Literary Terms Alliteration: the repetition of initial consonant sounds Allusion

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English I Pre-AP 2012-2013

Literary Terms
Alliteration: the repetition of initial consonant sounds

Allusion: a reference to a person, a place, an event or a literary work which a writer expects the reader to recognize and respond to. An allusion may be drawn from history, geography, literature, or religion.

Analogy: a comparison between two things that are similar in some way, often used to help explain something or make it easier to understand.

Anaphora: the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses. Example: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets …” (Winston Churchill).

Archetype: the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

Aphorism: a concise, pointed statement that purports to reveal a truth or principle Example: “All you need is love” (The Beatles).

Aside: a short speech delivered by an actor in a play expressing the character’s thoughts. Typically this is directed to the audience and is presumed to be inaudible to the other actors.

Assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds followed closely by different consonants in two or more stressed syllables.

Belief System: a shared system of beliefs and values that systematically define a way of perceiving the social, cultural, physical and psychological world.

Bildungsroman: a piece of literature that deals with the movement from childhood to adulthood.

Characterization: the act of creating and developing a character.

Generally a writer develops a character in one or more of the following ways:

  1. by showing the character in action

  2. by revealing the character’s thoughts, and by letting the character speak

  3. by giving a physical description of the character

  4. by telling what others think of the character

  5. by analyzing the character or by giving a direct evaluation of the character

  • Protagonist: the most important character in the story

  • Antagonist: a major character who opposes the protagonist

  • Round character: fully developed character who shows many different traits which include virtues as well as faults.

  • Flat character: not a fully developed character. May only see a few traits.

  • Dynamic character: develops and grows during the course of the story. Will show a change in behavior or belief during the course of the story.

  • Static character: does not develop and grow during the course of the story. Will not change during the course of the story.

  • Foil: a character who is contrasted with another character.

Conflict: struggle between opposing forces:

  • internal conflict: when the main character is in conflict with himself

ex. man vs. self

  • external conflict: when the main character struggles against an outside


ex. man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. supernatural

Consonance: the repetition, at close intervals, of the final consonants of accented syllables or important words, especially at the ends of words. Ex. blank and think or strong and string.

Comedy: a literary work, especially a play, that has a happy ending. They often show ordinary characters in conflict with society.

Connotation: all the emotions and associations that a word or phrase may arouse.

Couplet: two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme.

Denotation: the literal or “dictionary” meaning of a word.

Deus Ex Machina: any sudden last minute discover, rescue or change of heart that helps resolve a situation and bring about a happy ending.

Diction: a writer’s or speaker’s choice of words, particularly for clarity, effectiveness, and precision. A writer’s diction can be formal or informal, abstract or concrete.

Drama: a story written to be acted out in front of an audience.

Acts: the large sections of a play

Scenes: the smaller sections of a play found within an act

Stage directions: usually in italics and give comments on how and where the

action happens

Ellipsis: the omission of a word or several words necessary for a complete construction that is still understandable. Indicated by three “dots” within a sentence or four “dots” between two sentences.

Epic: a long narrative poem describing the deeds of a hero and reflecting the values of a culture from which it originated.

Epithet: an adjective or descriptive phrase that is regularly used to characterize a person, place, or thing.

Euphemism: the substitution of an inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. Substituting a mild term for one that is considered harsh.

Flashback: when the events in a story momentarily stop, so a sequence of past events can be related.

Foreshadowing: when the author gives the readers hints about events to come. It is used to create interest and build suspense.

Free Verse: poetry not written in a regular rhythmical pattern or meter.

Homeric Greek Literature: Greek literature written by Homer. Example: The Odyssey.

Hyperbole: a figure of speech using exaggeration, or overstatement for special effect.

Idiom: an expression in which the meaning is not predictable from the denotations of its separate words. Example: kick the bucket.

Imagery: words or phrases that create pictures, or images, in the reader’s mind. Images are primarily visual.

Inversion: Reversal of the normal word order of a sentence.

Irony: involves differences between appearances and reality, expectation and result or meaning and intention.

  • Verbal irony: words are used to suggest the opposite of what is meant

  • Dramatic irony: contradiction between the character thinks and what the audience or reader knows to be true

Metaphor: saying one thing in terms of something else

Motif: a recurring, unifying element in an artistic work, such as an image, symbol, character type, action, idea, object, or phrase.

Myth: A story, often about immortals and sometimes connected with religious rituals, that attempts to give meaning to the mysteries of the world.

Mythology: a body of related myths that is accepted by a people. A mythology tells a people what it is most concerned about: where it came from, who its gods are, what its most sacred rituals are and what its destiny is

Onomatopoeia: the use of words whose sound in some degree imitates or suggest is meaning.

Oxymoron: a self-contradictory combination of words.

Parable: a short moral story in which animals are often used as characters.

Parallel structure: the coordination of sentence syntax, word order, and ideas. Used for effect and emphasis.

Personification: human-like qualities are given to non-human things.

Plot: the sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, narrative poem, or play. Plots may be simple or complicated, loosely constructed or close-knit. But every plot is made up of a series of incidents that are related to one another.

  • Exposition: the part of the literary work or drama that introduces the characters, the setting and the basic situation.

  • Rising Action: all of the events and conflicts that lead up to the climax.

