The Complete Literary Technique List (1 Viewer)


real human bean
Nov 17, 2007
Abstract Language - Language describing ideas and qualities rather than observable or specific things, people, or places.

Acronym - Using the first letter of each word in a long name to represent the name pronounced as a word.

Active Verb - The subject of the sentence carries action of the sentence.

Ad hominem - Latin for "against the man." When a writer personally attacks his or her opponents instead of their

Ad populum - Latin for "to the crowd." A fallacy of logic in which the widespread occurrence of something is assumed to make it true.

Adage - Traditionally defined as a proverb, a wise saying that is often meant to be read figuratively

Adjectival Clause - Grammatical terminology, a form of subordinate clause that is introduced by a relative pronoun or adverb, gives more information on a noun.

Adjectival Phrase - A group of words that does NOT contain a verb to describe a noun.

Allegory - A narrative or description having a second meaning beneath the surface one.

Alliteration - The repetition at close intervals of initial identical consonants.

Allusion - An indirect reference to something (usually a literary text) with which the reader is expected to be familiar.

Ambiguity - An event or situation that may be interpreted in more than one way. Also, the manner of expression of such an event or situation may be ambiguous.

Amphibrach - A ‘pendulum rhythm’, stressed syllable between two unstressed daDAda daDAda… (Triple meter)

Amphimacer - The opposite ‘pendulum rhythm’, an unstressed between two stressed DAdaDA DAdaDA… (Triple meter)

Anachronism - Assignment of something to a time when it was not in existence.

Analogy - A comparison to a directly parallel case.

Anapaest - Two unstressed, followed by a stressed dadaDA dadaDA… (Triple meter)

Anaphora - Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row.

Anecdote - A brief recounting of a relevant episode.

Angst - A term used in existential criticism to describe both the individual and the collective anxiety-neurosis of the period following the Second World War.

Annotation - Explanatory notes added to a text to explain, cite sources, or give bibliographic data (by the author or student).

Antithesis - A balancing of two opposite or contrasting words, phrases, or clauses.

Apocope - Leaving a letter or syllable from the end of the word, often seen in slang language

Aposiopesis - When a sentence is not finished, used for innuendos and threats.

Apostrophe - An address to the dead as if living; to the inanimate as if animate; to the absent as if present; to the unborn as if alive.

Appropriation - Is a part of transformation, it is taking over something and altering the material, adapting for new purpose or style

Archetype - Known 'default' ideas formed by repeated experiences in the lives of our ancestors, inherited in the "collective unconscious" of the human race.

Argumentation - Exploring of a problem by investigating all sides of it; persuasion through reason.
Aside - A dramatic convention by which an actor directly addresses the audience but it is not supposed to be heard by the other actors on the stage.

Assonance - Repetition of a vowel sound within two or more words in close proximity.
Asyndeton - A series of words separated by commas (with no conjunction)

Attitude - Position of the composer, how they feel about the subject matter.

Aubade - A poem related to dawn.

Audience - The groups that hear or receives a text, the group a text may be targeted at.

Autobiography - A life story written by the person themselves.

Auxiliary Verbs - Suggest tense and modality and are a part of compound verbs, include; am, are, be, been, should, was, were etc.

Balance - Construction in which both halves of the sentence are about the same length and importance, sometimes used to emphasize contrast.

Ballad - A poem that tells a story that is designed to be sung. Features a rhythm that alternates between lines of three and four stresses, and can feature an ABCB rhyming scheme.

Bandwagon - Trying to establish that something is true because everyone believes it is true.

Bathos - When the climax of a narrative is underwhelming.

Bias - A way of presenting a text that is influenced by an author’s context.

Bildungsroman - A “coming of age” narrative.

Binary Thinking - Utilises choices from the opposite end of the spectrum, a very simplistic Either/Or way of interpreting the world.

Biography - Life story written by someone not the subject of the story.

Blank Verse - Verse with five pairs of alternate strong and weak stresses (iambic pentameter).

Bricolage - A text containing various pieces from a variety of sources.

Byline - Newspaper article term, the name of the writer of the piece featured under the headline.

Cadence - Rhythm and modulation of spoken words.

Caption - The text placed near a photograph, illustration or diagram in print media.

Catharsis - The process by which an unhealthy emotional state produced by an imbalance of feelings is corrected and emotional health is restored.

Causal Relationship (cause and effect) - In causal relationships, a writer assert that one thing results from another.

Characterisation - The method an author uses to develop characters in a work.

Chiasmus - Arrangement of repeated thoughts in the pattern of X Y Y X. Chiasmus is often short and summarises a main idea.

Chronological Ordering - Arrangement of ideas in the order in which things occur; may move from past to present or in reverse, from present to past.

Classification (as means of ordering) - Arrangement of objects according to class

Cliché - Phrases or expressions that are overused.

