1. Literary Terminology:

  • Theme: A lesson or truth about life revealed in a story or poem. A theme can be expressed in one or two sentences. It is the message about life or human nature that is the focus of the narrative.
  • Plot: The action that makes up the story, following a predictable path referred to as the plot diagram.
  • Plot Diagram: A blueprint for virtually all human stories expressed in six stages. 
    1. Exposition: The part of the story, usually near the beginning, in which the characters are introduced, the background is explained, and the setting is described.
    2. Conflict: A problem or struggle between two opposing forces in a story. There are four basic conflicts:
    3. Rising Action: The central part of the story during which various problems arise after a conflict is introduced.

      • Person Against Person: A problem between characters.
      • Person Against Self: A problem within a character’s own mind.
      • Person Against Society: A problem between a character and society, school, the law, or a tradition.
      • Person Against Nature: A problem between a character and some element of nature (a blizzard, hurricane, mountain climb, etc.
    4. Climax: The high point in the action of a story.
    5. Falling Action: The action and dialogue following the climax that lead the reader into the story’s end.
    6. Resolution: The part of the story in which the problems are solved and the action comes to a satisfying end.
  • Action: Everything that happens in a story.
  • Antagonist: The person or force that works against the hero of the story.
  • Character: One of the people (or animals) in a story. (flat v.s. round)
  • Dialogue: The conversations that characters have with one another.
  • Mood: The feeling a piece of literature is intended to create in a reader.
  • Moral: The lesson a story teaches.
  • Narrator: The person or character who actually tells the story, filling in the background information and bridging the gaps between dialogue. (See point of view).
  • Protagonist: The main character in a story, often a good or heroic type.
  • Setting: The place and the time frame in which a story takes place.
  • Style: The distinctive way that a writer uses language including such factors as word choice, sentence length, arrangement, complexity, and the use of figurative language and imagery.
    • Time, culture, religion, ethnicity, country, etc…
  • Symbol: Person, place, or thing that represents something beyond itself, most often something concrete or tangible that represents an abstract idea.

2. Style & Genre:

  • Allegory: A work of fiction carrying two levels of meaning:
    1. Surface plot/narrative (literal) –
    2. Symbolic/metaphorical meaning in which everything in story symbolizes something greater
  • Autobiography: A writer’s story of his or her own life.
  • Biography: A writer’s account of some other person’s life.
  • Comedy: Writing that deals with life in a humorous way, often poking fun at people’s mistakes.
  • Drama: Also called a play, this writing form uses dialogue to share its message and is meant to be performed in front of an audience.
  • Essay: A short piece of nonfiction that expresses the writer’s opinion or shares information about a subject.
  • Fable: A short story that often uses talking animals as the main characters and teaches an explicit moral or lesson.
  • Fantasy: A story set in an imaginary world in which the characters usually have supernatural powers or abilities.
  • Folktale: A story originally passed from one generation to another by word of mouth only. The characters are usually all good or all bad and in the end are rewarded or punished as they deserve.
  • Historical Fiction: A made-up story that is based on a real time and place in history, so fact is mixed with fiction.
  • Myth: A traditional story intended to explain some mystery of nature, religious doctrine, or cultural belief. The gods and goddesses of mythology have supernatural powers, but the human characters usually do not.
  • Novel: A book-length, fictional prose story. Because of its length, a novel’s characters and plot are usually more developed than those of a short story.
  • Poetry: A literary work that uses concise, colorful, often rhythmic language to express ideas or emotions.
  • Prose: A literary work that uses the familiar spoken form of language, sentence after sentence.
  • Realistic Fiction: Writing that attempts to show life as it really is.
  • Science Fiction: Writing based on real or imaginary scientific developments and often set in the future.
  • Short Story: Shorter than a novel, this piece of literature can usually be read in one sitting. Because of its length, it has only a few characters and focuses on one problem or conflict.

3. Psychology

  • Evil: The exercise of power to intentionally harm (psychologically), hurt (physically), and/or destroy (mortally) and commit crimes against humanity
  • Freudian Personality Traits:
    1. Id: The part of the personality reflecting unorganized, instinctual impulses. If unbridled, it seeks immediate gratification of primitive needs.
    2. Ego: The part of the personality corresponding most nearly to the perceived self, the controlling self that holds back the impulsiveness of the id in the effort to delay gratification until it can be found in socially approved ways.
    3. Superego: The part of the personality corresponding most nearly to conscience, controlling through moral scruples rather than by way of social expediency. The superego is said to be an uncompromising and punishing conscience.
  • Social Influence:
    1. Compliance: The person at whom the influence is directed (the target) publicly conforms to the wishes of the influencing source but does not change his or her private beliefs or attitudes. (The child eats the spinach but continues to dislike it.)
    2. Internalization: The target changes his or her beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors because of a genuine belief in the validity of the position advocated by the influencing source. (A middle-aged man gives up smoking after reading – and believing – the surgeon general’s warnings that smoking causes cancer.)
    3. Identification: The target changes his or her beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors in order to resemble an influencing source that is respected or admired. (A high school girl takes up smoking in order to be like a group of older girls she admires.)


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