• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Literary Terminology

Page history last edited by Wendy Rooney 6 years, 6 months ago



 http://glencoe.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/007845476x/student_view0/interactive_literary_elements_handbook.html - Literary Elements Handbook


http://cdn.scope.scholastic.com/sites/default/files/uploads_scope/SCOPE-Library-LiteraryTerms.pdf - Glossary of Literary Terms


https://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/ - Interactive Literature Glossary 


http://www.scholastic.com/scopemagazine/PDFs/SCOPE-Library-LiteraryTerms.pdf - Literary Terms


http://scope.scholastic.com/resource/uploads_scope/issues/library/pdfs/SCOPE-Library-NonfictionTerms.pdf - NonFiction Terms



http://scope.scholastic.com/activity-library - SCOPE - Resources. Graphic Organizers



http://swandawritingresources.wikispaces.com/Literary+Devices - Literary  Terminology


Setting - time (date, time of day, season) and place - a piece of writing will generally have many settings and each setting will generally carry with it a mood or atmosphere.


Characters- the people, animals, living things involved in a story. Major characters are the MAIN characters who are directly involved. Minor characters are the extra characters in the story.


Protagonist -  the main character


Antagonist -  The character who works against the Protagonist 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RWsRjQQ6Ec - Protagonist vs Antagonist




Plot - what happens, concretely, as though it were placed on a history time line.


Incident - one specific thing which happens in a plot. Many short stories are basically one incident described in detail.


Theme - the answer to this question: What is this all about? Themes tend to be the author's message about important human conditions or problems, such as Good and Evil, Death, Freedom, Hope, the Quest, Heritage, Believing, Family, Relationships, The Role of Women in Society.


The theme is the same as the LESSON or MORAL of a story.


Ex. A theme of the novel Dragonwings is that the support of family is essential in a good life.


Stories, plays and poems may have more than one theme about which you can formulate more than one theme statement. But be careful - you must be able to support a theme statement with specific evidence from the story, play or poem itself.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H6GCe7hmmA - Theme



Mood  - the overall feeling created by a piece of writing. Mood can often be described in a few words, such as scary, lonely, empty, triumphant, anxious, but you must be able to refer to specific details in the description, setting, or passage to defend your word or words.


Tone is the author’s attitude toward the subject matter or toward the reader or audience. Words that could describe tone include doubtful, humorous, sarcastic, serious, and outraged. Tone is conveyed through the author’s word choices and the details that he or she includes. A text may have more than one tone. HINT: Keep in mind that in a work of fiction, tone is the author’s attitude, and not necessarily the attitude of the story’s narrator. Ask yourself, “How does the author feel about what he or she is writing about?”



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3TZGZn5VwA - Mood


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIE1FvvwwLQ - Mood vs Tone


http://valenciacollege.edu/east/academicsuccess/eap/documents/tonewords.pdf - Tone Words



Dialogue - a discussion or conversation between two or more characters. Most dialogues follow the rules of punctuation. Do not confuse dialogue with a play script. Dialogue is part of, or sometimes all of, a story or novel and this is what you should write when you asked to write a dialogue.


Monologue - one character alone talking to the reader/audience/to himself. A monologue in a play is called a soliloquy and finds the character alone on the stage, often speaking about a decision, plan, or other internal conflict.


Interior monologue or internal monologue - a character thinking to himself. The author will often begin this by saying: He thought, he was thinking, she imagined...


Character traits of a character - what type of person is this? Character traits are revealed through actions, dialogue, internal monologue, and by the author or narrator directly.


Motive - why a character does what he/she does. Motives are often feelings or logical conclusions, but can be also impulse based upon the actions or words of another. Every action has a motive.


External Conflict - a fight, argument, disagreement or simply opposition in which 2 sides are present. Characters, themes, ideas, forces can all be in conflict. The conflict occurs outside of the control of the sides. Conflicts are stated this way: Joe vs. Sue, man vs. nature, love vs. hate, freedom vs. bondage, free vs. caged, beautiful vs. ugly. Be sure that both sides of the vs. are the same part of speech and that they are, in fact, nearly opposite or in opposition in the book. An external conflict is shown through actions (fight, argument, physical struggle), character traits (a good and a bad character), dialogues, descriptions - just about anything. Identification of conflicts will lead you to theme. The resolution of the external conflict will advance the plot toward the climax and the end.


