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Figurative Language & Literary Terms



Simile- Compares two things with the words “like” or “as.”


            Ex. The little boy was as quiet as a mouse.


            Ex. The sun is like a yellow ball of fire in the sky.


Metaphor- Compares two things without using the words “like” or “as.”


            Ex. The little girl was a mouse as she squeaked through the room.


            Ex. The sun is a yellow ball of fire in the sky.


Alliteration- When the beginning sound is repeated in several words.


            Ex. She sells seashells at the seashore.


            ExSamantha soared down the street on her sleek skateboard.


Onomatopoeia- A word that sounds like the noise or action it is describing.


            Ex. Buzz, hiss, roar, woof, zoom


Hyperbole- An exaggeration.


            Ex. The room contained a mile-high stack of books.


            Ex. You could have knocked me over with a feather.


Idiom- An expression that doesn’t mean exactly what it says.


            Ex. It is raining cats and dogs.


            Ex. Hold your horses – I’m coming!


Personification- When you make a nonhuman object act or seem like a human.


            Ex. The wind whispered my name.


            Ex. The sun smiled at me.


Imagery- Vivid description that includes details that appeal to the 5 senses

(seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling).


            Ex. The hot pink frosting sat atop the golden yellow cupcake.


            Ex. The sweet smell of freshly baked apple pie filled the air.


Allusion- A reference to well-known people, places, events, or literary works.


            Ex.  Harriet Tubman was called the Moses of her time.


            Ex. I was surprised his nose wasn’t growing like Pinocchio’s!


Analogy- It shows how two things are similar, but is a more complex argument.


Pun- A play on words that have the same sound, but have different meanings. 


Irony- Language that means the opposite of what the words say. The exact opposite of what you would expect to happen.                        


Symbolism- An object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.


Theme- The message or lesson that the story teaches.                                                                


Foreshadowing- Giving hints or clues of what is to come later in the story.


Flashback- A scene that interrupts the present action and flashes back to the past.


Flashforward- A scene that interrupts the present action and shifts into the future.            


Tone- The author’s attitude/feelings about the subject of his/her writing.


Mood- The feeling a text arouses in the reader.                                                                           


Denotation- The dictionary definition of a word. 


Connotation- The ideas and feelings associated with the word.    


Characterization- the process writers use to create and develop characters                                          


Direct Characterization- The writer direct states or describes the character traits.


Indirect Characterization- The writer reveals the character traits through the character’s (and other characters’) words, actions, and

thoughts. [make an inference] 


STEAL- The methods authors use to SHOW indirect characterization; Speech, Thoughts, Effects on Characters, Actions, and Looks.


Character traits- qualities that make each character unique;


          Examplesdependable, smart, stubborn


Physical traits- adjectives that describe a character's outer appearance. 


Internal Conflict- A struggle or problem inside a character’s mind 


External Conflict- A struggle or problem occurring outside the character’s mind; a problem with another character, nature, society, or a force beyond his/her control   


Character- a person or animal who takes part in the action of a literary work


Protagonist- The main character or hero of a story.


Antagonist- The character who works against the protagonist.


Dynamic Character- A character that changes during the story.


Static Character- A character that stays the same throughout the story.


Round Character- A character with various characteristics or traits; we know a lot about them. 


Flat Character- A character with limited characteristics or traits; we know little about them.


Foil Characters- Characters who contrast with each other. (opposites)                                    


Point of View- The view from which the story is being told. 


First person- One of the characters tells the story. There is not a narrator. Key Words: I, me, my.


Second person- The narrator uses the pronoun "you" to address the reader directly. Key Words: You, your.


Third person limited- Mostly told from the main character's point of view; the reader only knows the feelings and thoughts of one character. Key Words: he, she, it, they, and so on.


Third person omniscient- Omniscient means "all knowing." The narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of every character. Key Words: he, she, it, they, and so on.


Dialogue- A conversation between two or more characters in a story.


Monologue- A long speech delivered by one character in a story. It often reveals a character's private thoughts and feelings. 


Plot- The organized pattern or sequence of events that make up a story.                           

Exposition – Inciting Incident –  Rising Actions – Climax – Falling Actions – Resolution


Exposition- Introduces the characters and setting.


Inciting Incident- First event in the story; introduces the conflict and rising action.


Rising Actions- Adds complications to the story; reader is getting more interested.


Climax- The high point of the story with the most tension or excitement.


Falling Actions- Loose ends are tied up; conflict is being resolved.


Resolution- The outcome of the story.


Setting- the location and time in which a story takes place.


Conflict- problem or struggle between opposing forces.


Internal Conflict- the type of conflict that exists when the mind of a character, such as when one has to make a difficult decision or is dealing with a personal problem.

      Character vs. Self


External Conflict- the type of conflict that exists between a character and an outside force.

      Character vs. Character; Character vs. Society; Character vs. Nature


Drama- a story told in dialogue by performers in front of an audience


Comedy- a form of drama that has a happy ending, and often features normal characters in funny situations. Comedies can be written to entertain, but they can also point out the faults of a society.


Tragedy- a form of drama that contains a series of events that lead to the downfall of the main character. This character can be an average person but is often a person of great significance, like a king or a heroic figure.


Dramatic drama- a word that is often used to describe plays that address serious subjects.


Stage Directions- sets of bracketed information that describe the scenery and how the characters should move and speak.