Thursday, August 6, 2009

Help with Writing Terms

While on a radio show yesterday somebody asked what I publicist does?

My first image was of a person who went from Pub to Pub listing the various beers they sold.

This got me thinking about other literary terms and meanings that perhaps people use all the time, but do not know 100% what they mean, so here are my examples.

Elements of a Story
Now for the technical stuff! Generally speaking, teachers want to ensure that their students learn to write a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Additionally, it's important for students to include all the elements that complete the structure of a story. Chandler lists developed characters, a defined plot with climax and conflict, a descriptive setting, and a theme as the main elements. Here's a more in-depth look at what goes into creating a story:

GenreA genre is a category of writing that has a particular kind of content or structure, such as narrative, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. When your child reaches this stage of conjuring his own story, visit Writing With Writers for ideas about how to write in specific genres.

In general, characters are human, but can also be animals, aliens, and even the landscape!

Point-of-viewThe point-of-view refers to the narrator who relates the story to the reader. The narrator, often (but not necessarily) a character in the story, is the eyes, ears, and voice of the story. The three major points-of-view are:

* 1st person, or a story told by "I."
* 2nd person, or a story addressed to "you."
* 3rd person, or a story in which the story the characters are "he" and "she," and the narrator is not usually a character.

PlotSpecifically, the plot is the sequence in which the writer arranges the events for the story:

* Exposition: The beginning of the story, which introduces the characters and setting; also introduces the conflict, for which the action of the story will take place.
* Rising Action: The majority of the plot takes place here. Dialogue, scenes, character interaction, descriptions, building tension, and more occur here. Think of the last book you read — the rising action took up most of the pages of that book.
* Climax: The most exciting part of the story, usually where the conflict is resolved.
* Falling Action: The aftermath of the climax, where the remainder of the story falls into place and the reader's questions are answered.
* Resolution: The end; all the loose ends are tied up.

SettingHere is where the story takes place. Whether it's grandma's farm, a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, outer space, or simply a backyard, the setting should have plenty of details. It helps a reader imagine what's happening.

Theme A theme is a unifying motif or "message" of a story.

Key Terms

As your child gets older, you may begin to hear some of the following terms in conjunction with his assignments. Refer back to this glossary as needed!

An extended metaphor that presents a subject (a moral, and idea, etc.) disguised as something else (characters, landscape, etc). A famous example is The Allegory of the Cave, in which Plato used a story about prisoners in a cave to interpret ordinary objects.

Something that exists in theory rather than reality; can also refer to a quality or condition rather than to specific detail. An abstract description relies on impressions and lacks the specific, concrete detail that a reader can imagine.

A figure of speech that compares, often in the form of a simile or metaphor. Often used in explanations, analogy expresses a correspondence, equivalence, or parallelism between two things due to an element that they share. Here's a funny analogy about kids' speaking habits: Her vocabulary was as bad as, you know, like, whatever.

AntagonistAny character in a story that opposes the efforts of the hero or main character (see Protagonist).

Concrete A material object or specific tangible detail, rather than an abstract state, quality, or generality. A concrete description is one that contains specific details that the reader can easily visualize or imagine.

A conversation in literature. Dialogue generally refers to anything spoken by a character, even if the character is not actually speaking to anyone or having a conversation. Sometimes the term is broadened to include direct thoughts from a character.

The use of words, including range of vocabulary, the choice of wording, word order, and style of use.

An appendix to a text or other work intended to wrap up any last loose ends of the plot.

Figure of speechAn expressive use of language, such as a metaphor or pun, used to suggest an image or comparison. In a figure of speech, words are not used literally.

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration for emphasis (such as referring to something as "the best ever"), not meant to be taken literally. If used too often, hyperbole loses effect.

The sensory detail (not just visual) referring more specifically to figures of speech, which produce mental images for the reader.

Motif — A recurring image, object, idea, situation, feature, or phrase that helps unify a piece of writing. Motif can be also be used to refer to a situation common across many works, such as the "heroic quest" story or the "rags-to-riches" tale.

A figure of speech combining contradictory words for descriptive purposes. An example: Jumbo shrimp.

The preface or introduction to a story.

The main character in a literary work; the hero.

Writer's BlockAn unfortunate condition! It refers to when a writer is unable to continue writing because his brain feels "blocked." If this happens when your child is working on a story, encourage him to go outside and play, exercise, or talk to friends until inspiration returns.

Fiction isn't the only kind of creative writing! Rhyme your way over to our Poetry Pro glossary to get familiar with poetic terms, and check out these poetry collections for independent readers.

Barry Eva (Storyheart)
Author of "Across the Pond"

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