Literary Terms: FICTION

A brief reference to a person, place, thing, event, or idea in history or literature

A short account of an incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical

A protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero

A person or thing presented in a dramatic or narrative work and characterization is the process by which the writer makes that character seem real to the reader

round character
Often display inconsistencies and internal conflicts found in most real people. Fully developed and are harder to summarize

flat character
Embodies one or two ideas, qualities, or traits that can be readily described in a brief summary. Not psychologically complex characters and are therefore readily accessible to readers

dynamic character
Undergoes some kind of change because of the action in a plot

static character
Does not change throughout the work and the reader’s knowledge of that character does not grow

Unraveling or unknotting. Used to describe the resolution of the plot following a climax

Often used at the beginning of a work. Provides necessary background information about the characters and their circumstances. Explains what has gone on before, the relationships between the characters, the development of the theme, and the introduction of a conflict

A word, phrase, or figure of speech that addresses the senses, suggesting mental pictures of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, or actions. Offers sensory impressions to the reader and also conveys emotions and moods through their verbal pictures

The voice of the person telling the story. Not to be confused with the author’s voice

point of view
Refers to who tells us a story and how it is told. What we know and how we feel about the events in a work are shaped by the author’s choice of point of view. The teller of the story, the narrator, inevitably affects our understanding of the characters’ actions by filtering what is told through his or her own perspective

first person point of view
The “I” in the story presents the point of view of only one character. Reader is restricted to the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings of that single character.

third person point of view
Uses “he,” “she,” or “they” to tell the story and does not participate in the action

limited point of view
Occurs when an author restricts a narrator to the single perspective of either a major or minor character. The way people, places, and events appear to that character is the way they appear to the reader.

omniscient point of view
An all-knowing narrator who is not a character in the story who can move from one place to another and pass back and forth through time slipping into and out of characters as no human being possibly could in real life. Thoughts and feelings of the characters as well as their words and actions are known.

unreliable narrator
Reveals an interpretation of events that is somehow different from the author’s own interpretation of those events. Often its perception of the characters, plot, and setting becomes the actual subject of the story.

Fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.

A fictional prose narrative that is longer and more complex than a short story. A short novel.

protagonist (hero)
The main character of a narrative; its central character who engages the reader’s interest and empathy

The character, force, or collection of forces in fiction or drama that opposes the protagonist and gives rise to the conflict of the story; an opponent of the protagonist

The physical and social context in which the action of a story occurs. The major elements include time, place, and the social environment that frame the characters. Can be used to evoke a mood or atmosphere that will prepare the reader for what is to come

stream of consciousness
The most intense use of a central consciousness on narration. Takes a reader inside a character’s mind to reveal perceptions, thoughts, and feelings on a conscious or unconscious level. This technique suggests the flow of thought as well as its content

The distinctive and unique manner in which a writer arranges words to achieve particular effects. Combines the idea to be expressed with the individuality of the author. Includes word choices as well as matters such as the length of sentences, their structure, tone, and the use of irony

A person, object, image, word, or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract than its literal significance

The central meaning or dominant idea in a literary work. Provides a unifying point around which the plot, characters, setting, point of view, symbols, and other elements of a work are organized