Literary Elements Glossary

Elements of Literature

We generally refer to the things that make up a work of literature, its component parts, as elements. This list contains such things as:

  • plot: The sequence of events or happenings in a literary work. Plots may be simple or complex, loosely constructed or close-knit. But every plot is made up a series of incidents that are related to one another.
  • character: a person who is responsible for the thoughts and actions within a story, poem, or other literature. Characters are extremely important because they are the medium through which a reader interacts with a piece of literature. Every character has his or her own personality, which a creative author uses to assist in forming the plot of a story or creating a mood.
  • setting: the time, place, physical details, and circumstances in which a situation occurs. Settings include the background, atmosphere or environment in which characters live and move, and usually include physical characteristics of the surroundings.
  • theme: a common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work. A theme is a thought or idea the author presents to the reader that may be deep, difficult to understand, or even moralistic. Generally, a theme has to be extracted as the reader explores the passages of a work.
  • point of view: a way the events of a story are conveyed to the reader, it is the “vantage point” from which the narrative is passed from author to the reader.

 

Literary Genre

  • Fiction: narrative literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. In fiction something is feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story.
  •  Non fiction: This genre of literature offers opinions or conjectures on facts and reality. This includes biographies, history, essays, speech, and narrative non fiction.
  • Poetry: is verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that evokes an emotional response from the reader.
  • Drama: is the genre of literature that’s subject for compositions is dramatic art in the way it is represented.

 

Plot Chart

  • Exposition: The kind of writing that is intending primarily to present information.
  • Rising action: Those events in a play that lead to a turning point in the action.
  • Climax: That point of greatest emotional intensity, interest, or suspense in a narrative.
  • Falling action: All of the action in a play that follows the turning point. The falling action leads to the resolution or conclusion of the play.
  • Denouement: The resolution. This is the final outcome or “untangling” of the events of the story.
  • Resolution: The outcome of the conflict in a play or story. The resolution concludes the falling action.

 

Other Terms

  • Alliteration: a pattern of sound that includes the repetition of consonant sounds.  The repetition can be located at the beginning of successive words or inside the words. Poets often use alliteration to audibly represent the action that is taking place. 
  • Allusion:  a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature. Allusions are often indirect or brief references to well-known characters or events.
  • Antagonist: a character in a story or poem who deceives, frustrates, or works again the main character, or protagonist, in some way.
  • Aside: an actor’s speech, directed to the audience, that is not supposed to be heard by other actors on stage. An aside is usually used to let the audience know what a character is about to do or what he or she is thinking.
  • Assonance: The repetition of similar vowel sounds, usually close together, in a group of words.
  • Characterization: The personality a character displays; also, the means by which an author reveals that personality.
  • Conflict: A struggle between two opposing forces or characters in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem. Conflict can be internal or external, and it can take one of these forms:
    1. Person against another person
    2. Person against society
    3. A person against nature
    4. Two elements or ideas struggling for mastery within a person
    5. Person against supernatural
  • Dialogue: The conversation between characters in a drama or narrative. A dialouge occurs in most works of literature.
  • Flashback: an interruption of the chronological sequence  of an event of earlier occurrence. A flashback is a narrative technique that allows a writer to present past events during current events, in order to provide background for the current narration.
  • Foreshadowing: The use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest what action is to come. Foreshadowing helps to build suspense in a story because it suggests what is about to happen.
  • Genre: a type of literature. We say a poem, novel, story, or other literary work belongs to a particular genre if it shares at least a few conventions, or standard characteristics, with other works in that genre.
  • Hyperbole: an extravagant exaggeration. In literature, such exaggeration is used for emphasis or vivid descriptions.
  • Idiom: linguistic usage that is grammatical and natural to native speakers of a language.
  • Imagery: Language that appeals to any sense or any combination of the senses.
  • Irony: a literary term referring to how a person, situation, statement, or circumstance is not as it would actually seem. Many times it is the exact opposite of what it appears to be. 
  • Metaphor: a type of figurative language in which a statement is made that says that one thing is something else but, literally, it is not. In connecting one object, event, or place, to another, a metaphor can uncover new and intriguing qualities of the original thing that we may not normally notice or even consider important. Metaphoric language is used in order to realize a new and different meaning.
  • Motif: a recurring object, concept, or structure in a work of literature. A motif may also be two contrasting elements in a work, such as good and evil.
  • Onomatopoeia: The use of a word whose sound in some degree imitates or suggests its meaning. 
  • Oxymoron: an epigrammatic effect, by which contradictory terms are used in conjunction.
  • Paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that is or may be true. 
  • Parody: a musical, literary, or other composition that mimics the style of another composer, author, etc, in a humorous or satirical way.
  • Personification:  A figure of speech where animals, ideas or inorganic objects are given human characteristics.
  • Point of view: a way the events of a story are conveyed to the reader, it is the “vantage point” from which the narrative is passed from author to the reader.
  • Protagonist: A protagonist is considered to be the main character or lead figure in a novel, play, story, or poem.  It may also be referred to as the “hero” of a work.
  • Simile: a simile is a type of figurative language, which  does not mean exactly what it says, that makes a comparison between two otherwise unalike objects or ideas by connecting them with the words “like” or “as.”
  • Symbol/symbolism: a symbol is a word or object that stands for another word or object. The object or word can be seen with the eye or not visible. For example a dove stands for Peace
  • Theme: a common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work. A theme is a thought or idea the author presents to the reader that may be deep, difficult to understand, or even moralistic. Generally, a theme has to be extracted as the reader explores the passages of a work.
  • Tone: The attitude a writer takes toward his or her subject, characters, and readers. Through tone, a writer can amuse, anger, or shock the reader. Tone is created through the choice of words and details.

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