Literary Devices

Allusion: When an author refers to something previous in literature or history. Often used as a symbol or a connection.

Antagonist: The person, thing or force that works against the hero of the story; can be considered “the bad guy”.

Apostrophe: The direct address of a dead person or of something that is not present. Similar to a monologue.

Character: A fictional personality created by the author.

  • Static Character: stays the same, is unchanged by events
  • Developing (dynamic) Character: changes over the course of events.
  • Stock character/archetype: a common character type that reoccurs throughout literature. Example: witty servant, trusty sidekick,etc.

Concept: One of the “big ideas” an author presents in a text (ex: family, love, independence, etc.).

Conflict: The struggle between opposing forces in a text. See Universal Theme.

Dialogue: Conversation between two or more characters. Although dialogue is signaled by the use of quotation marks, it is different than a quote (see writing definitions).

Dialect: The imitation of regional speech in print, using altered or phonetic spelling. Used to create character or tone/mood.

Falling Action/Denouement: Typically, the last part of a text after the climax or epiphany.

Flashback: An interruption in a narrative to show an episode that happened before the story opened (prior to chapter 1).

Foreshadowing: When the author suggests of hints at events to come later in the text. Often a place of symbolism, etc.

Epiphany: Moment of main realization, turning point, deeper understanding of life, and/or the moment of choice for a character. Often, but not always occurs at the climax.

Hero: when the protagonist is admirable
Antihero: when the protagonist is not admirable

Hyperbole: An excessive overstatement or exaggeration of fact. Ex.: I’ve told you about a million times today…”

Idiom: a common expression that has acquired a meaning that differs from its literal meaning. Ex.: It’s raining cats and dogs.

Irony: when the author draws attention to the difference of what is and what seems to be—often only the audience knows the truth. Ex: the ending of Romeo & Juliet.

Lesson Learned: What the character learns or realizes as a result of the epiphany.

Main Idea: A brief and literal summary of the text which may refer to the primary concept(s).

Metaphor: A comparison between two unlike ideas not using “like” or “as”; Life is a box of chocolates. Metaphors can be several lines long (extended).

Metonymy: the substitution of one term for another that is generally associated with it: Ex. “suits” for businessmen.

Mood: The feeling a piece of literature creates in a reader (reader side).

Narrator: A person who tells a story, often using character, see point of view.

Paradox: When a contradiction is reveals a deeper truth: You only hurt those you love.

Parody: A literary work/text in which the style of another author or literary work is closely imitated for comic effect.

Personification: When an author gives human qualities to a non-human thing/ object: Example: The rain tickled my nose.

Plot: The sequence of events in a text.

Point of view: How the text is presented; the relation between the narrator, the characters, and the reader:

  • Third person: Narrator is outside the story and refers to characters as s/he.
  • Omniscient: Narrators know all the characters, all their motives and thoughts (all knowing)
  • First person: Narrator tells the story from his/her own point of view. Narrator is one the characters and refers to self as “I”

Protagonist: The main character or hero of the story.

Resolution: How the character deals with the information gained during the epiphany. When all or most questions are answered.

Rising Action: Typically, the first part of a text during which the tension between or within characters builds to the climax or epiphany.

Satire: A literary work that ridicules or scorns. human vices, follies, or weaknesses. Often used to make a political or social commentary.

Setting: The time, place of a story. Used to create mood.

Simile: A comparison between two unlike ideas using “like” or “as”; her eyes were like chocolate.

Symbol: An object, character, figure, or color used to represent an idea or abstract quality. Different authors may use the same “items” as different symbols.

  • Example: A bird, because it can fly, is often used to represent freedom.
  • Example: Fire, because it can destroy, is often used to represent violence.
  • Example: Fire, because it is difficult to extinguish, is often used to represent strength

Emblem: A fixed symbol—one that doesn’t change: The Star of David is a symbol of Judaism.

Theme: The central conflict in a text. Young Adult literature typically draws from the following five Universal Themes: Protagonist vs. Self, Protagonist vs. Society, Protagonist vs. Another, Protagonist vs. Religion, and Protagonist vs. Nature. (occasionally seen Protagonist vs. Fate)

Tone: The writer’s attitude towards his or her subject. (serious, sarcastic, humorous, etc.).

Vehicle: An overarching idea or thread that permeates and ties together the entire story. Connected to, but not identical to the plot.

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