Climax - The critical action part of a narrative.

Comedy of Manners - Deals with the relations and intrigues of gentlemen and ladies living in a polished and sophisticated society; it evokes laughter mainly at the violations of social conventions and wit.

Comic relief - Humorous speeches and incidents in the course of the serious action of a tragedy.

Conceit - Unusual or surprising comparison between two very different things

Concrete Language - Language that describes specific, observable things, people or places, rather than ideas or qualities.

Connotation - Rather than the dictionary definition, the associations associated by a word. Implied meaning rather than literal meaning or denotation.

Consonance - Repetition of a consonant sound within two or more words in close proximity

Contrast - Show how things are different are from one another.

Conventional - Following certain conventions, or traditional techniques of writing.

Couplet -Pair of lines that rhyme

Cumulative - Sentence which begins with the main idea and then expands on that idea with a series of details or other particulars.

Dactyl - Stressed followed by two unstressed DAdada DAdada… (Triple meter)

Dead Metaphor - So overused that its original impact has been lost.

Deduction - A form of reasoning that begins with a generalization, then applies the generalization to a specific case or cases.

Denouement - Wrapping up of a story after the climax.

Diction - Word choice, particularly as an element of style. Different types and arrangements of words have significant effects on meaning.

Didactic - A term used to describe fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model or correct behaviour or thinking.

Digression - A temporary departure from the main subject in speaking or writing.

Dissonance - Harsh phrasing, where words are disharmonious together.

Dociological novel – Emphasises the influence of economic and social conditions on characters and events and often embodies an implicit thesis for social reform.

Dramatic Irony - When the reader is aware of an inconsistency between a fictional or nonfiction character's perception of a situation and the truth of that situation.

Elegy - A formal sustained poem lamenting the death of a particular person.

Elliptical - Sentence structure which leaves out something in the second half.

Emotional Appeal - When a writer appeals to an audience's emotions (often through "pathos") to excite and involve them in the argument.

Ennui - A persistent feeling of tiredness or weariness, which often afflicts existential man, often manifesting as boredom.

Enthymeme - A syllogism in which one of the premises - often the major premise - is unstated, but meant to be understood.

Epigraph - A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work suggestive of a theme.

Epiphany - A major character's moment of realization or awareness.

Epistolary novel - Tells narrative through letters (beginning of Frankenstein by Mary Shelly).

Epithet - A term used to characterise a person or thing. Also a term used as a descriptive substitute for the name or title or a person.

Ethical Appeal - When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect and believe him or her based on a presentation of image of self through the text.

Euphemism - The use of a word or phrase that is less direct, but is also considered less distasteful or less offensive than another.

Example - An individual instance taken to be representative of a general pattern.

Explication - The act of interpreting or discovering the meaning of a text.

Explicit - Something that is categorically stated in the text, and not left ambiguous and/or open to imagination.

Exposition - Background information provided by a writer to enhance a reader's understanding of the context of a fictional or nonfictional story.

Extended Figure of Speech- A figure of speech that is sustained throughout the whole text.

Extended Metaphor - One developed at length and involves several points of comparison.

False Analogy - When two cases are not sufficiently parallel to lead readers to accept a claim of connection between them.

Farce - A type of comedy in which one-dimensional characters are put into ludicrous situations; ordinary standards of probability and motivation are freely violated in order to evoke laughter.

Fatalism - Where the characters feel they have no sense of control and are at the mercy of fate.

Feet - Poetry terminology which is a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables which form a live on verse.

Feminine Rhyme - A rhyme with the stress occurs anywhere BUT the last syllable.

Fiction - A product of a writer's imagination, usually made up of characters, plot, setting, point of view, and theme.

Figurative Language - A word or words that are inaccurate literally, but describe by calling to mind sensations or responses that the thing described evokes.

Figure of Speech - A form of expression in which words are used out of the usual sense in order to make the meaning more specific.

Flashback - A technique which breaks up the chronology of a text, can be used to provide background to characters or as a mirror to the action/concerns of the current situation.

Flat Character - A character constructed around a single idea or quality.

Foil - A character whose traits are the opposite of another and who thus points up the strengths and weaknesses of the other character.

Foreshadowing - A hint to what is to happen in the future of the text.

Form - The structure of a text.

Formal language - The most acceptable level of language, free from slang, colloquial expression, contradiction and jargon.

Free Verse - Poetry that does NOT have a regular rhyme or rhythmic pattern. It’s technically prose, but as it is poetry it is called free verse.

Freight-train - Sentence consisting of three or more very short independent clauses joined by conjunctions.

Generalisation- A statement that applies a blanket value or characteristic over a whole group of people. Place, objects and/or animals.

