100 Helpful Terms for Writers to Have on Hand

Below is a list of terms that help writers discuss and think about what they read and write.

Understanding these terms is particularly helpful when critiquing the work of your peers in a writer workshop or a critique group.

The list is not comprehensive. And I did not include definitions. But I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these terms. Look them up, but don’t rush through them. Take your time learning which ones will be most useful to you.

Did I miss an important one? Write it in the comments, and I’ll include it the next time I update this list.

Abstract Concept (vs. Concrete)
Accent
Act
Action
Allegory
Alliteration
Allusion
Anachronism
Antagonist
Anticipation
Antihero
Antiheroine
Archetype
Artistic License
Authority
Backstory
Cadence
Catalyst
Catharsis
Character
Character Arc
Characterization
Chronology
Cliffhanger
Climax
Code-Switching
Colloquial Language
Concrete Concept (vs. Abstract)
Conflict
Connotation
Continuity
Convention
Craft
Delusion
Denotation
Denouement
Dialect
Dialogue
Diction
Didactic
Drama
Dramatic Tension
Dream
Dream Sequence
Empathy
Epilogue
Epiphany
Episodic
Esoteric
Euphemism
Expository
Fantasy
Figurative
Filter Words
Flashback
Foreshadow
Gimmick
Gobbledygook
Grammar
HEA (“Happily Ever After” Ending)
Head Hopping
HFN (“Happy For Now” Ending)
Homage
Humor
Hyperbole
Illusion
Imagery
In medias res
Infodump
Interior Monologue
Irony
Linear Narrative
Linguistic
Literary Device
Lyrical
Metaphor
Mixed Metaphor
Monologue
Motif
Motivation
Mythic
Narrative
Narrator
Nonlinear Narrative
Obfuscate
Parable
Personification
Plot
Plot Twist
Plot-Theme
Poetic
Poetic License
Point of View (POV)
Preface
Premise
Prologue
Protagonist
Psychological
Punctuation
Rapport (with the reader)
Rhyme
Rhythm
Running Gag
Satirical
Scene
Sequence
Setting
Setup
Showing (vs. Telling)
Simile
Story Arc
Style
Subplot
Summary
Superfluous
Surprise
Symbol
Taboo
Technique
Telling (vs. Showing)
Theme
Three-Act Structure
Tone
Traditional
Trope
Usage (as in word usage)
Verbose
Visceral
Voice

Updated 4/15/2014: Anachronism, Archetype, Artistic License, Authority, Backstory, Chronology, Climax, Continuity, Dream Sequence, Epilogue, Foreshadow, Gobbledygook, Nonlinear, Obfuscate, Poetic License, Preface, Prologue, Setup, Superfluous, Technique.

Updated 4/16/2014: Antihero, Antiheroine, Character Arc, In medias res, Subplot.

Update 5/12/2014: Filter Words.

Update 9/08/2014: HEA (“Happily Ever After” Ending), Head Hopping, HFN (“Happy For Now” Ending). Special thanks to Laura Roberts for these suggestions.

 

M. J. Kelley

M. J. is an award-winning short fiction writer and author of a forthcoming nonfiction book. He loves science fiction, humor & literary fiction. He can peel a carrot with a look.

 

One thought on “100 Helpful Terms for Writers to Have on Hand

  1. Excellent list!

    You might break conflict into conflict-interior and conflict-exterior. As far as I know, there is only one interior conflict (person vs. self) unless person vs. god could be argued into the interior category. (“Hey!” asks a voice in my head, “What about schizophrenia?”) There are several types of exterior conflict, though.

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