Creative Writing Glossary

Writing is as simple as putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), right? Not always. When you're creating a short story or novel, it's important to think about who your protagonist is and why they're doing what they do. It's important to make sure that each word you use does what you want it to do. And it's extra-important to make sure that the climax is placed right where it belongs. When you're working with an editor, you may have to know these terms and more: They won't just be correcting your grammar, but also giving you feedback with words like "epilogue", "hook", and "narrator". You may need a glossary like this one to bring your story to the next level!

Archetype: An archetype is a character that represents a universal "symbol" in the world. For example, if your character is trying to save the world at great cost to themselves, they may fit the "hero" archetype.

Backstory: This is the story of a character's life before your story began. It can give depth to a character or guide their actions in the plot.

Characterization: The way you describe a character and give them life is characterization. This can consist of a word you chose to describe them or the actions they take.

Conflict: The main issue that the protagonist has to solve is the conflict of the story. This can be between characters or a larger conflict in the world. Resolving this is the point of the story.

Dialogue: Dialogue is the spoken words between characters. This can move the plot forward, add context, or add characterization. It's important to have a point for dialogue to exist in a story.

Dramatic Irony: Dramatic irony, one of the most common types of irony, happens when the reader is aware of a fact but the characters in the story are not.

Exposition: The first part of the plot is the exposition. It sets up the conflict, gives background on the universe and characters, and hooks the reader so they want to continue reading.

First Person: This is a point of view from which you can choose to tell your story. It changes the grammar and depth of the story and means you will be writing as if you are the character, e.g. "I saw my rival and ran toward him."

Genre: The category your story falls into is its genre. This can be general, like fiction, or specific, like steampunk dystopian science fiction.

Imagery: This is a general term covering the figurative language used in a work to add to the mood. If your imagery is gray and desolate, the mood may be bleak, for example.

Novella: A novella is a shorter written work than a novel, often around 17,500 to 40,000 words in length. Longer works are novels, while shorter works than novellas are short stories.

Passive Voice: Passive voice is an issue of grammar. This is when the subject of the sentence is acted on instead of doing the acting. "I scolded her" is active voice, while "She was scolded by me" is passive voice.

Plot: The plot is the events that take place in the story. Generally, this involves setting up and then resolving a conflict.

Protagonist: This is the main character in your story.

Setting: The setting is the time and place when the story is taking place.

Trope: A trope is a common, possibly overused, theme in a work. Tropes are often avoided or turned on their heads but can also signal to the reader what to expect from a character.

World-Building: This is how you create the setting the characters live in. It is especially important if your setting is anything other than the real world we live in.

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About the Author

Tricia Klos

Tricia Klos is a linguist and copywriter based in Barcelona, Spain. Born on a small farm in Wisconsin, she followed her passion for linguistics and culture to Europe in 2010 and has stayed there ever since. In addition to her bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and master’s degree in Marketing and Communication, she speaks (nearly) 4 languages: English, German, Spanish, and Korean. She’s a self-professed grammar nerd with a love for style guides and syntax. If you don’t find her with her nose buried in a book, you might catch her out on the road training for her next marathon.

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