Was somebody talking about something and you got confused? Happens to me all the time. If you ever need a refresher on literary terms, this is the place to come.
*This page will be continually updated with new terms. Terms will be linked with posts when available.
Activity vs. Action — Activity is busy-work while action is story progression. To determine which you’re doing, ask yourself: What is the purpose of this scene? Is it progressing the story forward? Contributing additional meaning? Adding tension? Developing plot? Or am I making my character walk to the store because I don’t know what else to make them do right now? (Hint, you want the former).
Agency — The capacity of characters to take action in their world, to make their own choices, and function independently. You want your characters to be believable, and therefore they must be as humanistic as possible. This includes allowing them to make decisions that cause their ultimate fate.
Causality — The reason why something happens. This is the "because." Something happens that forces something else to happen. It's the incident that pushes the story into new terrain. Something "causes" something to happen. You want to have causality in your story because it creates logical flow and sense, instead of things happening arbitrarily and spontaneously without reason (that would just be nonsensical chaos). As a rule of thumb, think of Newton's Law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Character Hierarchy — Determining which of your characters the story is centered around and which are contributing players. Every character must have a point, a function in the story, but the story (most likely) isn’t about all of them. Creating a character hierarchy will show you and your reader who is the most important to pay attention to, who’s story is the most important. This is often discovered by looking at their problems and their characteristics: the bigger their problems and their deeper and more complex their characteristics are, the higher up they’ll be in the hierarchy.
Drama — The conflicts and tensions that add up to create plot. This can be human drama, which is a tension between two characters who want dramatically different things (ex. character A wants to get married and character B wants to break up), or physical drama, which is an action or event that causes the characters to react (ex. character A dies and character B must deal with the aftermath). Human drama often carries more weight and depth to it because it deals with interiority and progresses character development. Physical drama is excellent to use as an inciting incident to spark the story into action and truly get it going.
Free Indirect Discourse — When third-person narration adopts the voice of the character; backstage pass to the character’s thoughts and feelings, while still remaining separate.
Info-Dump — a) Nonstop putting words onto the page; not worrying about if it’s good or bad, if you’ve even spelled things right, but just getting the words out in order to revise it later; also known as word-vomit; a good thing to do, in moderation and with revision.
— b) Overwhelming your reader by telling more than showing; a writing flaw that often happens to beginning writers, but can happen to all writers; usually found at the beginning of stories when the writer feels as though they have to over-explain everything to the reader; not a good thing to do.
Information Management — The ability to manage a lot of characters and information at one time so the reader gets all the information they need (no more no less) and doesn’t feel overwhelmed or confused.
Juxtaposition — When you put two completely unrelated things right next to each other so that they must be compared, contrasted, and considered together. It's sort of like making a collage of two things.
NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month; a month of literary frenzy where aspiring novelists from all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 short, dark days.
Plotter — Someone who plans out the entire novel before they begin writing; often using pre-writing techniques and worksheets to determine character development, flesh out worlds, and discover logical plot points. There's a small, mild-tempered "war" between plotters and pantsers over which approach is better.
Pantser — Someone who "flies by the seat of their pants" and writes without knowing where the story is going to go or where they might end up. They may begin with a single image, idea, or quote, and let the story lead them in whatever direction it may. There's a small, mild-tempered "war" between plotters and pantsers over which approach is better.
Plot Bunny — A random, yet inspiring challenge to throw into your story to make it whimsical and crazy and keep you writing; Inspired by NaNoWriMo.
Setting vs. World — Creating a stagnant background for your characters to appear in vs. creating a living, breathing, real-life, inclusive world for your characters to live in; you want to achieve the latter.
Quietude — An attitude toward quietness that allows creation to emerge.
Urgency — The need to tell THIS story NOW. There characters must have a sense of urgency to reach their end-goals, to develop and change and evolve. The story must have a sense of urgency to keep the reader moving forward and turning the page. Urgency creates energy that progresses the characters and the story to the end.
Word-Vomit — See Info-Dump (a).