Internal Conflict - an argument or decision-making process within one character's mind. An internal conflict is stated this way: Should I swallow my pride and go visit my son, or should I wait until he comes to me with an apology? An internal conflict has a motive and its resolution is important to the development of the plot.






A. Introduction or Exposition- setting, characters, main conflicts are introduced to the reader; this is the beginning of a novel or story and may be short or long, but is always flat (little action or emotion).



B. Rising Action - the round characters are developed, the conflicts are increased and acted out in many ways, motives are introduced, things happen; generally, the major part of a novel or story.



C. Climax - the "high point" of a story in which the major conflicts erupt in some kind of final showdown (fight, argument, violent or physical action, very tense emotional moment...); at the end of the climax, the "winner" will be clear (there is not always a winner!).



D. Falling Action - what events immediately follow the climax; a kind of "cleaning up."



E. Resolution - where everything ends; the reader may have some sense of "closure" or may be asked to think about what might come next; in fairy tales, the Happy Ending; in some novels, you will read about the characters many years later.











ELA Literary Devices Cheat Sheet



Figurative Language

Alliteration - The repetition of the same initial letter, sound, or group of sounds in a series of words. Alliteration includes tongue twisters.
Example: She sells seashells by the seashore.

Cliché - A cliché is an expression that has been used so often that it has become common and sometimes boring.
Examples: Opposites attract. You are what you eat.

Hyperbole - An exaggeration that is so dramatic that no one would believe the statement is true. Tall tales are hyperboles.
Example: I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.


Idiom - An idiom is an expression that has a meaning apart from the meanings of its individual words. It’s not meant to be take literally.
Example: It’s raining cats and dogs.


Metaphor - The metaphor makes a direct comparison between two unlike things. A simile would say you are like something; a metaphor is more positive - it says you are something.

Example: Her eyes are stars shining in the sky.


Extended Metaphor – In an extended metaphor, the metaphor is carried over many sentences or lines.


Onomatopoeia – The use of a word to describe or imitate a natural sound or the sound made by an object or an action.

Example: snap, crackle, pop.


Personification - A figure of speech in which human characteristics are given
to an animal or an object.
Example: My teddy bear gave me a hug.

Pun – A play on words. A pun involves using a word or words that have more than one meaning.
Example: My dog not only has a fur coat, but also pants.


Simile - A simile uses the words “like” or “as” to compare one object or idea with another to suggest they are alike.

Example: She is busy as a bee.


Literary Elements (Every story has these)
Protagonist - The main character in a story, the one with whom the reader is meant to identify. The person is not necessarily "good", but is the person whom the reader is most invested in.

Example: Peter Parker in the Spiderman movies / comic books.


Antagonist - Counterpart to the main character/protagonist and source of a story's main conflict. It may not even be a person (see Conflict below).

Examples: The Green Goblin in Spiderman. The storm in A Perfect Storm.


Plot - Sequence of events in the story.

Setting - Time and place in which the story occurs.

Example: Spiderman takes place in modern-day New York City.


Conflict - A struggle between opposing forces which drive the action in a story. This is what keeps the reader reading! The outcome of the story is usually a resolution of the conflict. The opposing force does not have to be a person. The basic types of conflict are: Man vs. Self, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society or Man vs. Machine.


Climax - The most dramatic part of a story. Right before the climax is the turning point, usually where something goes wrong. The climax then ensues and comes to a resolution. A resolution does not necessarily mean the problem has been solved; only that the high point has ended.


Theme - A theme is a main universal idea or message conveyed by story. A theme is expressed as a complete sentence.

Example: Little Red Riding Hood's theme may be "Don't talk to strangers".


Mood - Mood refers to the general sense or feeling the reader is supposed to get from the story. Mood doesn’t refer to a characters' state of mind.  It’s how we feel when we read a story.

Point of View – Point of View is the perspective from which the reader sees the story. It may be first person (there is no narrator and the story is told by one of the characters as events unfold) or third person (the story is told by an observer of the story. This could be someone who may or may not be involved).


Common Literary Techniques. 


Exposition –essential information which is given at the beginning of a play or short story, about the plot and the events that are to follow.


Foreshadowing - Where future events in a story, or perhaps the outcome, are suggested by the author before they happen. This suggestion can be made in various ways such as a flashback, an object, or a previous situation which reflects a more significant situation later on.

