Literary Terms

Literary Terms
The most prominent of the characters
who oppose the protagonist or
hero(ine) in a dramatic or narrative
work. The antagonist is often a villain
seeking to frustrate a heroine or hero;
but in those works in which the
protagonist is represented as evil, the
antagonist will often be a virtuous or
sympathetic character.
Repetition of same initial consonant
sound in a series of words
A personage in drama or narrative
works; characters can be either static
(remaining the same during the
course of the story) or dynamic
(changing during the course of the
story). They can also be flat (2D,
uncomplicated, remain the same) or
round (3D, complex, change).
The representation of persons in
narrative and dramatic works through
what a character says, thinks, or does
or how other characters respond to
the character. There can be direct
characterization where the reader is
told the personality of the character.
There can also be indirect
characterization where the author
shows things that reveal the
personality of the character (think
STEAL: Speech Thoughts Effects on
others Actions Looks).
Any moment of great intensity in a
literary work or the point in a story
when a crisis is reached and
resolution achieved.
The tension in a situation between
characters, or the actual opposition of
characters. Conflict can be internal
(i.e. individual vs. self) or external (i.e.
individual vs. individual, individual vs.
nature, individual vs. society,
individual vs. supernatural, or
individual vs. technology).
Idea or feeling a word has on a
reader. Example-what do you think of
when you hear dove? Chocolate,
soap, candy, peace, a bird, etc?
Denouement/Resolution “Unknotting” the event or events
following the major climax of a plot,
or the unraveling of a plot’s
complications at the end of the story.
Literal meaning or dictionary
definition of a word. Example-when
you look dove up in the dictionary,
you will get the definition “a white
Falling Action
Figurative language
Initiating event
Spoken exchanges between or among
characters in a dramatic or narrative
That part of a play or story which
follows the denouement or climax.
Language which uses figures of
speech such as metaphor, simile,
alliteration; often used to enrich text
by word images and figures of speech
A return to an earlier time in the
course of a narrative to introduce
prior information.
The giving of clues to hint at coming
events in a story.
Exaggeration for the sake of emphasis
in a figure of speech not meant
Using the five senses to create a
picture in the reader’s mind.
The event or events in a plot which
bring about a state of conflict and
A figure of speech, humorous or
sarcastic, in which the writer’s words
really mean the opposite of what they
seem to say (verbal or rhetorical
irony); a situation may also be ironic
when an event takes place that turns
Narrative voice
out to be the opposite of what the
characters expected (irony of
situation); to keep sustained irony,
the writer may use the device of a
naïve hero or narrator.
A figure of speech in which one thing
is described in terms of another.
One who tells, or is assumed to be
telling, the story in a given narrative
The point of view being used in the
 First person (uses I, me, my)
 Third person limited to the
character or narrator (tells only
what they see, hear, know)
 Third person omniscient (knows
Words whose sounds suggest their
The writer’s map for what happens in
stories, how it happens, to whom it
happens, and when it happens; the
sequence of events in a story;
development of the central conflict
including initiating event, rising
action, climax, falling action,
resolution, and denouement
The chief character in a story or play,
Rising action
who may also be opposed by an
Applies human characteristics to nonhuman objects
Those events which form the outcome
of the climax of a play or story.
That part of a play or story which
precedes the climax
The where and when of a story or
play. In drama the term may refer to
the scenery or props.
Figures of speech that use the words
like or as to make comparisons
An object, animate or inanimate,
which represents or “stands for”
something else.
The use of concrete and recognizable
things to represent ideas
Properly speaking, the theme of a
work is not its subject but rather its
central idea, which may be stated
directly or indirectly. It can also be the
lesson of the story.
The reflection of a writer’s attitude,
manner, mood and moral outlook in
his/her work; even, perhaps the way
his personality pervades the work.