A: Active Voice. The preferred style of writing for readers, as opposed to passive voice.  Active voice has the subject of the sentence doing an action to the object of the sentence (Ex: Martin read the book.), instead of having the object have something done to it (Ex: The book was read by Martin.).

B: Back Story. What happened before your story starts, but which has lead to the events you are now writing about.

C: Characterization. How the author shows what a character is like without outright saying it. For example, characterization is not saying “Wendy loved her work.  She would be in the office after hours, to the detriment of her marriage.” What would be characterization is having Wendy call her husband to cancel dinner the fifth time this month because she wants to finish a project.

D: Dialect. The characteristics of speech specific to one’s class, region, etc. The way one spoke in 18th-century London is different from how a modern-day blue-collar worker from the Bronx speaks. When writing, be sure to capture the grammar and spelling of your chosen dialect.

E: Exposition. Usually at the beginning of a story, it is the telling or showing of background information.


F: Foreshadow. A clue as to what’s going to happen later in the story.

G: Grammar. The set of rules for speaking and writing in a language. Follow these rules to impress editors and publishers.

 H: Hook. The first sentence or paragraph that makes the reader want to continue reading.

I: Inciting Incidents. The events that lead to the overall plot. A college party leads to the hero and heroine meeting and falling in love, which leads to further events.

J: Jargon. Words or phrases used for specific jobs or situations. Great to use to show off a character’s job (lawyer, doctor, angler, etc.). Don’t rely too much on it, for it will confuse readers who don’t know the vocabulary.

K: Kinesics. How the body moves to convey unspoken communication. This is very important in today’s novels. Don’t say what a character is feeling; show the readers by using kinesics.

L: Leit-Motif. Originated in music as a piece of music associated with a particular character. A great example is the dark music that accompanies Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. 

In literature, it’s the same idea. Perhaps a character is associated with an animal or color. Red, for example, is linked with handmaids, and blue with wives in The Handmaid’s Tale.

M: Motivation. Why a character does something. Character motivation is important to make a story or event believable. Is it realistic for the hero to save the heroine (or vice versa) if they detest each other? Not really. But if the saver gets something out of it, such as reward money, now there’s realistic motivation.

N: Narrative. Synonym for “story.”

O: O. Henry Ending. A surprise ending. Named after author O. Henry (pen name for William Sydney Porter), who incorporated surprise endings in his stories.

P: Point of View. The manner in which a story is told. The kinds are first person (I and we), second person (you), and third person (he, she, they).

Q: Quandary. a problem where one doesn’t know what to do.

R: Recognition. When the protagonists realize something important about themselves or the problem they’re in.

S: Syntax. How words are put together to form sentences. Authors carefully construct the syntax of particular or even all) sentences to convey a desired feeling in the reader.

T: Theme. The meaning behind a story. The major theme of Jane Austen’s novels is romantic love. A minor theme eligibility for marriage.

U: Understatement. The opposite of exaggeration.  Used for irony, sarcasm, and modesty. An example would be saying the Beatles was a pretty good band.

V: Voice. The author’s writing style. The qualities, such as word choice, syntax, punctuation use, etc., that make the author unique.

W: Wordiness. Using far more words than necessary to say something. Please avoid wordiness, though there are circumstances when more words is appropriate.

X: X-ref. Short hand for “cross reference” within a book.

Y: Yarn. A long, rambling story.

 Z: Zeitgeist. The culture, values, customs, and overall mood of a time in history. Zeitgeist is important to capture accurately should one write a story taking place at a different time. The zeitgeist of 1960s America is vastly different from that of pre-Columbian Central America.

Eryn Kawecki

Managing Editor