Glossary of Terminology

Allegory - Often defined as a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation, such as the story or movie, Lord of the Rings, is an allegory for World War. Allegory is considered an extended metaphor.

Alliteration - Repetition of beginning sounds of words, such as punctual, pink porcupine.

Anapest - Rhythmic scheme when two unaccented syllables followed by an accented one, such as in comprehend: com-pre-HEND.

Antagonist - Character or force in which another character struggles. In opposition to Protagonist or Hero, the Antagonist might be considered the Enemy.

Assonance - Repetition of vowel sounds within the word that rhymes, such as Wayne's grain train.

Aubade - Song or poem greeting the dawn; morning love song; or poem or song about lovers parting.

Ballad - A narrative composition in rhythmic verse, written in four stanzas, and is suitable for singing , such as the folk song, "Barbara Allan."

Blank verse - Poetry that is not rhymed but that has a regular rhythm.

Caesura - Usually a rhetorical break in the flow of sound in the middle of a line of verse.

Character - a set of qualities that make a person, place, or thing unique.

Characterization - The act of describing a character, or qualities of someone or something.

Climax - The point of highest dramatic tension or a major turning point in the action, as in the plot of a story, play, or screenplay.

Closed Form -  A closed form poem is one that has a specific number of lines and follows a fixed set of rules about such things as rhyme scheme or the pattern of rhyme between lines of a poem or song.

Complication - An intensification of the conflict in prose, such as a story, play, or screenplay.

Conflict - A struggle between opposing forces in prose, such as story, play or screenplay, which is usually resolved by the end of the work. The conflict may occur within a character as well as between characters.

Connotation - An idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning. Poets, especially, tend to use words rich in connotation. For example, rage against the dying of the light.

Convention - A  way in which something is usually done, such as a moral in a fable.

Couplet - A pair of rhymed lines that may or may not constitute a separate stanza in a poem. Shakespeare's sonnets end in rhymed couplets, as in "For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings / That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

Dactyl - A stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones, as in FLUT-ter-ing or BLUE-ber-ry.

Denotation - The literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests. Writers typically play off a word's denotative meaning against its connotations, or suggested and implied usage.

Denouement - The final part of a narrative (poem, story, play or movie) in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.

Dialogue - The conversation of characters in a literary work.

Diction - The selection of words in a literary work, which can convey action, reveal character, imply attitudes, identify themes, and suggest values.

Elegy - A lyric poem that laments the dead. It is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song.

Elision - The omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase, producing a result that is easier for the speaker to pronounce . It is also done in poetry to preserve the meter of a line of poetry, such as over: o'er.

Enjambment - A run-on line of poetry in which logical and grammatical sense carries over from one line into the next. For example In the opening lines of Robert Browning's "My Last Duches:"

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now....

Epic - A long narrative poem that records the adventures of a hero. For example, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey..

Epigram - A brief witty poem, often satirical.

Exposition - The first stage of a fictional or dramatic plot, in which necessary background information is provided.

Falling action - In the plot of a story, play, or screenply, the falling action is the action following the climax of the work that moves it towards its denouement or resolution.

Falling Meter - Poetic meters such as trochaic and dactylic that move or fall from a stressed to an unstressed syllable. The nonsense line, "Higgledy, piggledy," is dactylic, with the accent on the first syllable and the two syllables following falling off from that accent in each word. Trochaic meter is represented by this line: "Hip-hop, be-bop, treetop--freedom."

Fiction - An imagined story, whether in prose, poetry, or drama. Not a true story.

Figurative Language - A form of language use in which writers and speakers convey something other than the literal meaning of their words. Examples include hyperbole or exaggeration, litotes or understatement, simile and metaphor, which employ comparison, and synecdoche and metonymy, in which a part of a thing stands for the whole.

Flashback -An interruption of a work's chronology to describe or present an incident that occurred prior to the main time frame of a work's action. Writers use flashbacks to complicate the sense of chronology in the plot of their works and to convey the richness of the experience of human time.

Foil - A character who contrasts and parallels the main character in a play or story.

Foot - A metricall unit composed of stressed and unstressed syllables. For example, an iamb or iambic foot is represented by ˘', that is, an unaccented syllable followed by an accented one.

Foreshadowing -Hints of what is to come in the action of a play or a story.

Free Verse - Poetry without a regular pattern of meter or rhyme. The verse is "free" in not being bound by earlier poetic conventions requiring poems to adhere to an explicit and identifiable meter and rhyme scheme.

Hyperbole - A figure of speech involving exaggeration.

Iamb - An unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one, as in to-DAY.

Image - A concrete representation of a sense impression, a feeling, or an idea.

Imagery - The pattern of related comparative aspects of language, particularly of images, in a literary work.

