LITClub Literary Devices

Literary Terms Image for blog resource page

You can download a pdf of the LITClub Literary Devices form if you like. To find out how we use these terms to make reading more enjoyable and to improve comprehension check out one of these books:

The LITClub Story  
The LITClub Tool Box  
The LITClub handbook

ELEMENTS

CHARACTER: Think of characters as actors in a play. The more you know about the motives and behavior of the character the more round we say he is and the less we know the more flat he is.

PROTAGONIST: The main character.

ANTAGONIST:  a character in a story or poem that deceives, frustrates, or works against the main character, or protagonist, in some way

CLIMAX: The story goal is at stake and we learn the conclusion of it. The hero will either win or lose his battle. If he wanted to get the girl, it will look like he won’t and then he will. If he’s on a quest it will look hopeless and then he will win the day.

CONFLICT: Opposition between characters, large groups, between the protagonist and a larger problem such as forces of nature, ideas, public mores, and so on. Conflict may also be completely internal, such as the protagonist struggling with his psychological tendencies as well as external like a fight with his nemesis.

GENRE: A particular type or category of literature or art.

PLOT: The actions and events in a work of fiction that lead you from one point to another in the story. In order for a plot to begin, some sort of catalyst is necessary. Plot is different from story. The way I think of it is that plot are dots on a line that the characters go from one to the other whereas story is inside the characters. What does the main character want? Who does he like? Who doesn’t he like? How will he get what he wants/

NARRATIVE STYLE:

Point of View: Think of POV as the person who is holding the camera in a room.

1st person, most young adult novels, Hunger Games

2nd person, not common, the narrator refers to a character as “you”. The reader feels he is a character in the story. Examples: cookbooks, greeting cards,  ________. Young children’s television shows like Elmo do this.

3rd person – tells the story but doesn’t look in to the heads of the other characters, just the protagonist.

Omniscient – god-like 3rd person but the narrator dips in to the heads of different characters thoughts, past life and future possibilities.

Limited omniscient – god like 3rd person but in only one characters head at a time.

Think of POV as the person who is holding the camera in a room.

  • 1st – One person holding it and we only see how that person views the scene.
  • 2nd – I hold the camera for “you.”
  • 3rd – A stationary camera is placed in the corner of the room.
  • Omniscient – I pan the camera around capturing more than just the tangible actions. I show feelings.
  • Limited omniscient – The camera is passed around.

Narrator: “Who’s that talking to me?”

However, narrative style is more than the voice an author choose to use. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings use songs and poems in the story. It adds to the story telling style that the author has chosen to make his story come alive for us as he sees it. In a sense this is more of a technique than an element but it is worth noting here.

RESOLUTION (DENOUEMENT): A French word meaning, “unknotting” or “unwinding.” It happens after the climax and shows us the results of the story goal being accomplished.

SETTING: Think of setting as the world in which the story takes place and landscape as the places where individual scenes are acted out. Write the name of the setting for example, Middle Earth if you are reading The Hobbit. Then make a list of the various landscapes. For instance, if you are reading The Hobbit you would site Bag-End, the Lone-lands, Rivendell, the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, Lake-town, and the Lonely Mountains as the landscapes in the story.

THEME: The message of the story that unifies and controls the story. I like to think of a theme as a topic like loyalty or friendship that keeps showing up in the story and it is there to ask us to think about it a certain way, therefore sharing a message with us so that we can decide whether to agree or disagree.

TECHNIQUES

ALLEGORY: A subset of METAPHOR. A one to one relationship between a person, place or thing and a meaning assigned to it. The person, place or thing can be thought of as symbol for a chosen meaning. Examples: fable, parable

ALLEGORICAL NOVEL: When many interconnected objects are being used in such as way that in nearly every element of the narrative the objects have a meaning beyond the literal level.

ALLUSION: A casual reference to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature.

DIALECT: The language of a particular district, class, or group of persons.

DIALOGUE: Conversations spoken by characters in a play, essay, story, or novel.

EXAGGERATION: Overstatement.

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: Words used to achieve a special meaning or effect. Two common uses of figurative language are simile and metaphor.

FLASHBACK: A narrative technique that allows a writer to present past events during current events, in order to provide background for the current present

FORESHADOW: Warning or indication of a future event.

HYPERBOLE: Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

IDIOM: In its loosest sense it is a synonym for dialect or idiolect. IN a more formal sense it’s words used by a people group that is common to them but unusual to another people group., She has a bee in her bonnet means she is obsessed or upset about something. The meaning behind this cannot be literally translated into another language word for word.

IMAGERY: Mental pictures the writer creates for the reader. It creates a sensory effect. It is not limited to visual imagery; it also includes sounds, tactile sensations, hot and cold feelings , smells, taste, and movements we can feel.

IRONY: Saying one thing and meaning another.

  • Verbal irony is sarcasm.
  • Dramatic irony is a situation in a narrative in which the reader knows something about present or future circumstances that the character does not know.
  • Situational irony is when accidental events occur that we might call poetic justice like a pickpocket getting his own pocket picked.

METAPHORS: Comparisons without the use of the words “like” or “as”. Metaphor can also contain the subsets of allegory, fable and parable.

MOOD: A feeling, atmosphere or tone felt when reading the story; ambiance.

MOTIF: a recurring object or concept that keeps the reader pointed toward a theme. I The Lord of the Rings, the ring is brought to our attention over and over reminding us of the theme of the story: evil must be destroyed.

ONOMATOPOEIA: The word itself sounds like the noise that is made when it is spoken; buzz, click, or rattle.

PARABLE: A story designed to reveal a moral lesson, psychological reality, or general truth.

PARALLELISM: It might be mistaken for an allegory. Allegory has a one to one ratio of object to meaning for the whole story. Parallelism show things that are a like and connections are made but there is not a one to one correlation.  Lewis said Till We Have Faces and Chronicles of Narnia are works of parallelism instead of allegory.

SARCASM: Saying one thing but meaning another.

SATIRE: Making fun of something stupid or a vice in the form of humor or a critique. The author sees a topic as dangerous like a religious faction, political, moral, or social standard and writes in a way that shows the ideal to be ludicrous. Huckleberry Finn is a satirical work.

SIMILE: An analogy or comparison implied by using an adverb such as like or as.

STYLE: The way that a writer uses language to achieve certain effects. [See NARRATIVE STYLE in the elements section.]

STRUCTURE: The organization or over-all design of a story.

SYMBOL: A word, place, character, or object that means something more than it’s literal meaning..

SYMBOLISM: Using an object, a setting, or even a character in literature to represent another, more general idea. Allegory uses symbolism to achieve its end.

TONE: The perspective or attitude that the author implants into specific character or place. It is the emotion  evoked in the reader which could range from solemn, grave, and critical to inspiring, witty, wry or humorous. Tone helps the reader understand the writer’s feelings towards a particular topic. This in turn has the potential to influence the reader’s understanding of the story.