Literary Terms – Prose and Poetry

narrative
a long story told in verse form; an epic is an example

lyric
a brief, personal poem that is especially musical (uses many sound devices, as well as rhythm and meter) and is filled with emotion; sonnets, odes, and elegies are types of this.

ballad
a type of poem that is actually meant to be sung and is both lyric and narrative in nature.

figure of speech
a word or phrase that describes one thing in terms of another and is not meant to be taken on a literal level

simile
two dissimilar things that are compared by using the words, “like” “as” “than” or “resembles.”

metaphor
two dissimilar things that are compared without using the words, “like” “as” “than” or “resembles.”

direct metaphor
directly compares two things with a verb such as “is” ; ex. My love is a rose.

implied metaphor
suggests a comparison without using “is” ; ex. My love blossoms over time.

extended metaphor
a metaphor that is developed over several lines of writing

personification
giving human or animate qualities to nonhuman or inanimate things ; ex. the raindrops danced on the sidewalk

apostrophe
addressing something nonhuman as if it were human ; ex. death, be not proud

literary illusion
a reference to a person, place, or thing from previous literature

hyperbole
using exaggeration for emphasis, not to be taken literally, overstatement

verbal irony
meaning the opposite of what is said

antithesis
the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in parallel grammatical structures; balancing or contrasting one thing against another for effect

synecdoche
using a part of something to represent the whole thing

metonymy
the substitution of one word for another closely associated word

paradox
an apparent contradiction which proves, upon examination, to be true; a situation or statement that seems like it does not make sense, but somehow, when you think about it, it does

symbol
something concrete used to represent something abstract

alliteration
the repetition of the initial constant sound in two or more in a line of verse

consonance
the repetition of constants sounds that are not at the beginning of words in a line of verse

assonance
similarity or repetition of vowel sounds in two or more words with different consonant sounds

onomatopoeia
the use of words that imitate the sounds they define

poetry
a kind of rhythmic, compressed language that uses figures of speech and imagery designed to appeal to our emotions and imagination

repetition
repeating a word or phrase within a poem

refrain
the repetition of one or more phrases or lines at definite intervals in a poem, usually at the end of a stanza

stanza
a group of consecutive lines in a poem that form a single unit; a division of a poem that is often referred to as a “paragraph of poetry”

rhyme
the similarity or likeness of sound in 2 or more words

perfect rhyme
rhyme involving sounds that are exactly the same ; ex. groaned moaned

imperfect rhyme
rhyme involving words that sound similar, but are not exactly the same ; ex. groaned crooned

end rhyme
rhyme that depends on spelling rather than sounds; words that LOOK LIKE they rhyme, but don’t ; ex. daughter laughter

internal rhyme
rhyme between words that occurs within a single line of poetry; ex. O fleet, sweet sorrow

rhyme scheme
the pattern or sequence in which end rhyme occurs throughout a poem; the first end sound is represented with an “a”, the second end sound is represented with a “b”, and so on; when the first is repeated at the end of another line within the poem, it is also designated as “a”

rhythm
the pattern of stresses (slash symbol) and unstressed (u symbol) syllables in words in a line of poetry

meter
a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry

foot
a unit of meter; can consist of 2 or 3 syllables

scansion
the process of marking lines of poetry to show the type of feet and the number of feet they contain

iambic foot
a 2 syllable foot with the stress on the second syllable; most common foot

trochaic foot
a 2 syllable foot with the stress on the first syllable

spondaic foot
2 stressed syllables

pyrric foot
2 unstressed syllables; rare and is found in between other types of feet

anapestic foot
3 syllables with the stress on the last syllable

dactylic foot
3 syllables with the stress on the first syllable

monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter, heptameter, octameter
1 foot, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

rhymed verse
consists of a verse with end rhyme and regular meter

blank verse
consists of an unrhymed iambic pentameter

free verse
consists lines of poetry that do not have a regular rhythm and do not rhyme

plot
sequence of events in a narrative that is carefully constructed by the author for artistic purpose

simple narrative account
chronological description of real events

exposition
background information on the characters, settings, and other events necessary for understanding the story are given

complication (rising action)
the conflict is developed, suspense is created, and foreshadowing may be used

conflict
the interplay between opposing elements; the plot of the story is produced and propelled by this

internal conflict
protagonist vs. self

external conflict
protagonist vs. other(s)

external conflict
protagonist vs. environment

technical climax
the turning point in the plot at which the outcome of the action is determined; often, the protagonist changes or has the opportunity to but doesn’t

resolution (falling action)
the events following the technical climax in which the outcome is actually worked out

conclusion
the final event of the story’s plot

dramatic climax
point of greatest interest or intensity to the story

plotless short story
very modern creation that is pleasurable to read but as it describes characters in a situation, but does not employ the development or the resolution of a conflict

setting
the represented time and place of events in a literary work

character
fictional personality created by the author

characterization
the technique a writer uses to create and reveal characters in a work of fiction; CREDIBILITY and CONSISTENCY are essential to this

expository
telling the reader about a character in a straightforward manner; direct, quicker, and less attention getting

dramatic
showing the reader what a character is like through descriptions of thought, dialogue, action, etc.; indirect, less quick, but more attention getting

motivation
the reasons that cause characters to act as they do

protagonist
the central character in a work of fiction about whom the audience is most concerned

antagonist
the principal opponent of the main character

round character
a character who is well described and whose thoughts and actions are revealed during the development of the story

flat character
a character who is not well developed in a story, but who represents a type rather than a individual

dynamic character
a character who grows, learns, or changes in some significant way throughout the story

static character
a character who resists change or refuses to change during the story

foil character
a character that contrasts in some important way with a more important character

consistent character
a character whose speech, thoughts, and actions are what the leader has been lead to expect from the particular character

stock character
type of character that is usually found in a particular literary

stereotyped character
a character created according to widely held, often narrow-minded, ideas (jock or nerd)

point of view
the physical and psychological relationship between the narrator and the story’s characters and events

first person
the narrator is a character in the story

third person objective
the narrator is not a character in the story and reports only what can be seen and heard

third person limited omniscient
the narrator is not a character in the story and reports not only what can be seen and heard, but also the thoughts and feelings of a few characters

third person omniscient
the narrator is not a character in the story and reports what can be seen and heard, along with the thoughts and feelings of ALL the characters

theme
the controlling idea of a literary work that is a general truth or commentary about life, people, the world that is brought out in the story; not a statement about the story/plot itself

atmosphere
describes the general feeling of the story itself

mood
describes the reader’s state of mind after finishing the story

style
the distinctive handling of language by a writer through the purposeful selection of words (diction) and sentence structure (syntax); helps indicate tone

tone
author or speaker’s attitude toward the characters, events, or audience

symbolism
the use of something concrete to represent something abstract; using a thing to represent an idea, concept, quality, or condition

irony
contrast between the way things are and the way they appear to be

verbal irony
a discrepancy between the literal meaning of a word and the meaning actually conveyed (saying one thing but meaning another); sarcasm is a form

dramatic irony
discrepancy between knowledge held by the reader and a character’s ignorance of that knowledge; when the reader knows something the character doesn’t

situational irony
discrepancy between the expected outcome of a situation and the actual outcome

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 stanza
couplet, triplet, quatrain, quintet, sestet, septet, octave