Professional writers use unique terms. This is a list of some common words and what they mean. It took us a while to learn the proper vocabulary used by the professional writing community. We hope this glossary will be helpful.
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Glossary of Common Writing Terms
Agent: A person or company who represents the writer when selling a manuscript.
Antagonist: A source of conflict. Someone or something which tries to prevent the protagonist from achieving their goal. An adversary or villain.
Back-story/Flashback: A part of the story which happened previous to the current events in the story but has a bearing on the story. Back story is often used to explain why a character acts a certain way.
Blurb: A short summary of the essential elements of your story. Generally found on the back cover or inside the jacket’s flap of a novel. Also useful for query letters. Its purpose is to sell the story.
Cardboard or Flat Characters: People in your story with only one character trait displayed throughout your story.
Characters: The people in your story.
Dialog: When you tell your readers what your characters are saying using ” ” quotation marks.
Editing: Preparing your work for publication. Involves correcting spelling, sentence structure, grammar and punctuation.
Editor: The person doing the editing.
Epilogue: Concluding section added to a novel, poem, etc., which serves to round out the work. A short note after the end of the story.
Exposition: Exposition bogs the story down. This happens when the writer gives needed information or explains an idea without including characters. Exposition includes lecturing the reader. It is a common problem when using a narrator.
Fiction: These are stories that come from the writer’s imagination. They may be based on real life events and people but are written as made up stories. Creative writing.
First Person: When a story is told using, “I, me, our and we.”
Genre: The type of novel. Romance, Mystery, Western, Inspirational, Science Fiction
Heighten: To add emotion or explain the motivation of your characters.
Hero/Heroine: A main character who is trying to do what is right.
Hook: A gripping, thrilling or emotional event that grabs your reader’s attention. Used in the opening of your story or the beginning of a chapter.
Layers: Two or more stories that will eventually merge in your storyline. Generally, they are happening in the same time frame in a different place or with different people.
Mid-list Writer: A person whose books sit in the middle of the pack. Their novels are not failures, nor are they best sellers. They just don’t sell enough books to impress wholesale book buyers. A mid-list writer eventually has problems with his publisher supporting him/her.
Multi-dimensional Characters: Your characters need to display different attributes or traits to be believable. They should react differently to various situations or with other characters in your story.
Narrator: The person who tells the story in third person.( He She They)
Non-Fiction: True stories, Documentaries, Memoirs’ Biographies.
Plot: Is what happens to you characters. The events and how they effect the people who inhabit your story. The important events of your story. These should include unexpected happenings.
Plot Structure: How you organize the events of your story. (Layers, sub-plots, back-story, etc.)
Plot Twist: An event in the storyline that changes the direction of your story or your characters. Things that surprise your reader in the middle of the story.
Private Stakes: The goal, prize or reward the protagonist is striving for. (Stakes as in a poker game) Private stakes are what motivates the hero or heroine. It is what is important to him or her personally.
Prologue: A short introduction or narration that sets up the story. It should also set-up the mood of your story.
Protagonist: The main character in a story or novel. The hero or heroine. Usually the one on the good side.
Public Stakes: Whenever possible, your protagonist’s goals should be good for the other characters in the story. The goal should be important to the community, not just the heroine or hero.
Publisher: A Company that actually prints and sells your book.
Query Letter: Most agents require a written letter or e-mail with basic information about the author and the story. From the letter/e-mail, the agent decides if they want to read the manuscript.
Revision: When you make changes to the storyline, plot or structure of the story.
Setting: It’s the writers physical and emotional description of a scene, including time and place.
Sub-plot: It is a separate story outside the main story, which adds significance to the theme of the main story.
Surprise ending: A unique twist towards the end of a story or subplot. Something the reader is not expecting.
Tension: To keep your reader actively immersed in your story, a writer must create tension. A story line filled with emotional trauma.
Theme: The overall message or big idea of your story. It is the struggle your characters experience trying to maintain their personal set of values. It is your characters who eventually create your theme with their dialog and actions.
Third Person: When a story is told using, “they and them, he and she.”
Villain: The character who creates conflicts, obstacles or problems for your protagonist to overcome. A story may have more than one villain.
Voice: How your character speaks. This includes attitude, style, vocabulary, slang or accents.
Voice: Also indicates the story structure. The one who is telling the story. (First person, third person or narrator)
Writers block: When you can’t think what to write next. A mental stumbling block preventing you from creating the scene you have in mind or the twist in the plot you are looking for…
- A: Awkward. The wording or sentence is hard to read. The sentence or dialog needs to be improved.
- N: No, Sentence or section need to be eliminated. Can also cross out section
- MV: Move, Sometimes a sentence or paragraph would be better in another place, to improve the flow of the scene or story.
- CH: Check, Check for consistency or accuracy. Be sure names, dates, numbers are accurate. Also the same throughout the story.
- Circle: Changes in punctuation or capitalization.
- P: Paragraph indicates where new paragraph should start.
- NP: No Paragraph means to include this paragraph with the previous one.
- __________Underlined Words: If the writer has used the same word twice, close to each other, underline both words, so the writer can change one of them.
When editing use a red pencil or ink. If doing on a computer use red letters.