Literary Devices

  1. Allegory
    a story in which people
  2. Alliteration
    repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words; it is used to emphasize meaning or to improve flow through rhythm.
  3. Allusion
    a historical or literary reference to a person
  4. Analogy
    a comparison between two things that share certain similarities; its purpose is usually to explain a more difficult concept by comparing it to something simpler that the reader will recognize easily.
  5. Aphorism
    a short saying with a moral.
  6. Apostrophe
    a figure of speech in which an abstract concept or an absent or imaginary person is directly addressed.
  7. Conceit
    a figure of speech in which two completely unlike things are compared; these comparisons are usually very intellectual in nature.
  8. Epigram
    a very short but witty statement.
  9. Epiphany
    a moment of insightfulness when a character realizes some truth (usually about himself/herself).
  10. Foil
    a character who is used as a contrast to another character in order to emphasize the differences between the two characters.
  11. Hyperbole
    a figure of speech in which something is grossly exaggerated for emphasis.
  12. Metonymy
    a figure of speech in which one word is replaced by another word that has a similar meaning.
  13. Onomatopoeia
    a word that closely resembles the sound that the word is supposed to make (e.g. buzz, hiss); used most commonly in poetry, but can effectively emphasize meaning in prose writing as well.
  14. Oxymoron
    a figure of speech in which two opposing ideas are combined.
  15. Paradox
    a statement that seems to be contradictory but is actually true.
  16. Parody
    imitates another literary work using humor usually to make the author and/or the work appear ridiculous.
  17. Parallelism
    the use of similar sentence structure to express similar or related ideas; words
  18. Persona
    the voice an author takes on to tell the story in a particular work.
  19. Repetition
    a technique in which words, phrases, or sounds are repeated for emphasis.
  20. Satire
    a technique designed to enact social change by using wit to ridicule ideas
  21. Synecdoche
    a figure of speech in which a part of something represents its whole.
  22. Understatement
    a technique in which less is said than is actually true; the opposite of exaggeration or hyperbole.
  23. Voice
    refers to a writer's use of language
  24. Act
    plays are broken down into smaller units of action called acts. Sometimes acts are broken down into scenes. An act in a play is similar to a chapter in a book.
  25. Antagonist
    the character or force with which the protagonist conflicts.
  26. Aside
    words spoken by one character in a play
  27. Audience
    the group of readers to whom a piece of literature is directed. The audience might be a specific age group or sex or might share similar interests (e.g. soccer or skateboarding).
  28. Author's Purpose
    the reason the author has written a piece of literature. The writer may try to inform
  29. Catharsis
    a Greek term first used by Aristotle to describe the emotional cleansing or purification that results after watching a tragedy performed on stage. After experiencing a terrible ordeal
  30. Character
    an individual in a story or play.
  31. Characterization
    • The process by which the writer reveals a character's personality to the reader. This process is very similar to the process real people go through when they encounter new situations. People form an initial opinion about a situation based upon what they see and hear. A writer can reveal a character in the following ways:
    • 1. by telling the reader directly what the character is like (not a very subtle approach and not used often by writers)
    • 2. by describing how the character looks and dresses (What type of clothing does the character wear? How does he or she wear her hair?)
    • 3. by letting us hear how the character speaks (Does the character speak with a dialect? Is the character loud or soft-spoken?)
    • 4. by revealing the character's private thoughts and feelings (What does the character think about other people? about himself?)
    • 5. by revealing the character's effect on other people (Do people want to be near the character? Do people do whatever the character asks?) and
    • 6. by showing the character's actions (Does she treat people nicely or badly? Does he make good decisions or poor ones?)."
  32. Clich
    a phrase or expression that has been repeated so often it has lost its significance. It is best to avoid clich's in writing.
  33. Comic Relief
    a humorous moment in a serious drama that temporarily relieves the mounting tension.
  34. Conflict
    a struggle or clash between opposing characters; External Conflict and Internal Conflict
  35. External Conflict
    A character struggles against some outside force. External conflicts are described in general terms such as: Person vs. Person
  36. Internal Conflict
    A character struggles with himself/herself and his/her opposing needs
  37. Connotation
    the emotion or feeling a word creates. Connotation is the reason word choice is so important; two words may mean the same thing
  38. Denotation
    the literal meaning (or dictionary definition) of a word.
  39. Dialect
    the way people speak in various parts of the country or around the world. Dialect involves pronunciation
  40. Dialogue
    a conversation between two or more characters in a literary work. Dialogue is set off by quotation marks
  41. Diction
    a writer's choice of words and sentence structure; may be formal or informal
  42. Fiction
    a narrative (story) generated by the writer's imagination.
  43. Figurative Language
  44. Flashback
    the action of the story is interrupted in order to return to an event or conversation which took place before the current action of the story. Although rare
  45. Folklore
    the traditional beliefs and customs of a group of people that have been passed down orally.
