Short Story Literary Terms & Definitions


Performance Indicators:

P.S. ELA-1 Language:   Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

C. Apply standard usage to formal speaking and writing.

P.S ELA-2 Reading Analysis: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

A. Evaluate the relevant themes and synthesize how they are present in the novel in oral and written responses.
B. Interpret the implications of setting and circumstance.
C. Analyze the role of characters in the plot in oral and written responses.
D. Analyze important quotations from the text in oral and written responses.
E. Annotate the text.


Short Story Terms Quizlet

The short story terms & definitions presented provide you with a glossary of vocabulary to assist you in reading and analyzing  short stories.  These terms will also be the source of questions related to the assigned short story debate and their assessments.   

genre: a form or category of literature, such as epic, tragedy, comedy and satire.

fable: a short, unadorned prose fiction that teaches a moral lesson.  Often animals are characters.

parable: a short narrative that illustrates a moral, philosophical or spiritual lesson.  A parable may be allegorical.  E.g.: the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

tale: a short narrative, usually lacking in detail, with unrealistic and sometimes fantastic characters and events.  Usually, tales are less concerned than short stories with revealing theme and character.  The term tale has connotations of timeless folklore.  E.g.: “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

realism: as a term in literary history, realism refers to fiction and drama of the late nineteenth century that concentrated on ordinary middle-class existence and its daily concerns like money, society, and marriage.  The characters are bankers, farmers and housekeepers, not swashbuckling pirates, gallant knights, or supernatural beings.  In a more general sense, realistic refers to a manner of representing life; it is the opposite of romantic.

short story: a short prose fiction usually depicting a single incident (unlike most novels).  A newer form than the novel, the modern short story dates from the early nineteenth century.

story of initiation: a short story depicting a decisive incident that initiates a character into a higher state of awareness, whether for better or for worse.  E.g.: John Updike’s “A & P.”

theme: a term used in different ways: for the main idea (but not necessarily the subject) of a work of literature; an idea which a work explores; or an argument that a work advances.  Therefore, a theme can be identified in a complete sentence, a noun phrase, or a single word: in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “the corrupting influence of power,” “power,” or “Power corrupts.”

protagonist: main character.  A more general term than hero; not all protagonists are heroic.

antagonist: a character (or sometimes a thing) in conflict with the main character or protagonist.

conflict: the central problem or issue to be resolved in a plot, involving the main character struggling against another character(s) or obstacle (e.g., Janie’s pursuit of love in Their Eyes Were Watching God).  Conflict can also refer to the ideas in a literary work (e.g., “The Road Not Taken” dramatizes the conflicting values of conformity and independence). Conflict is viewed according to the following:
Person vs. Person
Person vs. Society
Person vs. Self
Person vs. Nature

exposition: the revelation (usually early) in a story or play of necessary background information.

setting: the location of a story.  It may be important in developing character, motivation and meaning.  In To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee carefully establishes what Maycomb is like.

foreshadowing: a hint that is fully understood only in retrospect after the reader discovers more information later in the plot.  The term does not simply mean an omen or an explicit prediction of something that will happen later.  Foreshadowing is always a noun; foreshadow is a verb.

climax: the high point of tension in a plot, when the outcome is decided.

dénouement: (DAY-new-MAW), resolution or conclusion: the scene in which a plot reaches its final outcome: mysteries are solved, questions answered, and the main conflict settled.

epiphany: a sudden moment of realization in a story or play, often triggered by a mundane event.  Originally a religious term for a worldly manifestation of God’s presence.

flat character: a one-dimensional character who has only a few, easily defined traits.  Most minor characters are flat.  Not to be confused with a static character.

round character: a multi-faceted character, especially one who is capable of choosing right or wrong.  Usually, a protagonist is a round character; in most short stories no more than one or two characters are round.  Not to be confused with a dynamic character.

dynamic character: a character who changes, especially one who comes to a major realization.  The realization may or may not change the character’s actions, but the character must never be able to see the world in quite the same way.   Not all protagonists are dynamic.  Rarely does a short story have more than one or two dynamic characters.

static character: a character who undergoes no such change.

stock character: a character type used repeatedly, often a stereotype of the mad scientist of horror stories or the dumb jock of teen movies.  Stock characters are usually encountered in popular fiction, however, excellent writers have sometimes used stock characters in original ways.

symbol: a thing that suggests more than its literal meaning.  A symbol can be a thing (e.g., the flowers in “The Chrysanthemums”) or an action (Sammy’s punching the No Sale tab at the climax of “A & P”).  Recurring images (such as the green light in The Great Gatsby) can take on symbolic overtones.  Symbolism is the collective function of symbols in a work or an author’s use of symbols.

point of view: the perspective from which a story is narrated.  The author can choose among various possibilities.  Second-person narrative is possible, but two classes are common:
third-person or non-participant narrator: a narrator who is not a character.
objective: a narrative that only describes and does not enter characters’ thoughts.
limited or selective omniscience: narrative that sees into one (major or minor) character.
omniscience: a narrative that sees into different characters.  In editorial omniscience, a variant of omniscience, the third-person narrator adds comments judging characters.
first-person or participant narrator: a narrator who is a (major or minor) character in the story.
ironic point of view: a first-person narrator who does not understand the implications of the story.
unreliable narrator: a narrator who misinterprets the story due to prejudice, madness, etc.
naïve narrator: a narrator who is too innocent to understand the story fully.

local color or regionalism:  in literature refers to fiction or poetry that focuses on specific features – including characters, dialects, customs, history, and topography – of a particular region.

setting:  When and where a story occurs

allegory: a narrative that serves as an extended metaphor. Allegories are written in the form of fables, parables, poems, stories, and almost any other style or genre.

alliteration: a pattern of sound that includes the repetition of consonant sounds.

allusion:  a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature.

antagonist:  a character in a story or poem who deceives, frustrates, or works again the main character, or protagonist, in some way.

flashback: “an interruption of the chronological sequence (as of a film or literary work) of an event of earlier occurrence”

irony:  a literary term referring to how a person, situation, statement, or circumstance is not as it would actually seem. Many times it is the exact opposite of what it appears to be.

Dramatic irony:  when the reader is aware of something that is going to occur in a story that a character is unaware of.
Verbal irony:  when the writer says one thing but means something entirely different.

motif (moh-TEEF): a recurring object, concept, or structure in a work of literature. A motif may also be two contrasting elements in a work, such as good and evil

diction:  the intended language used by an author in order to create a greater sense of locale

tone:  the attitude the author expresses of his/her topic

Short Story Terms Quizlet

Short Story Terms Crossword Puzzle