Characterization: The ways individual characters are represented by the narrator or author of a text.
This includes descriptions of the characters’ physical appearances, personalities, actions, interactions,
Dialogue: Spoken exchanges between characters in a dramatic or literary work, usually between two
or more speakers.
Genre: A kind of literature. For instance, comedy, mystery, tragedy, satire, elegy, romance, and epic
are all genres.
Imagery: A term used to describe an author’s use of vivid descriptions “that evoke senseimpressions by
literal or figurative reference to perceptible or ‘concrete’ objects, scenes, actions, or states”
Plot: The sequence of events that occur through a work to produce a coherent narrative or story.
Point of View: The perspective (visual, interpretive, bias, etc) a text takes when presenting its plot and
Style: Comprised of an author’s diction, syntax, tone, characters, and other narrative techniques, “style”
is used to describe the way an author uses language to convey his or her ideas and purpose in writing.
Symbol(ism): An object or element incorporated into a narrative to represent another concept or
concern. Broadly, representing one thing with another.
Theme: According to Baldick, a theme may be defined as “a salient abstract idea that emerges from a
literary work’s treatment of its subject-matter; or a topic recurring in a number or literary works”
Tone: A way of communicating information (in writing, images, or sound) that conveys an attitude.
Authors convey tone through a combination of word-choice, imagery, perspective, style, and subject
matter. By adopting a specific tone, authors can help readers accurately interpret meaning in a text.
Types of narrative: The narrator is the voice telling the story or speaking to the audience. However,
this voice can come from a variety of different perspectives
First person: A story told from the perspective of one or several characters, each of whom typically
uses the word
Second person: A narrative perspective that typically addresses that audience
Third person: Describes a narrative told from the perspective of an outside figure who does not
participate directly in the events of a story.
Types of Prose Texts
Bildungsroman: This is typically a type of novel that depicts an individual’s coming-ofage through
self-discovery and personal knowledge. Such stories often explore the protagonists’ psychological and
Epistolary: A novel comprised primarily of letters sent and received by its principle
Essay: According to Baldick, “a short written composition in prose that discusses a subject or proposes
an argument without claiming to be a complete or thorough exposition”
Novella: An intermediate-length fictional narrative
Terms for Interpreting Authorial Voice
Apology: refers to an instance in which the author or narrator justifies his
or her goals in producing the text.
Irony: Typically refers to saying one thing and meaning the opposite, often
to shock audiences and emphasize the importance of the truth.
Satire: A style of writing that mocks, ridicules, or pokes fun at a person,
belief, or group of people in order to challenge them.
Stream of consciousness: A mode of writing in which the author traces his or her thoughts verbatim
into the text. Typically, this style offers a representation of the author’s exact thoughts throughout
the writing process
Terms for Interpreting Characters
Antagonist: A character or characters in a text with whom the protagonist opposes
Anti-hero: A protagonist of a story who embodies none of the
qualities typically assigned to traditional heroes and heroines
Archetype: “. Archetypes differ from allegories because they tend to
reference broader or commonplace
Epithet ; An epithet usually indicates some notable quality about the
individual with whom it addresses
Personification: The use of a person to represent a concept, quality, or object.
Protagonist: The primary character in a text, often positioned as “good” or the
character with whom readers are expected to identify
Terms for Interpreting Word Choice, Dialogue, and Speech
Alliteration: Alliteration is typically used to convey a specific tone or message
Apostrophe: usually employed for emotional emphasis, can become ridiculous [or
humorous] when misapplied
Diction: Word choice, or the specific language an author, narrator, or speaker
uses to describe events and interact with other characters
Terms for Interpreting Plot
Climax: The height of conflict and intrigue in a narrative
Denouement: The “falling action” of a narrative, when the climax and central
conflicts are resolved and a resolution is found
Deus Ex Machina: According to Taafe, “Literally, in Latin, the ‘god from the machine’; a deity in Greek
and Roman drama who was brought in by stage machinery to intervene in the action; hence, any
character, event, or device suddenly introduce to resolve the conflict
Exposition: Usually located at the beginning of a text, this is a detailed discussion introducing
characters, setting, background information, etc
Frame Narrative: a story that an author encloses around the central narrative in order to provide
background information and context.
In media res: Beginning in “the middle of things,” or when an author begins a text in the midst of
Terms for Interpreting Layers of Meaning
Allegory: a literary mode that attempts to convert abstract concepts, values, beliefs, or historical events
into characters or other tangible elements in a narrative
Allusion: When a text references, incorporates, or responds to an earlier piece
Hyperbole: exaggerated language, description, or speech that is not meant to be taken literally, but is
used for emphasis
Metaphor: a figure of speech that refers to one thing by another in order to identify similarities
between the two (
Metonymy: a figure of speech that substitutes one aspect or attribute for the whole itself.
Parody: a narrative work or writing style that mocks or mimics another genre or work.