Genre - A literary form or type

Gothic - A narrative style characterised by horror, suspense, terror and macabre detail. Focuses on the characters in a psychological light and the settings are normally dark and foreboding.

Graphics - The non-verbal part of a printed text; the visuals.

Haiku - Three lines, seventeen syllable poem (5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable pattern).

Half-Rhyme - See Consonance

Hamartia - The mortal flaw of a protagonist in a story, this leads to their downfall in a tragedy

Headline - Print media technology for the title placed on the top of news, feature and magazine articles. Designed to be ‘attention-getting’.

Hero/Heroine - Central male/female character. Interchangeable with protagonist.

Historical novel - Takes its setting and a number of its characters and events from history.

Homonym - Two words that are spelt the same and sound the same but have different meanings.

Homophone - Words that sound the same but have a different meaning

Hubris - Overwhelming pride or insolence that results in the misfortune of the protagonist of a tragedy.

Humanism - A viewpoint that human’s ambitions are most important and that characters have a deterministic control on their lives, opposed to a divine or fate destiny.

Hyperbole - Conscious exaggeration used to heighten effect.

Iamb - Most common, unstressed to stressed syllable alternation daDA daDA da… (Duple meter)

Idiolect - The individual style of language utilised by a character.

Idiom- An expression that if literally translated, would make no sense i.e. it’s raining cats and dogs.

Image - A word or group of words, either figurative or literal, used to describe a sensory experience or an object perceived by the senses. An image is always a concrete representation.

Imagery - The use of images, especially in a pattern of related images, often figurative, to create a strong unified sensory impression.

Implicit - Suggested by a text but never concretely stated.

Indirect Speech - The audience is told what someone said, but not in the exact words used by the person

Induction - A form or reasoning which works from a body of facts to the formulation of a generalisation.

Innuendo - Using language to hint at something, often negative or sexual connotation.

Intertextuality - The relationship between two texts.

Inversion - Variation of the normal word order (subject first, then verb, then complement) which puts a modifier or the verb as first in the sentence.

Irony - Generally speaking, a discrepancy between expectation and reality.

Jargon - Language that is technical or niche that would not be understood by the general population.

Juxtaposition - The aligning of two images to enable comparison between the two.

Layout - The way the text, images etc. are placed on the pages.

Litotes - Opposite of hyperbole; litotes intensifies an idea understatement by stating through the opposite.

Logical Appeal - Relies on the audience's logical faculties; logical appeal moves from evidence to conclusion.

Lyric - Carefully structured with long vowels, fluid consonants and a unified rhythm of stressed and unstressed syllables, as well as organized stanzas.

Malapropism - The misuse of a word in a work.

Masculine Rhyme - A masculine rhyme is a rhyme that matches only one syllable, usually at the end of respective lines.

Medium - The way a composer chooses to represent their work.

Melodrama- Over the top characterisation with over the top situations mixed together.

Metalanguage - The way we describe and analyse language usage.

Metaphor - A comparison of two things, often unrelated.

Metonymy - Designation of one thing with something closely associated with it.

Metre - A component of rhythm, the syllables per line.

Metrical - equal number of syllables per line.

Microcosm - An isolated setting, but the action that occurs in the microcosm is a summary of a wider demographic.

Mixed Metaphor - When two metaphors are jumbled together, often illogically.

Mood - An atmosphere created by a writer's word choice (diction) and the details selected. Syntax is also a determiner of mood.

Moral - The lesson drawn from a fictional or nonfictional story. A heavily didactic story.

Motif - A frequently recurring character, incident, or concept in literature.

Negative-Positive - Sentence that begins by stating what is not true, but ending by stating what is true.

Non-sequitur - Latin for "it does not follow." When one comment isn't logically related to another.

Novel - An extended piece of prose fiction.

Octave - Eight Lines

Ode - A type of lyric poem, usually addressed to a personified ‘being’.

Omniscient Narrator - A narrator that sees and knows all in a text.

Onomatopoeia - The use of a word whose pronunciation suggests its meaning.

Oxymoron - A rhetorical antithesis. Juxtaposing two contradictory terms.

Parable - A short story from which a lesson may be drawn.

Paradox - A seemingly contradictory statement or situation which is actually true.

Parallelism - Sentence construction which places in close proximity two or more equal grammatical constructions.

Parody - An exaggerated imitation of a usually more serious work for humorous purposes.

Passive Verbs - Verbs that describe an action that is not done by the Subject of the sentence.

Pathos - Qualities of a fictional or nonfictional work that evoke sorrow or pity. Over-emotionalism can be the result of an excess of pathos.

Periodic Sentence - Sentence that places the main idea or central complete thought at the end of the sentence, after all introductory elements.

Peripety - Reversal in the hero's fortunes.

Persona - A writer often adopts a fictional voice to tell a story.

