Note: The words that are bold in the chunks of text below are all explained in this glossary. If you want to know more about a word written in bold, just scroll down (or up) to its destination.


Active voice — When the subject of a sentence performs the action rather than the other way around. (Example: ”She slapped him” rather than ”He was slapped by her”.)

Allegory — A narrative technique that convey hidden meanings or messages through symbolic imagery, events, figures and actions. Usually used for political or satirical purposes.

Alliteration — A series of words in a sentence all beginning with the same sound.

Antagonist — Also called villain. The antagonist is a character/several characters that work against the protagonist and stands in his/her way to reaching his/her goal. You may have major and minor antagonists. The antagonist can also be a force (antagonistic force) which is an abstract antagonist: like a disease, an addiction, natural disasters, a corrupt society, etc.

Antihero — A male or female protagonist. An antihero is a darker character than a traditional hero or heroine. The antihero’s actions balance between what we perceive as good and evil. His/her actions may be on the darker side while his/her motivations are for the greater good.

Antonyms — Words that are of opposite meaning. (Example: Good and bad, right and wrong, light and dark, clean and dirty, etc.)

Archetype — A recurring type of character that is found across time, genre, and culture.

Backstory — The details of a character’s past.

Beta reader — Someone who reads an author’s manuscript before publication and provides feedback that may help the author improve his/her story.

Beat — One count pause that is often used between lines of dialogue to create dramatic pause and to increase the emotion or tension of a scene. (Example: If a character grabs a cup of coffee and sits down, that’s two beats.)

Beat sheet — A form of outline. Each beat is an individual unit of plot. Beat sheets are usually used in screenwriting.

Blank verse — Poetry that does not rhyme.

Cardboard character — A character that is not fully developed. This type of character does not feel realistic.

Character arc — The character’s inner journey and the transformation he/she goes through throughout the story. This can either be a positive or negative change. (Example: A character can begin the story as mentally weak and end it as mentally strong, or a character can start off as good and noble and end tragically in his/her death.)

Character trait — This consists of everything that create a character’s personality (example: behavior, mannerism, attitudes, etc.). A character’s traits can either be positive or negative (example: noble, deceitful, brave, cowardly, optimistic, cynical, etc.).

Characterization — The act of crafting the particular things that makes a character: traits, goals and motivations, backstory, etc.

Cliché — Something that has been overused. A cliché can include of many things, such as a character type, certain types of plot, a phrase, etc.

Climax — The moment of greatest intensity in a story. The climax is where the protagonist faces and deals with the consequences of his/her actions, and where it’s decided whether the protagonist will win and achieve his/her goal or not.

Conflict — Any opposition that keeps a character from getting what he/she wants. The main conflict of a story is the one between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Connotation — Implications that go beyond the literal or primary meaning of a word.

Copyediting — The work that editors do by checking errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and word usage.

Couplet — Two lines that rhyme and have the same meter (used in poetry).

Denouement — The final outcome of the main conflict of a story. This is where all loose ends are tied up and matters are explained or resolved.

Dialogue — The words spoken by characters in a story, often played out as conversations between characters (but can consist of characters talking to themselves as well, though this is not as common in written fiction as in movies/TV-series). Dialogue is marked by quotation marks.

Dialogue tags — The verb after a line of dialogue that mainly shows who is speaking but can also signal how the words in the dialogue are spoken (example: said, shouted, asked, etc.).

Edit — To review a piece of writing in order to correct spelling, grammar, word usage, or factual errors.

Editor — A professional payed to edit manuscripts.

Epic — A long narrative poem, told in a formal style that are usually about heroic deeds (often used to describe a series of novels that are about big adventures).

Epilogue — A section (or chapter) after the main ending of a story. Epilogues usually reveal what happened to the characters after the main ending.

Euphemism — A word of expression used in place of something that is considered to be disagreeable, blunt or upsetting when referring to something embarrassing or unpleasant.

External conflict — The struggle between the protagonist or an outside force. (Example: the antagonist, nature, etc.).

Falling action — When the story begins to slow down after the high intensity of the climax. The falling action heads into the ending of the story.

First person — A type of narrative where the protagonist uses the pronoun ”I” to tell a story. (Example: ”I called my best friend last night”.)

Flash fiction — A written work with a word count of less than 500 words.

Free verse — Verse that has no regular rhyme or meter.

Genre — A type of category of writing (example: fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, romance, etc.).

Ghostwriter — A writer that is paid to write for someone else.

Hero — A male protagonist. The hero does not necessarily need to be the point-of-view character.

Heroine — A female protagonist. The heroine does not necessarily need to be the point-of-view character.

Hook — The first sentence in a story that is designed to grab the attention and curiosity of the readers that makes them keep reading.

Imagery — A collection of images that are meant to evoke atmosphere or mood within a literary work.

Info dump — A large amount of information that the writer reveals all at once instead of spreading it out.

Inciting incident — The event that sets the plot rolling. No story would follow without this event.

Internal conflict — The struggle that the protagonist face within him-/herself. (Example: a struggle against fear, judgement, a character flaw, etc.)

