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Online Writing Lab
Many literary terms describe how an author communicates his or her ideas.
Look through the text and try to identify some of methods he or she uses to
convey the patterns of ideas you are most interested in. The following terms
will help you express the methods you see:
- characterization: the author's expression of a character's personality
through the use of action, dialogue, thought, or commentary by the author
or another character.
- conflict: the struggle within the story. Character divided against
self, character against character, character against society, character against
nature, character against God. Without it, there is no story.
- dialogue: vocal exchange between two or more characters. One of the
ways in which plot, character, action, etc. are developed.
- imagery: the collection of images within a literary work. Used to
evoke atmosphere, mood, tension. For example, images of crowded, steaming
sidewalks flanking streets choked with lines of shimmering, smoking cars suggests
oppressive heat and all the psychological tensions that go with it.
- point of view: the vantage point from which the author presents action
of the story. Who is telling the story? An all-knowing author? A voice limited
to the views of one character? The voice and thoughts of one character? Does
the author change point of view in the story? Why? Point of view is often
considered the technical aspect of fiction which leads the critic most readily
into the problems and meanings of the story.
- symbol: related to imagery. It is something which is itself yet stands
for or means something else. It tends to be more singular, a bit more fixed
than imagery. For example, in Lessing's "A Woman on a Roof," the brief red
sun suit seems to symbolize the woman's freedom and independence from externally
imposed standards of behavior.
- tone: suggests an attitude toward the subject which is communicated
by the words the author chooses. Part of the range of tone includes playful,
somber, serious, casual, formal, ironic. Important because it designates the
mood and effect of a work.