Irony - A contrast or discrepancy between what is said and what is meant or between what happens and what is expected to happen in life and in literature. In verbal irony, characters say the opposite of what they mean.

Literal Language - A form of language in which writers and speakers mean exactly what their words denote.

Lyric Poem - A type of poem characterized by brevity, compression, and the expression of feeling.

Metaphor - A comparison between essentially unlike things without an explicitly comparative word such as like or as, such as "My love is a red, red rose,"

Meter - The measured pattern of rhythmic accents in poems.

Metonymy - A figure of speech in which a closely related term is substituted for an object or idea.

Narrative Poem - A poem that tells a story.

Narrator - The voice and implied speaker of a fictional work, to be distinguished from the actual living author.

Octave - An eight-line unit, which may constitute a stanza; or a section of a poem, as in the octave of a sonnet.

Ode - A long, stately poem in stanzas of varied length, meter, and form. Usually a serious poem on an exalted subject, such as Neruda's "Ode to My Socks."

Onomatopoeia - The use of words to imitate the sounds they describe, such as buzz, boom, zap. 

Open Form - A structure of poetry that is free of such elements as rhyme, line length, metrical pattern and overall poetic form.

Parody - A humorous, mocking imitation of a literary work, sometimes sarcastic, but often playful and even respectful in its playful imitation.

Personification - The endowment of inanimate objects or abstract concepts with animate or living qualities, for example: The oak picked up his roots and walked away.

Plot - The unified structure of incidents in a literary work.

Point of View - The angle of vision from which a story is narrated. A work's point of view can be: 1) first person, a character, or narrator is omniscient in knowing the characters and all their thoughts.

Protagonist - The main character or hero in a story, play, or screenplay.

Pyrrhic - A metrical foot with two unstressed syllables, such as "of the."

Quatrain - A poem that consists of a stanza that is four lines.

Recognition - The point at which a character understands his or her situation as it really is.

Resolution - The sorting out or unraveling of a plot at the end of a story, novel, play, or screenplay.

Reversal - The point at which the action of the plot turns in an unexpected direction for the protagonist/main character.

Rhyme - The matching of final vowel or consonant sounds in two or more words. For example:

One way to reach the station is to go down town,
Instead, Buddy took the red line instead of brown.

Rhythm - The recurrence of accent or stress in lines of verse.

Rising Action - A set of conflicts and crises that constitute the part of a story's plot leading up to the climax.

Rising Meter - Poetic meters, such as iambic or anapestic that move from an unstressed to a stressed syllable.

Satire - A literary work that criticizes human misconduct and ridicules vices, stupidities, and follies.

Sestet - A six-line unit of verse constituting a stanza or section of a poem; the last six lines of an Italian sonnet. Examples: Petrarch's "If it is not love, then what is it that I feel," and Frost's "Design."

Sestina - A poem of thirty-nine lines, written in iambic pentameter. It is composed of six-line stanzas, which repeats an intricate and prescribed order of the final word in each of the first six lines. After the sixth stanza, there is a three-line envoi, which uses the six repeating words, two per line.

Setting - The time and place of a literary work that establish its context,

Simile - A figure of speech involving a comparison between unlike things using like, as, or as though.

Sonnet - A fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter, which originated with Shakespeaer's sonnet. It is arranged as three quatrains and a final couplet with a rhyming scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. The Italian sonnet divides into two parts: an eight-line octave and a six-line sestet, rhyming abba abba cde cde or abba abba cd cd cd.

Spondee - A metrical foot represented by two stressed syllables, such as KNICK-KNACK.

Stanza - A division or unit of a poem that is repeated in the same form--either with similar or identical patterns or rhyme and meter, or with variations from one stanza to another.

Style - The way an author chooses words, arranges them in sentences or in lines of dialogue or verse. Style also includes how ideas are developed with actions, description, imagery, and other literary techniques.

Subject - What a story is about; to be distinguished from plot and theme.

Subplot - A subsidiary or subordinate or parallel plot in a story, novel, play or screenplay that coexists with the main plot.

Symbol - An object or action in a literary work that means more than itself, because it stands for something beyond itself.

Synecdoche - A figure of speech in which a part is substituted for the whole.

Syntax - The grammatical order of words in a sentence, line of verse, or dialogue.

Tercet - A three-line stanza.

Theme - The idea of a literary work abstracted from its details of language, character, and action, and cast in the form of a generalization.

Tone - The attitude of the speaker or narrator toward the subject and audience.

Trochee - An accented syllable followed by an unaccented one, as in FOOT-ball.

Understatement - A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker says less than what he or she means; the opposite of exaggeration.

Villanelle - A nineteen-line lyric poem that relies heavily on repetition. The first and third lines alternate throughout the poem, which is structured in six stanza - five tercets and a concluding quatrain.

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