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The Secret Keepers: Literary terms
Terms in this set (36)
The presentation of an abstract idea through more concrete means. Typical
allegories have two levels of meaning: the story itself and a lesson (or lessons) behind the
story. Allegories are generally (1) either political or historical or (2) develop an abstract theme
The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of adjacent or closely
An indirect reference to a person, event, statement, or theme found in literature, the
arts, history, mythology, religion, or popular culture. For example: a teen-age boy spends
hours building a Lego castle. His girlfriend comes over, accidentally bumps it, and it tumbles
down. He looks at her and says, "Ah love, my labor's lost." He has just made a clever allusion
to the title of Shakespeare's play Love Labor's Lost.
A comparison between two objects, situation, or ideas where one is well-known or
understood that is made for the purpose of explanation or clarification about a second less
well-known or understood item.
The primary character or entity who acts to frustrate or prevent the goals of the
A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something.
A form of nonfiction literature whose subject is the life of an individual.
The act of describing the character or qualities of someone or something; the
way a writer makes a person in literature seem like a real person.
A tired, overused phrase that good writers would avoid using.
An informal or slang expression particular to a geographical region.
An additional idea or emotion that is connected with a word, as opposed to its
Conflict is a struggle between opposing forces. An internal conflict is one that occurs
within a character. An external conflict involves a character pitted against an outside force,
which can be another character, a natural phenomenon, or a physical obstacle.
The parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or
passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect. It may also mean the set of circumstances or
facts that surround an event.
The dictionary definition of a word; the literal meaning of a word.
Language that contains or uses figures of speech, especially metaphors.
Figure of speech
Words and phrases not used in their literal sense but that listeners know
convey a certain meaning. For example, saying "I could eat a horse" means a person is hungry,
or "a little bird told me" means the speaker is not going to reveal the source of information.
The occurrence in a story or novel of a scene that is not in chronological order but
that happened at a previous time.
A class or category of artistic endeavor—such as a book—having a particular style—
such as Science Fiction.
A deliberate exaggeration of fact to add emphasis to a point.
The use of particular words that create visual representations or mental pictures of
Generally speaking, irony is a discrepancy between expectations and reality. There are
three types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic.
A figure of speech that makes a direct comparison between two things which are
not similar but share something in common. Readers are generally familiar with the
characteristics of one of the two things which make understanding the second thing more
The use of words such as "pow," "hiss," and "purr" that sound like the thing
they are describing.
An oxymoron is two unlike things mentioned side by side, such as jumbo shrimp, open secret,and alone in a crowd. The things together create a new, unique image.
A paradox is a statement that appears contradictory but is in fact true. In Hamlet, the prince says, "I must be cruel to be kind." His statement seems contradictory, but if he
carries out what he has in mind, his "cruel" act is actually a "kind" act. A classic paradox is that
"Christ is dead, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." All three things are true but technically
contradict one another.
Giving non-human animals or objects the characteristics of humans.
The actions and events that make up a literary work.
Point of view
The perspective from which a person views a subject. Also, the perspective
from which an author tells a story.
A pun occurs where there is a playful or clever use of words. Some puns occur when a
person uses a word in a way that emphasizes one of its meanings when such use is unexpected,
or uses a homonym so that both meanings suit a statement, or uses words to be witty that
sound alike or are nearly alike. A pun is not easy to explain but with practice, both identifying
and creating puns is fun or clever or both, and is an indication of intelligence!
The time and place in which a story unfolds.
A form of metaphor that often uses the words like or as in comparing two unlike
objects. See the definition of "Metaphor."
The tension a reader experiences as a plot unfolds, creating a desire to know the
outcome of a challenging situation or situations.
The use of an object to represent an idea or concept.
An underlying meaning in a literary work; an important point or idea an author wishes
Understatement is the opposite of hyperbole. Deliberately
underemphasizing an occurrence or subject calls attention to the outlandish characteristics or
heightened significance of the subject.
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