Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Writing 101: Defining Literary Terms

When you're a writer, literary terms are going to crop up all the time. There are many of them that you should know how to define. Otherwise, you may not understand your own reviews.


What's That Mean?

There are actually dozens of complicated literary terms, but some are used more often than others. Know what they are, and what they mean, so you'll know whether or not you're using them when other people say you are.



  • Analogy: Writers use analogies to compare two people or ideas. For instance, I need you like the grass needs the sun.
  • Foreshadowing: It's hard to do foreshadowing well. This technique is used to hint at a future outcome in a book. For example, I once wrote a short story where the main character died at the end. In the opening scene of the story, that character sees an animal get hit and killed by a car. This is a type of foreshadowing.
  • Metaphor: When you use a metaphor, you're applying a certain image or concept to a person, event or thing that wouldn't necessarily fit. For example, I was a rampaging bear at the buffet. He was a steamroller on the football field. I'm not really a bear, and that guy isn't actually a steamroller -- it's a metaphor.
  • Onomatopoeia: It sounds complicated, but an onomatopoeia is just a word that's used to describe a sound, like boom or bang.
  • Portmanteau: When two words are shoved together to create a new word, it's known as a portmanteau. Frenemey is a portmanteau. Smog, a word invented by Lewis Carroll, is probably the most famous portmanteau.
  • Simile: When two objects that have nothing in common are compared to each other, and the words "like" or "as" are used, it's probably a simile. Her hair gleamed like silver is an example of a simile.
  • Spoonerism: This is such a common literary technique, you've probably used it a lot and just didn't know it. Spoonerism is when you change around the first letters of a phrase to show a slip of the tongue. For example: "Hand me my peys and kurse" instead of keys and purse. People use spoonerism a lot to make characters appear drunk or otherwise impaired.

Do you really need to know this stuff? Yes! Knowing literary terms gives you an even better understanding of literature, and how words are used to create it.

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