines:
Lines of poetry that end in conjunction with a sense of grammatical completeness. Ex: She ran into the street / Before she was hit by the car.
Enjambed lines:
Lines of poetry that do not end in conjunction with a sense of grammatical completeness; run-on lines. Ex: She flew past the / Rooftops and chimneys
Epiphany:
A sudden realization; commonly understood as "the light bulb over the head" effect.
Fiction:
A narrative created by the imagination, generally written in prose.
Fixed Form:
A style of poetry that has set rules. Ex: sonnet, villanelle, limerick.
Flashback:
A scene that interrupts the present action to relate an occurrence from the past
Foot:
A unit of stressed and unstressed syllables of set patterns in metric poetry.
Free Verse:
Poetry that does not follow a fixed form.
Genre:
Types, forms, or kinds of literature that are recognized by their conventions. Ex: novel, short story, poetry, drama (play).
Image:
Concrete language used to represent sensory reality.
Imagery:
The collected images of a work.
Internal rhyme:
Rhyme words that appear within lines, not at the beginning or end of lines. Ex: Peter gave the sea his heart / And the wave washed away.
Line break:
The end of a line in poetry.
Metaphor:
A phrase used to make an analogy by using one object to describe another. Ex: The moon is a silver mask.
Narrate:
The act of telling a story.
Narrator:
Person who tells a story.
Overwriting:
Writing with excessive use of adjectives and adverbs with an intent to impress.
Paradox:
A contradiction that creates tension in a work.
Persona:
The speaker in poetry or prose fiction that is different from the author.
Personification:
The technique of giving inhuman things human traits and qualities. Ex: The crying sky dropped tears on our heads.
Plot:
The planned sequence of events in a work.
Point of View:
The perspective from which a story is presented.
Proofread:
The act of reading a work with the intent to identify and correct grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors.
Protagonist:
The main character of a work.
Resolution:
The moment a work's conflicts are resolved.
Revise:
Literally, "to see again." The act of changing, rearranging, adding and eliminating elements of a work with the goal of overall improvement of the piece.
Rhythm:
A repetition of effort, movement, or sounds at regular intervals within a work.
SASE:
Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Used as an abbreviation in publication submission notices.
Simile:
A comparison between two objects using the words "like" or "as" Ex: She was as mad as a rabid dog.
Stanza:
A group of poetic lines.
Syntax:
The order in which words are placed in a sentence.
Theme:
The meaning or message of a work that can be paraphrased.
Tone:
The speaker's attitude toward the subject.

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