Its impossible to write about writing without using basic
literary terms the ones that are used all the time. Literary
critics have a whole dictionary of terms that the rest of us are
hard-pressed to understand, and I indeed own one such dictionary;
its quite good fun to read, oddly enough. But the following
will get you through any discussion of your work with agents and
editors, and make sure you can follow any advice that I have to
Anything that your characters are doing, whether its hacking their
way through the Amazonian rainforests or blinking.
This neednt be anyone villainous or antagonistic; it neednt
even be a person. It is whoever or whatever is set against your
hero. It could be his wife, boss, son, or simply his circumstances,
or his own nature. It can be the mountain he has to climb, literary
or figuratively. It is whatever stands between him and his goal.
The outcome of events.
The words that are directly spoken by a character or characters.
The explanation to the reader of something he must know in order
to follow the plot. This can be done by narrative, by dialogue,
by flashback by any means that will keep the reader entertained,
and unaware that he is being given
I, we, me, myself, us, ourselves.
The main character. The use of the word hero does not imply heroism;
the hero can be an abject coward. If he is spectacularly unheroic,
or not at all admirable, he is often called an anti-hero.
The non-dialogue text.
POINT OF VIEW/ANGLE OF NARRATION
The planned arrangement of events
in a story.
The events in a story must be seen through someones eyes. That
can range from an all-seeing, all-knowing invisible narrator who tells
the story in the third person, as in Once Upon a Time
(where, for instance, the narrator knows what both the wolf and Little
Red Riding Hood are thinking, and what LRH is doing while the wolf
devours her grandmother), to its being narrated in the first person
by a character in the novel, when the reader can be told only what
the character narrating can see and hear, and the narrator knows only
what he himself is thinking. Or it can be virtually anything in between.
The sequence of events that carry
the plot. E. M Forster once famously defined the difference between
story and plot as The King died and then the Queen died
is a story, but the The King died and then the Queen died
of grief is a plot. In other words, a story is
a sequence of events, whereas a plot is a sequence of cause and
effect, and in plotting a novel, the writer arranges the events
of the story accordingly.
He. They. Him, himself, them, themselves.