Terms Every Writer Should Know

words for writers


 Professional writers use unique terms.  This is a list of some of the more common words and what they mean.

  It took us a while to learn the proper vocabulary used by professional writers. We hope this glossary of terms will be useful to you.

Glossary of Common Terms Writers Use


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, or their motivation.

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.

Capture the moment: See freeze the moment.  picture your dialog

Characters: The people in your story.

Denominational Characters: Are characters that display several character traits, or

motivations throughout the story.

Dialog: When you use the words your characters are saying using quotation marks (” “).

E-book: is a novel or instructional manual sold only over the internet.

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: 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. Exposition bogs the story down

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.” See How to choose a point of view.

Foreshadowing: A hint at a possible outcome in the story. It does not mean that outcome will automatically materialize. See tease your readers with hints

Flashback: See backstory

Freeze the Moment: To describe what a character experiences in a certain moment in the story. It usually includes what the character feels, sees, hears, smells, and/or tastes in that moment.

Genre: The type of novel. Romance, Mystery, Western, Inspirational, Science Fiction heros

Heighten: To add emotion or explain the motivation of your characters.

Hero/Heroine: A main character who is trying to do what is right.

Hint: A suggestion that something might happen later in the story. It does not mean it will happen. See Tease your readers with hints

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.

Indie author/publisher: This is a newer term, with various meanings. Essentially it refers to an author who not only writes a book but publishes it also (e-book, Kindle book). Joanna Penn offers tips on becoming an Indie author at http://thecreativepenn.com

Inner Conflict (Inner Struggle): Is when a character must decide something, and they don’t know which way to go. That inner struggle creates conflict in their mind.

Kindle book: Amazon corporation offers a service for selling books over the internet. These books are known as e-books or Kindle books

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.

Moral Premise The basic concept that  that good will overcome evil in the story. Most successful stories include a moral premise. See  The Moral Premise

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.

Mystery: is a genre of stories where the outcome remains in question until the end.

Narrator: The person who tells the story in third person.( He She They) See How to choose a point of view

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: Refers to the structure of your story. How you organize the events of your story. including Layers, sub-plots, and back-story. Could also refer to how you outline your story; the beginning, the middle, and the end and what you choose to include in each section.plot twist

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. There are also e-book publishers who will help you set your book up for internet publication,

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.

Redundant: Unnecessary words or phrases. Ideas that are repeated.

Revision: When you make changes to the story-line, plot or structure of the story.

Secondary Characters: The other characters not including the protagonist or the antagonist.                                                                              setting a term

Setting: It’s the writers physical and emotional description of the time and place of the story or scene.

Stakes: Are the risks or rewards of different decisions a character makes. The STAKES can be PUBLIC ( affecting the community) or PRIVATE (Affecting only one person)

Sub-plot: This is a separate story outside the main storyline, which adds significance to the theme or the main character’s motivation.

Surprise ending: A unique twist towards the end of a story or subplot. Something the reader is not expecting.

Suspense: When the reader does not know the outcome.

Tension: To keep your reader actively immersed in your story, a writer must create tension. A great storyline is 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. This is sometimes called ‘The moral premise. See How to engage your readers with a theme

Third Person: When a story is told using, “they and them, he and she.” The story can be told with a narrator or from the point of view of one of the characters in the story. See How to choose a point of view. 

Turning Point: This refers to a place where either the character or the story changes direction.                                                                                          turning point a term

Villain: The character who creates conflicts, obstacles or problems for your protagonist to overcome. A story may have more than one villain.

See:  Create Sensational Villains

Voice: How the character telling the story speaks. This includes attitude, style, vocabulary, slang or accents. Also indicates the story structure. The one who is telling the story. (First person, third person or narrator)  See How to choose a Point of View

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.

Can you think of some other terms that should be added to this list? Let us know so we can add them.

Happy Writing

John & Patty  @writingagreatbook.com2017


John and I have written an e-book for new writers.download the magic

We have developed a method that will simplify your creative writing.


We have written 4 books using this method.


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