Discussing Fiction

Haha you can tell it’s summer, because I have a lot more time to play around with the blog and write. 3,000 words written today! If you haven’t noticed, I’m somewhat of a binge writer: I don’t write for a week, and then sit down and concentrate on nothing else for five hours.

Anyway, I found this list of fiction terms online, and edited it a little, adding some of my own examples and removing some terms that I thought were redundant:

  • Allegory: A complete narrative that may also be applied to a parallel set of external situations that may be political, moral, religious, or philosophical; a complete and self-contained narrative signifying another set of conditions.
  • Atmosphere: The emotional aura that a work evokes; the permeating emotional texture within a work.
  • Character: The verbal representation of a human being, with all the good and bad traits of being human. Character is revealed through authorial comments, interactions with other characters, dramatic statements and thoughts, and statements by other characters.
  • Conflict: The essence of plot; the opposition between two forces. Man vs man, man vs nature, man vs himself
  • Contextual or authorial symbol: A symbol specific to a particular work that gathers its meaning from the context of the work.
  • Cosmic irony: Situational irony connected to a pessimistic or fatalistic view of life.
  • Cultural or universal symbol: A symbol recognized and shared as a result of common social and cultural heritage.
  • Dramatic irony: Situational irony in which a character perceives his or her plight in a limited way while the audience and one or more other characters understand it entirely.
  • Dramatic/objective POV: Third person point of view in which no authorial commentary reveals characters’ thoughts.
  • Epiphany: Literally, a “manifestation”; in literature, epiphany “has become the standard term for the description . . . of the sudden flare into revelation of an ordinary object or scene.”
  • Fable: A story that features animals with human traits and “morals” or explanations.
  • First person POV: Narration from the perspective of “I” or “We.” The importance of this point of view is that the narrator can be reliable or unreliable.
  • Flat character: A character that is static and does not grow. One purpose of flat characters is to highlight the development of round characters.
  • Initiation: Type of story or theme in which a character moves from innocence to experience.
  • Irony: The discrepancy between what is perceived and what is revealed; language and situations that seem to reverse normal expectations.
  • Metaphor: Comparison of two unlike things; describing some unlike thing in terms of something understandable to the reader.
  • Myth: A narrative story associated with the religion, philosophy, or collective psychology of various societies and cultures. Example: Superman in America today is very much what Hercules was to the Ancient Greeks.
  • Omniscient point of view: Point of view in which an authorial voice reveals all the characters’ thoughts; may include commentary by the author.
  • Hyperbole: Exaggeration for effect.
  • Personification: Attributing human attributes or actions to nonhuman things or abstractions.
  • Plot: The development and resolution of a conflict; includes the element of causation.
  • Point of view (POV): The voice of the story; the story from the perspective of the person doing the speaking. Examples: first person, second person, third person omniscient, third person limited omniscient, third person dramatic or objective.
  • Protagonist: The main character of a story; the character around whom the conflict is centered.
  • Round characters: Characters that recognize, change with, and adjust to circumstances.
  • Second person POV: Story told from the perspective of “you.” Uncommon.
  • Setting: A work’s natural, manufactured, political, cultural, and temporal environment, including everything that the characters know and own.
  • Simile: Comparison of two unlike things using “like” or “as.”
  • Situational irony: A type of irony emphasizing that human beings are enmeshed in forces beyond their comprehension and control.
  • Stereotype: Flat characters that exhibit no attributes except those of their class.
  • Stock character: Flat characters who represent a class or group.
  • Story or narration: The reporting of actions in chronological sequence.
  • Structure: The way in which a plot is assembled: chronologically, through dreams, speeches, fragments, etc.
  • Style: The manipulation of language to create certain effects.
  • Symbolism: Objects, incidents, speeches, and characters that have meanings beyond themselves.
  • Theme: The major or central idea of a work.
  • Third person limited omniscient POV: one third-person character’s thoughts are revealed but the other characters’ thoughts are not.
  • Tone: The ways in which the author conveys attitudes about the story material and toward the reader.
  • Litotes: Deliberate underplaying or undervaluing of a thing to create emphasis or irony

Definitions and examples are modified from Dr. Donna Campbell at Washington State University, and Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 7th ed., ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs (Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 2004).