  • Climax: the point of greatest emotional intensity, interest, or suspense in a narrative. The climax usually marks a story’s turning point.

  • Falling Action: all of the events after the climax.

  • Dénouement: that part of a work in which conflicts are resolved or unraveled and the plot’s mysteries and secrets are explained.

Point of View: perspective; how the story is told.

  • First person: one person, a main character, minor character or a witness describes what he sees, hears, etc.

  • Omniscient: a person outside of the story relates the events and can tell what every character thinks and feel.

  • Third person limited: this narrator only sees the world through one character’s eyes, thus does not know what the other characters are thinking and feeling.

Pun: play on the multiple meanings of a word or on two words that sound alike but have different meanings.

Repetition: word, sound, phrase, idea; used for emphasis. An excellent technique in persuasive speeches. Always pay attention to repetition in writing. The author is trying to tell you something.

Rhyme: the repetition of sounds at the ends of words.

End rhyme occurs when the rhyming words come at the ends of lines.

Internal rhyme occurs when the rhyming words appear in the same line.

Sentence structure: analyzing sentence structure asks that you look at sentence length; simple, compound, complex, compound-complex, unusual phrases, repetition, altered word order.

Simile: a comparison of two things using “like” or “as.”

Soliloquy: a long speech expressing the thoughts of a character alone on stage.

Symbol: when something stands for something else or when something takes on another abstract meaning.

Syntax: the physical arrangement of the words in the sentence.

Theme: is the central message or insight into life revealed through a literary work. It is not a plot summary. It is a generalization about human beings or about life that the literary work communicates. Can be directly stated or implied. If implied, the readers think about what the work seems to say about the nature of people or about life.

Thesis: the controlling idea of a document.

Thesis Statement: the sentence which encapsulates the controlling idea of a document.

Tone: the attitude a writer takes toward his or her subject, characters and readers. Through tone an author can amuse, anger, or shock the reader. Often the reader must figure out a writer’s tone in order to understand a literary work.

Word Origin: the original language from which a word is derived.

Writing Terminology

  • Topic Sentence (TS): the first sentence in a body paragraph that conveys the point of the paragraph.

  • Concrete details(CD): specific details that prove or support the point of your body paragraph. Other common names for concrete details are facts and, most often, examples.

  • Commentary (CM): your opinion or comment on a subject or point. It is not a concrete detail. Other common names for commentary are opinion, insight, and analysis.

  • Concluding Sentence (CS): the last sentence in a body paragraph that does not repeat key words and yet wraps up the point of your paragraph and gives the paragraph closure or a finished feeling.

  • Thesis: a sentence with a subject and an opinion that usually comes at the end of the introductory paragraph; it also conveys the point of the entire written piece.

  • Introductory paragraph: the first paragraph in an essay that gets the reader’s attention and introduces the subject of the essay (contains the thesis).

  • Body paragraph: a middle paragraph in an essay that develops a point you make to support your thesis. It contains three concrete details and six commentaries along with a topic sentence and a concluding sentence (recommended).

  • Concluding paragraph: the last paragraph of the essay that brings closure; it sums up your ideas, reflects on what you said in the essay and gives a personal statement on the subject without repeating what has already been said.

  • Pre-writing: the process of getting your concrete details down on paper before you organize your essay into paragraphs. There are five main types: bubble cluster, spider diagram, outline, line clusters, and columns.

  • Shaping: the step that is done after pre-writing and before the rough draft of the essay. It is an outline of your thesis, topic sentences, concrete details, commentary, and concluding sentences.

  • Ratio: the amount of commentary for every concrete details. For analytical writing the recommended ratio is 1 CD: 2 CM. For narrative and research based writing the recommended ratio might be 2 CD: 1 CM or 2CD: 2CM.

Steps in the Writing Process:

  1. Brainstorm

  2. Pre-write

  3. Shape the essay (outline)

  4. Make a draft

  5. Peer Edit

  6. Revise

  7. Final Copy

Pre-Writing Rules

    1. Carefully read the prompt.

    2. Underline words in the prompt which give specific, direction, important instructions/topics to address.

    3. Pull out and bullet the words underlined.

    4. Brainstorm answers for the bullets without using words in the prompt.

    5. Based on the prompt and what you bulleted, decide how many paragraphs to use to address the prompt.

    6. Write three to five word phrases when planning your topic sentence for each paragraph

    7. Write three concrete details under each topic sentence.

    8. In a timed writing, take about 12 minutes to pre-write at the most.

    9. Begin writing.

Formal Introductions contain

  1. Attention Getter

  2. Introduction of the topic or subject

  3. Summary

  4. Thesis

In-Class or Timed Writing Introductions contain

  1. Attention Getter

  2. Thesis

Types of Attention Getters:

  • Anecdote

  • Definition

  • Quote

  • Statistic(s)

  • Shocking or appealing statement on topic

Attention Getters do not contain:

  • Questions

  • Sweeping statements

  • Statements concerning literature or writers or writing

  • The name of the author or work

A Thesis contains:

  • Name of the work/author

  • Subject

  • Commentary on that subject

Body Paragraphs contain:

  • Topic sentence

  • Concrete details

  • Commentary

  • Concluding sentence


  • Use all commentary

  • Address a real world application with a broader sentence

  • Make a final shot to leave the reader thinking

  • Does not go back and discuss anything already stated


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