32 Literary Terms Writers Should Know

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32 Literary terms writers should know. Plot, conflict, denouement, POV, characterization, climax, setting, style, voice.

Allusion
A reference within a literary work to another work of fiction, a movie, a piece of art, or an event. Used to provide greater context or meaning to the situation being written about. Carries a risk of alienating readers who don’t recognize the reference.

Antagonist
The character in fiction who opposes the protagonist (hero/heroine) and can provide the story’s conflict. Also known as the villain, bad guy, nemesis, anti-hero, and enemy.

Characterization
The process through which a writer makes a character seem real to readers.

For more details, read Character Development: How Well Do You Know Your Characters.

Climax
The most dramatic, meaningful, and suspenseful moment in a story. All drama that has been developing reaches a breaking point when something or someone must change. Considered to be a moment of great intensity and point of maximum interest in a story. Generally brings events to a head and leads to the conclusion.

Conflict
The result of competing desires or the presence of obstacles that need to be overcome. Conflict is necessary to propel a narrative forward; the absence of conflict amounts to the absence of story. Often considered to be the heart of a plot. Conflict can be internal or external.

Common types of conflict are: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, man vs. society, man vs. fate, and man vs. machine.

Denouement
French word meaning an untying and represents the unraveling of the complexities of the plot and the clarification of the story’s details and misunderstandings. This is the series of events that follow the plot’s climax and can be the conclusion or resolution of the story. The exception is mystery novels, in which the denouement and climax may occur at the same time.

Dramatic irony
When words and actions of the characters have a different meaning for the reader than they do for the characters. The result is that the reader will have a greater knowledge of something than the characters.

Dyamic character
A character who changes significantly and has obvious growth and/or development throughout the story.

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5 comments

[…] L is for Literary Terms Writers Should Know Allusion A reference within a literary work to another work of fiction, a movie, a piece of art, or an event. Used to provide greater context or meaning to the…. Read more here: 32 Literary Terms Writers Should Know […]

Thanks for sharing. Some i might realise are essential but name of terms x

Thanks for this list of terms. As a writer, I know of most of them though I hadn’t heard of Denouement or Malapropism so I learned something today which makes this a good day…

Thank you for visiting and sharing, Richard. Learning new words is fun. 🙂 Have you heard any malapropisms lately?

While I’ve heard of and know many of these, there are definitely a few on the list I’ve never seen. This is definitely a good place to start if anyone is thinking about starting a writing career.

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