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Literary Terms


the act of creating and developing a character

Direct Characterization

writer directly states a character's trait

Indirect Characterization

Character is revealed by (1) words, thoughts, actions of the characters, (2) character's appearance and background, (3) what other characters say about the character, (4) how other characters react toward the character

flat character

a character that is characterized by one or two traits;

round character

a character that is complex and perhaps even contradictory

dynamic character

a character that changes over the course of the story

static character

a character that does not develop


hero or central character of literary work


a person or force which opposes the protagonist in a literary work


the event and actions of a story


the time and place in which a story unfolds


the author's attitude towards his or her subject


the feeling, emotional state, or atmosphere of a literary work

internal conflict

a mental, emotional, or psychological struggle within a character

external conflict

the opposition between two characters, two groups of people, or between the protagonist and a larger problem such as forces of nature, ideas, etc.

first person point of view

narrator participates in the story

third person point of view

narrator stands outside the story itself


a literary type; the four major genres are fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama


a narrative which has both a literal meaning and a representative one


a piece of literature designed to ridicule the subject of the work


device in literature which an object represents an idea


the lesson, main message, or moral of a story


a recurring element that appears frequently in a work of literature


reference to an event which took place prior to the beginning of the story


a method used to build suspense by providing hints of what is to come

irony of situation

the result of an action is the reverse of what the actor expected

dramatic irony

when the audience knows something that the characters in the drama do not

verbal irony

the contrast between the literal meaning of what is said and what is meant


a distinct way of speaking by a group of people from a particular geographic region, economic group, or social class


a word or group of words in a literary work which appeal to one or more of the senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell


a reference in one literary work to a character or theme found in another literary work


the form of a comparison between two unlike quantities for which a basis for comparison can be found, and which uses the words "like" or "as" in the comparison


a comparison is made between two unlike things without the use of the words "like" or "as"


a repetition of the initial sounds of several words in a group


an overstatement or exaggeration


something nonhuman is given human characteristics


he sound of a word echoes the sound it represents


the author's choice of word


a combination of contradictory ideas


the way words are arranged in a sentence

parallel structure

a series of words, phrases, or sentences that have a similar or grammatical form for emphasis

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