NImagery – Imagery is the sensory details and images evoked by the words of a story. When you are asked to discuss the images or imagery of a work, you should look especially carefully at the sensory details and the metaphors and similes of a passage.

Repetition - When a specific word, phrase, or structure is repeated several times, usually in close proximity, to emphasize a particular idea.

Example: from Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “I Have a Dream” speech –

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi.



Reference list of Literary Terms for Middle School students.



 1st person point of view -  the events are told by a character in the story.


3rd person point of view -  the events are told by someone outside the story. 


alliteration  - the repetition of similar initial consonant sounds in order to create a

        musical or rhythmic effect, to emphasize key words or to imitate sounds.

        Example:  “He was reluctant to return to the room he called home.”


allusion - a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work

           of art, often used to help make a comparison.


 biography - a form of non-fiction in which a writer tells the life story of another



character trait – the quality of a character;  what a character is like.


climax – the highest point of action in a story, often the turning point.


direct characterization – the writer directly states the character’s traits or



dynamic character – a character who changes over the course of a story


external conflict – a problem or struggle between a character and an

        outside force:

            character vs. character

            character vs. group

            character vs. nature

            character vs. society

            character vs. fate


fable  - a brief story, usually with animal characters, that teaches a lesson or

         a moral.


fiction – writing that tells about imaginary characters and events.


flashback - a section in a literary piece that interrupts the sequence of events in

          order to relate an earlier incident or set of events.


foreshadowing – an author’s use of hints or clues to give a reader an idea of what

            may happen next.


free-verse  -  poetry that has irregular lines and may or may not rhyme.



generalization – a vague or indefinite statement that is made to cover many cases.

              Example:  “All human beings hope for something.”


hyperbole – use of extreme exaggeration.


idiom  - a word or phrase which means something different from what it

           says – it is usually a metaphor.  An idiom is an expression peculiar to a

           certain  group of people and/or used only under certain circumstances.


imagery – words or phrases that appeal to one or more of the five senses and help

           to create a vivid description for the reader.


 indirect characterization – the writer allows the reader to draw his/her conclusions

           as to what a character is like, based on the appearances, words, actions, and

            interactions with other characters.


inference – a conclusion drawn by the reader based on available information.


internal conflict – a problem within a character  (character vs. self).


irony - a situation where the opposite of what is expected to occur or exist does

            occur or exist.


metaphor  -  a figure of speech in which something is described as if it were

           something else;  a comparison made without using “like” or “as”.


mood – the atmosphere or feeling an author creates within the piece of writing.


moral – a lesson taught by a literary work.


motivation – a reason that explains or partially explains a character’s thoughts,

           feelings, actions, or speech.


narrative – writing or speech that tells a story.


narrator – the speaker or character who is telling the story.


non-fiction  - writing that tells about real people, places, objects, or events.


objective details – details that are factual and true to life.


oxymoron – the close placement of words having opposite or near opposite

           meanings in order to create a unique description.


parable – a short tale that illustrates a universal truth, a belief that appeals to all

           people of all civilizations.


personification – a type of figurative language in which a non-human subject

           is given human characteristics.


plot – the sequence of events in a literary work.


point of view – the perspective from which a story is told.


pun – a humorous play on words.


repetition – the repeated use of words or phrases in order to emphasize a point.


resolution – the events that occur in the falling action of a story’s plot.


setting – the time and location of the events described in a literary work.


simile – a comparison between two things, using “like” or “as”.


speaker – the imaginary voice assumed by the writer of a poem, the one

           describing the events in a poem.


stanza – a group of lines in a poem.


static character – a character who does not undergo a change over the course of a story


subjective details – details that reveal the author’s feelings, attitudes, or judgments.


symbol /symbolism – anything that stands for or represents something else.


theme – a central message, idea, or concern that expressed in a literary work.


tone – the attitude of an author toward the subject that he/she is writing



character  - refers to what someone is like – what their qualities are  

              (Someone’s character refers to their character traits.)


narrative poetry  - poetry that tells a story 


subject  - what the story or poem is about (the topic) 





Diction is word choice, or the style of speaking that a writer, speaker, or character uses. The diction that you use when you speak or write should be matched to purpose or audience. In formal writing-essays, speeches-diction should be formal.  

The definition of diction is the style of speech, or the choice of words in speaking or writing. When you have a posh and formal way of speaking, this is an example of proper diction. A choice to use poetic language in writing is an example of diction.


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.