Useful literary terms

First person narrative

  • Reliable narrator
  • Unreliable narrator

Third person narrative

  • Omniscient
  • Non-omniscient
  • Omniscient limited to…

Point of view


  • Main character
  • Minor character
  • Protagonist (main character)
  • Antagonist (opponent to the main character)


In medias res





The short story aims to create a certain unique or single effect according to Edgar Allan Poe

Closed-ended story – the events come to a natural or logical conclusion

Open-ended story – room for further development, uncertainty as to what will happen next


Figurative language/imagery

  • Simile – a direct comparison between two (distinctly) different things often using ‘like’ or ‘as’
  • Metaphor – an imaginative comparison where one thing is described in terms of another not using ‘like’ or ‘as’
  • Symbol – an object, person, animal, or event representing not itself, but other objects or qualities
  • Conventional/public symbols
  • Private/personal symbols

Pun – play on words, their figurative and literal meanings


  • Words in a row or words placed closely together, beginning with the same consonant. Alliterations add fluency to the text and work especially well when they are used in speeches.
    For example: The sweet smell of s


  • When one or more words are repeated in the beginning of several succeeding sentences. It is one of the oldest literary devices dating all the way back to the biblical psalms.
    Example: This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this
    Example: This nurse, this teeming womb of royals kings…
    Example: This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land.


  • Means putting two opposites together to show the contrast between them clearly.
    Example: Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for mankind.
    Example: Even though it is summer, it can be cold one day and hot the other.


  • Repetition of a vowel sound to create internal rhymes within the sentence.
    Example: Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geese.

Inclusive language

  • By using the pronouns “we”, “us” and “my fellow (Americans)”, you include the listeners and make them feel as if they are a part of what you are talking about.
    Example: On the morning of September 11th, 2001, our nation awoke to a nightmare attack. They attacked us.


  • Stand-in for other words. You have to understand the context of the replaced word in order to understand the metonymy.
    Example: We will hear from the Oval office soon. – In this example it is crucial that you know who the Oval office belongs to – The President of the United States – otherwise the sentence does not make sense to you.


  • Portraying something abstract or inanimate with human features.
    Example: The stars winked at her from the skies.


  • When you repeat one or more words, it strengthens your message because the repeated words are easier to remember.
    Example: Yes, we can, to opportunity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

Rhyme, end rhyme, eye rhyme

Carpe Diem – Seize the day




  • Using another text/speech/image to create a new text/speech/image – but never mention the original – the receiver will know.


  • A narrative technique and a genre of fiction, wherein a fictional work (novel, film, play, poem, etc.) self-consciously draws attention to being a work of imagination, rather than a work of non-fiction; and about the process by which fiction makes the author’s statements.
    Reminds the audience that they are viewing a play; metafiction continually reminds the reader to be aware that he or she is reading a fictional work.

Fairy Tales & Folk Tales:

  • Home-out-home model
  • Actantial model
  • Oral tradition
  • Flat characters
  • Formulaic beginnings and endings
  • Chronological and simple plot
  • Setting
  • Ritual elements
  • Magic
  • Numbers