(from Standford’s Responding to Literature, Ed. II )
Please make an effort to incorporate these terms when writing about fiction in our class. The language used to describe fiction also offers insight into an author’s intentions and his/her techniques can also influence how readers interpret the stories.
1. setting: the time and place (temporal and spatial) in which a literary work occurs (i.e., where and when a story happens).
2. exposition: information provided to the audience by the narrator(s); this is background about the character’s situation, state of mind, health, income, work, location, family, etc.
3. rising action: in short stories, especially, action will build as we learn about the character(s) and the situations he/they must face. Is the narrative easy to follow? If it is not, why would an author want to blur the reader’s perception?
4. climax/perepetia: the turning point or high point of a literary work, often marked by a character’s ability or inability to take action or make decisions.
5. denouement: the unraveling of events before the story’s end. Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as: “the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work [and/or] the outcome of a complex sequence of events.”
6. conclusion: the ending of a work which may (or may not) provide resolution to the conflict expressed in the work.
7. irony: a discrepancy between what is said and what is done, or when the opposite of what is expected to happen actually happens.
8. character(s): fictional people who are part of a literary work; there are many kinds.
E.g., a dynamic character changes in some significant way during the course of the tale; a round character is one who shows many different facets, often presented in depth and with great detail while a flat character usually has only one outstanding trait or feature.
9. point of view: this is the perspective from which the story is told; is it first person? Does the narrator say “I”? Or are people described in third person? Point of view, and the teller of the tale, are vital to our understanding and interpreting fiction.
10. dialogue: conversation between two or more fictional characters.
11. dialect: a variety of language that differs from standard edited English.
12. author/speaker/persona/narrator: the author is the person who writes the literary work. It is important not to confuse or conflate the author w/the speaker or persona; the narrator tells a work of fiction while a speaker or persona is the voice heard within dialogue (sometimes internal monologue occurs as well; that is when a character “talks” to him/herself.
13. omniscient narrator: a narrator who knows everything and can report actions and conversations as well as the internal thoughts of all the characters in a story.
14. limited omniscience narrator: a narrator who can report external actions and conversations but who can only describe the thoughts and reactions of some not all of the characters.
15. first-person narrator: a narrator who is also a member of the community described in the story and who uses “I” or “we” to tell the story; this narrative style should not be confused with an individual author’s autobiography or other biographical information.
16. unreliable narrator: the narrator who raises suspicion in the minds of readers that events, actions, and conversations may be inaccurately reported and certain evaluations may reflect internal prejudices; in the case of Poe, sometimes the narrator is a madman!
17. flashback: an interruption in the chronological order of a work which goes back in time to describe earlier occurrences in the plot.
18. foreshadow: hints or clues about future events in the story.