  46. Foreshadowing
    the use of clues to hint at what is going to happen later in the plot. Foreshadowing is used to arouse the reader's curiosity and to create suspense.
  47. Imagery
    words and phrases that vividly recreate a sound
  48. Irony
    the difference between what is expected and what actually happens. There are three different types of irony: 1) Situational Irony, 2) Verbal Irony, and 3) Dramatic Irony
  49. Situational Irony
    the difference between what the character or the reader expects and what actually happens.
  50. Verbal Irony
    the difference between what a character says and what he means.
  51. Dramatic Irony
    the difference between what a character expects and what the reader knows will happen.
  52. Legend
    a story passed down over generations that is believed to be based on real events and real people (even though magic and supernatural events are often incorporated into the story).
  53. Metaphor
    a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between two things.
  54. Mood
    the feeling or atmosphere that a writer creates for the reader. The mood is an emotional response created in the reader. (Mood is not to be confused with tone.)
  55. Motif
    a recurring pattern found in a work or works of literature; the pattern is usually representative of something else.
  56. Myth
    story passed down over the generations that was once believed to be true. These stories usually involve superhuman characters and actions (gods, goddesses) and often explain the unexplainable. The most well known mythology originated with the Greeks and Romans. There are many allusions to Greek and Roman mythology in Western literature.
  57. Narrator
    the person who "tells" the story. The narrator is often very subtle and remains in the background of a story
  58. Narrative
    any type of writing
  59. Nonfiction
    is prose writing about real people
  60. Oral Tradition
    before the advent of education for the masses
  61. Parable
    a short story that teaches a moral or a religious lesson.
  62. Personification
    a figure of speech in which an inanimate object
  63. Plot
    the series of events that make up a story or drama. It is the form or structure of a story. The events of a plot usually progress because of some conflict. Most plots contain the following stages: 1) Exposition, 2) Rising Action, 3) Climax, 4) Falling Action, and 5) Resolution.
  64. Exposition
    (Stage in the Plot) The characters and setting are introduced and the plot begins to unfold. The exposition generally occurs at the beginning of a story.
  65. Rising Action
    (Stage in the Plot) As the conflict or conflicts develop and the characters attempt to resolve those conflicts
  66. Climax
    (Stage in the Plot) This is the point when the action reaches a turning point and interest and intensity reach their peak. The story's climax usually involves an important decision
  67. Falling Action
    (Stage in the Plot) The point after the climax where the action begins to drop off and the events of the plot become clear or are explained in some way
  68. Resolution (also called denouement)
    (Stage in the Plot) The loose ends are tied up. A resolution does not necessarily indicate a "happy ending." (Some text books combine falling action and resolution into one stage.)
  69. Point of View
    The vantage point from which the writer tells the story. There are three different points of view: 1) 1st person, 2) 3rd Person Limited, and 3)3rd Person Omniscient
  70. 1st Person
    (Point of View) The narrator is a character in the story and tells the reader his/her story using the pronoun 'I.' The narrator can comment only on what he/she sees and hears and cannot comment on other characters' thoughts and feelings.
  71. 3rd Person Limited
    (Point of View) The narrator is outside of the story and tells the story from the perspective of only one character. As a result the narrator can report only what that one character sees and hears.
  72. 3rd Person Omniscient
    (Point of View) The narrator is outside of the story and is all-knowing or Godlike because he/she knows everything that occurs and everything that each character thinks and feels. This does not mean that the narrator shares everything with the reader."
  73. Protagonist
    the main character in fiction or drama whose conflict starts the plot in motion. Most protagonists change in some important way by the end of the story. Readers usually identify in some way with the protagonist.
  74. Setting
    the time and place of a story or play. The setting is very important in establishing the mood of a story. For example
  75. Simile
    a figure of speech in which two things are compared using "like" or "as."
  76. Soliloquy
    a speech delivered while only one character is on stage; a soliloquy reveals a character's innermost thoughts and feelings.
  77. Stereotype
    specific characteristics are applied to an entire group of people and are used to "classify" those people as part of a "group."
  78. Structure
    the organizational form of a literary work.
  79. Style
    refers to how a piece of literature is written rather than to what is actually said; style involves the use of literary techniques
  80. Suspense
    a tension created as the reader becomes involved in a story and when the author leaves the reader in doubt about what is coming next.
  81. Symbol
    a person
  82. Symbolism
    the use of symbols in literature to convey meaning.
  83. Theme
    the central idea or insight of a work of literature. The theme is the idea the writer wishes to convey about the subject. Most themes are implied rather than stated directly.
  84. Tone
    the writer's attitude toward his/her subject. Tone reflects the feelings of the writer. (Do not confuse tone with mood.)
Card Set
Literary Devices
Common and Advanced Literary Devices