Jargon — A mode of speech familiar only to a certain group of people within the same work of profession.

Lyric — A brief poem that expresses the thoughts and emotions of a single speaker.

Main character — Also known as the protagonist and consists of the heroheroine or antihero.

Manuscript — Also known as MS. This is a term used to refer to an unpublished written work (a short story as well as a novel or a play, etc.).

Metaphor — A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unrelated things and highlighting the similarities between them.

Meter — A recurring rhythmic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem.

Minor character — Also called secondary characters. Characters that appear in the story but does not play a significant part in the plot.

MS — Short for manuscript.

Narrative — A collection of events of a story, told by the narrator, which can be a character or non-personal voice.

Narrator — The character or non-personal voice that tells a story.

Novel — A written work with a word count of 40,000 words minimum.

Novelette/Novella — A written work with a word count that ranges between 7,500-40,000 words.

Omniscient point-of-view — A narrator that knows the thoughts, feelings, backstories, secrets, etc. of all the characters in the story. This type of narrator reveals everything to the reader.

Outline — A sort of ”roadmap” with descriptions of the major ideas/events that will happen in the story.

Pace — The speed in which a story is told.

Palindrome — A word or phrase that means the same when read from either direction. (Example: ”Madam” and ”Mim”, as in the character Madam Mim.)

Pantsing — The act of writing a story ”by the seat of your pants”, which means to write a story without any planning or outlining.

Passive voice — When the subject of a sentence is acted upon rather than performing the action. (Example: ”He was slapped by her” rather than ”She slapped him”.)

Pen name — Also known as pseudonym. An alias used by a writer who does not want to reveal his/her real name (which can be a result of many different reasons).

Plot — The main events of a story. The plot is the journey in which the protagonist overcomes obstacles in order to try and achieve his/her goal, as well as the physical, mental, and/or emotional journey that goes along with trying to achieve his/her goal.

Plot device — A character or an object that moves the plot forward.

Plot hole — An inconsistency or other kind of issue with the plot that makes it unbelievable or illogical.

Premise — A story’s main concept or idea.

Prologue — Events that take place before the beginning of the main story. Is often advised to skip over, but a prologue can have a significant impact on the main story (and therefore is important for the reader to know).

Point-of-view — Also known as POV. Point-of-view is the perspective of a certain character that is describing, experience and telling the events that happen.

POV — Short for point-of-view.

Prose — A written text without meter or rhyme (which is used in poetry).

Protagonist — The main character of a story. The protagonist comes in conflict with the antagonist or antagonistic force. The protagonist does not necessarily need to be the point-of-view character.

Pseudonym — Also known as pen name. An alias used by a writer who does not want to reveal his/her real name (which can be a result of many different reasons).

Revising — Making changes to improve the writing. (Example: to fix plot holes, faults in the narrative or characterization, and other inconsistencies).

Rising action — The intensifying events of a story that leads up to the climax.

Secondary character — Also called minor character. Characters that appear in the story but does not play a significant part in the plot.

Scene — A unit of action in which a single event takes place in a single setting. A scene usually consists of three parts: a goal, conflict, and disaster. The scene is then followed by a sequel (a technique developed by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer). A story is built on many scenes.

Scene break — A blank line of three asterisks centered in the page, meant to show the reader a change in scene. The break may signal a change in setting and/or time.

Setting — A place or type of surrounding, geographical and historical, in which the events (scenes) of a story takes place.

Sequel — A technique developed by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer; consists of a reaction, dilemma, and decision.

Short story — A written work with a word count of 7,500 words maximum.

Simile — A comparison between two different things using the word ”like” or ”as” to bind them together.

Stereotype — Often referred to cardboard characters. A flat and undeveloped character. They can be described in one single sentence and usually only have one trait to their character.

Subplot — A secondary storyline in addition to the main plot of a story.

Subtext — The underlying meaning in the writing that is hinted but not fully expressed or explained.

Symbol — A word that is seen as its literal self on the surface but also have another meaning or several other meanings.

Synonyms — Words that have the same or almost the same meaning.

Synopsis — A summary of a story’s events.

Theme — A central or unifying concept of a story. What a story is trying to say about a topic. (Example: the good side will always win, friendship makes you strong, love conquers all, etc.)

Three act structure — A widely known story structure (mostly used in screenplays). Act I represents the beginning, Act II the middle, and Act III the ending.

Three dimensional character — A character that have dimensions like a real person and therefore feels realistic. This type of character ”lifts off” the pages of the book.

Tone — The feel and attitude the written text expresses. (Example: dark, cynical, sarcastic, comedic, feel-good, etc.)

Twist — An unexpected turn of events in a story.

Two dimensional character — A flat character that does not feel real. This type of character exists only in the confines of the pages of the book.

Villain — Also known as antagonist.

Voice — The style and tone of writing. The act of revealing thoughts and attitudes and opinions through the voice of the narrator.

World — The place in which a story takes place. The bigger entity in which the settings of a story exist.

Worldbuilding — The process of crafting a world for a story. Worldbuilding often include aspects of geography, culture, religion, politics, etc. (basically everything that exist in our world).