Literary Terms and AP Literature Standard Based Vocabulary

Character's perspective

is the way a character's perceptions, values, and opinions affect a story. It is influenced by factors like personality, socioeconomic status, cultural background, education, spirituality, and language. These details all inform a character's beliefs and attitudes, giving them a distinct way of perceiving the world, which in turn shapes the narrative.

Character's motives

reason that explains or partially explains a character's thoughts, feelings, actions, or speech


how it works in the piece of fiction

dynamic character

undergoes a permanent change in outlook or character during the story

static character

does not undergo substantial change or growth in the course of a story


the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text


a character whose actions are inspiring or noble. They struggle to overcome the obstacle and problems that stand in their way


is the protagonist who is the opposite of what we would expect a hero to be


A character that by contrast underscores or enhances the distinctive characteristics of another


act of creating and developing a character

Indirect characterization

reader draw conclusions about the character's traits

Direct characterization

a writer states the character's traits or characteristics


refers to excessive pride that usually leads to a hero's downfall


the time and place of the action of a story. Can also include social statuses, weather, historical period, and details about immediate surroundings


is the overall feeling or atmosphere the writer creates in a work through the choice of setting, imagery, details, and descriptions


a speaker or character that tells a story

First person narrator

one who tells a story and participates in the action; uses the pronoun "I

Third person narrator

stands outside the action and speaks about it; uses pronouns "he," and "she

Third person Omniscient

the narrator knows and tells about what each character feels and thinks

Third person limited

the narrator relates the inner thoughts and feelings of one character, and everything is viewed from this character's perspective

Third person objective

a neutral narrator that is not privy to characters' thoughts or feelings

Unreliable narrator

an untrustworthy storyteller, most often used in narratives with a first-person point of view

Picaro....a type of unreliable character

a character who has a knack for exaggerating

Madman....a type of unreliable character

is unreliable because they are mentally detached from reality

Naif....a type of unreliable character

narrative abilities are impacted by inexperience or age

Liar....a type of unreliable character

the most deliberate of all the unreliable narrators. The character fabricates stories, often to paint a better picture of themselves or achieve a desired outcome

Stream of Consciousness

the technique of presenting the flow of thoughts, responses, and sensations of one or more characters


a division or type of literature. Some examples include, prose, poetry, epic, memoir, science-fiction, etc.

Sequence of a text

refers to the identification of the components of a story — the beginning, middle, and end — and also to the ability to retell the events within a given text in the order in which they occurred

Chronological sequence

is the arrangement of events by time


an interruption in the major action of a story, play or nonfiction work to show an episode that happened at an earlier time and place

Deus ex machina

term that refers to a character or force that appears at the end of a story or play to help resolve conflict. Word means "god from a machine.

In medias res

a story that begins in the middle of things


the sequence of events in which each event results from a previous one and causes the next


begins the plot, introduces the setting, characters, and basic situation

inciting Incident

is the event, moment, or decision that begins a story's main conflict or problem

Rising action

events which lead up to the turning point, the climax


the turning point, the high point of interest or suspense

Falling action

events which lead to the end of the central conflict


the moment the main character(s) solve(s) the main problem/conflict or someone solves it for him or her


the ending. At this point, any remaining secrets, questions or mysteries which remain after the resolution are solved by the characters or explained by the author. Sometimes the author leaves us to think about the THEME or future possibilities for the characters.


struggle between opposing forces

External conflict

character struggles between outside forces, such as another person, force of nature, society

Internal conflict

character struggles within the mind of self, to make a decision, take action, or overcome a feeling

Types of conflicts

Man vs. Nature; Man vs. Person; Man vs. Self; Man vs. Society; Man vs. Supernatural

Rites of Passage

an incident which creates tremendous growth signifying a transition from adolescence to adulthood

Epistle/Epistolary Novel

literary work told in the form of a letter or series of letters


novel about a protagonist's psychological and moral growth from their youth into adulthood. These novels are generally written in the first-person POV and often feature the name of the protagonist directly in the title


a literary technique in which foolish ideas or customs are ridiculed for the purpose of improving society


A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule. i.e. SNL or Weird Al Yankovich


when an author leaves out details/information or is unclear about an event so the reader will use his/her imagination to fill in the blanks


clues in the text about incidents that will occur later in the plot, foreshadowing creates anticipation in the novel or story


a form of reasoning based on the information given and what you already know through your own experiences....making a logical conclusion given the information provided


a feeling of anxious uncertainty about the outcome of events in the literary work


a drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances


Central idea of work of literature; usually focuses on what an author is trying to say about human nature or it criticizes some aspect of society

Figurative Language

writing or speech that is not to be taken literally


A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or comic/dramatic effect


something is described as though it were something else, points out similarity between two unlike things


A type of metaphor where a nonhuman subject is given human characteristics


a comparison of two unlike things, using "like" or "as


the use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas; the descriptive use of detail to appeal to one or more of the reader's senses or to create a picture in the reader's mind


the figurative use of words in a certain way that has meaning that should not be taken literally. "Stop pulling my leg!" means stop joking, NOT that someone is actually physically pulling your leg.


surprising, interesting, or amusing contradictions

Dramatic Irony

When the audience or reader knows something characters do not know

Situational Irony

It involves a discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens

Verbal Irony

When one thing is said, but something else, usually the opposite, is meant


a word for word interpretation for what is written or said


is a term for a reoccurring symbol or idea in a piece of noses and windows


Statement which seems to contradict itself but holds some logical truth. i.e. His old face was youthful when he heard the news.


something concrete, such as an object, person, place or happening, that stands for or represents something beyond itself. For example, a dove is a bird, but it may also be a symbol for peace


the way in which a writer uses their choice of words or arrangement of ideas and events to convey the writer's attitude or feelings toward a subject


stance you take on a specific topic and the 3 logical reasons that support your stance or subcategories

topic sentence

A sentence that expresses the main idea of the paragraph in which it occurs

Textual evidence

proof taken from the text to support your topic or claim


A retelling of the most important parts of what was read.

Literary Essay

formal essay used to analyze a piece of literature

Line of reasoning

the structural or organizational cohesion of a student's response, the connective language, and tissue between ideas and paragraphs."It's the difference between the student response that reflects "a burst of ideas" or analysis of standalone devices and those responses that add the literary elements up and "explain how they are working together.

Complexity or tensions within the text

means pointing out and explaining contradictions. The Landlady is creepy, sure, but she is also attentive and protective.

Broader context

means that the student situates the texts and their understanding in conversation with life experience. 2019 Q3 Sample FF does this when it explains the wider impact of Grapes of Wrath in relation to migrant farmers.

Alternative interpretations

means that a student takes the time to show that they understand that others may view things differently.


The first paragraph of the essay: includes a summary of the story being discussed & a claim/thesis statement

Body Paragraph

State your topic sentence. Provide your evidence.*Explain your EVIDENCE!*Ask yourself: How does this piece of EVIDENCE support my REASONING? Support your EVIDENCE by giving analysis, commentary, and/or elaboration.


a statement/s after the evidence that makes clear why and how the evidence proves the topic sentence. Good commentary creates a clear line of reasoning.


a tool used to grade or assess your work

Transition Sentence

a sentence that moves from one topic to the next


It sums up ideas and reflects on what is discussed in the essay in words different from those in the claim.