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an educated guess, filling in the gaps created by limited information

bursting point

short stories pick up in the life of a character at the moment just before the climax of a situation; think of a balloon being filled with water. A novel begins with a flat balloon which we experience being filled; a short story begins when it's already filled and about to burst.

inciting incident

the event that starts the plot moving forward. Every story begins with a new event that starts the chain of events. Think of trying to get a big boulder to start rolling.

direct characterization

sometimes the narrator tells us directly about a character

indirect characterization

we must infer about the nature of a character based upon seeing him or her in action, or hearing about him or her from another character


the brief period in the plot after climax has been resolved. Think of a camera pulling back as music starts to play at the end of an action movie


the brief period at the start of a story that sets up the who, what, when, and where of this new tale. Think of a sit-com that begins with a song setting up the gist of the show.

unreliable narrator

usually a first person narrator who we have reasons to doubt--too young, liar, mentally unstable; on rare occasions can be a third person omniscient narrator.


the overall mood of a work of art, usually identified by a single adjective


refers to the words a person or character chooses to use. Think of a painter choosing colors.


the dictionary definition of a word


the feelings, images, or other words associated with a word, usually positive or negative

symbolic meaning

an object, word, song, image, etc. that is itself, but also represents something outside of itself


the observation, comment, or question about the nature of human existence at the heart of a work of art. ITS IMPORTANT!

literary motif

a word, phrase, image, character, etc. that is repeated throughout a work of literature. It provides unity, cohesion. (footsteps and shoes in TOTC)


a work of literature in which several aspects of the story are symbolic of people or events in real life; they are typically meant to teach some life lesson.

historical context

the political, soical, cultural, and economic setting for a particular idea or event


the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs. ex. hunger in TOTC

modern heroine

has 3 characteristics: greatly admired, unusually brave, and the main character/ protagonist

modern hero

has 3 characteristics: archetype, sophisticated, and has a secret identity


presenting something in a way that overpowers one's judgement to benefit the advertisor


a form of organizing a group of people, where a small minority has all the power over the majority


the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt; ex. hell=the hot place


using literature, music, speech, or other forms of expression to evoke a feeling of pity or compassion

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