Personification - Figurative Language in which inanimate objects, animals, ideas, or abstractions are endowed with human traits or human form

Plot - System of actions represented in a dramatic or narrative work.

Point of View - The perspective from which a fictional or nonfictional story is told. First-person, third-person, or third-person omniscient points of view are commonly used.

Polysyndeton - Sentence which uses and or another conjunction, with no commas, to separate the items in a series, usually appearing in the form X and Y and Z, stressing equally each member of the series.

Post hoc Fallacy - Latin for "after this, therefore because of this." When a writer implies that because one thing follows another, the first caused the second. Establishes an unjustified link between cause and effect.

Postmodernism - A reaction against modernism. Incorporates diversity, plurality, flexible construction and a critical attitude towards omniscience.

Post-structuralism - Post-structuralism contrasts structuralism's complete meaning by searching for meaning in the context of both the composer and audience, and the attitudes of the responder.

Protagonist - Chief character in a dramatic or narrative work, usually trying to accomplish some objective or working toward some goal.

Proverb - A popular saying that includes a truth/wisdom.

Pun - A play on words that are identical or similar in sound but have sharply diverse meanings.

Purple Prose - Writing heavy on figurative language that comes across pretentious.

Pyrrhic - Very uncommon, mostly an extra to a normal line of rhythm, two unstressed syllables da-da (Duple meter)

Quatrian - Four lines

Quintet - Five lines

Red Herring - Device through which a writer raises an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue.

Refrain - A couple of lines or a stanza that recurs in a poem.

Refutation - Occurs when a writer musters relevant opposing arguments.

Regional novel - Emphasises setting and mores of a particular locality as these affect character and action (local colour)

Register - The language a composer uses due to a consideration of purpose, author and format.

Repetition - Word or phrase used two or more times in close proximity.

Reportage - Language used in newspaper reports.

Representation - The manner in which the world is depicted to a responder to a text.

Resistant Readings - Meanings gained from a text by non-dominant social groups.

Rhetoric - The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse. Rhetoric focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create felicitous and appropriate discourse.

Rhetorical Criticism - Emphasizes communication between the author and reader. Analyses the elements employed in a literary work to impose on the reader the author's view of the meaning of the work.

Rhetorical Question - A question asked for rhetorical effect to emphasize a point; no answer is expected.

Rhyme - The repetition of sounds at the end of words.

Rhythm - The combination of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Romanticism - A particular type of literature that concerns with the individual, heightened emphasis on emotion and imagination, interest with nature and experimentation with text structure.

Round Character - A character drawn with sufficient complexity to be able to surprise the reader without losing credibility.

Sarcasm - A type of verbal irony in which, under the guise of praise, a caustic and bitter expression of strong and personal disapproval is given.

Satire - A work that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of human behaviour by portraying it in an extreme way.

Scansion - Poetry terminology for measuring verse and determining rhythm.

Septet - Seven Lines

Sestet - Six lines

Sestina - Complex poem structure. First six stanzas are sestet and the final is a triplet. First six stanzas have the same six words on the ends of lines, in a different order each time. Final stanza has all six-end words within three lines. The last three end words of stanza six must be at the end of each line, in any order and remaining three end words anywhere in the lines.

Setting - Locale and period in which the action takes place.

Simile - A figurative comparison of two things, often dissimilar, using the connecting words.

Situational Irony - Applies to works which contain elaborate expressions of the ironic spirit.

Soliloquy - When a character in a play speaks his thoughts aloud

Sonnet - A poem with 14 lines, usually iambic pentameter.

Spondee - Two stressed syllables together often used to vary poem rhythm DA-DA (Duple meter)

Sprung - Equal amount of stressed syllables per line, but unstressed may vary.

Stanza - Grouping of lines in poetry.

Stereotype - Standardised idea about a person or groups of people

Stock Character - Conventional character types that recur repeatedly in various literary genres.

Stream of Consciousness - Technique of writing that undertakes to reproduce the raw flow of consciousness.

Style - The choices in diction, tone, and syntax that a writer makes. In combination they create a work's manner of expression.

Sub-Text - Meaning beyond the actual words on the page.

Subversion - The challenging of conventional ideas through language techniques.

Syllogism - A form of reasoning in which two statements or premises are made and a logical conclusion is drawn from them (a form of deductive reasoning).

Symbol - A thing, event, or person that represents or stands for some idea or event.

Synecdoche - Part of something is used to stand for the whole.

Syntax - In grammar, the arrangement of words as elements in a sentence to show their relationship.

Tautology - Saying the same thing twice, in different ways.

Textual integrity - The uniformity of form, structure and language of a text, a measure of how consistent the composer has been with a text to shape meaning.

Theme - A central idea of a work of fiction or nonfiction, revealed and developed in the course of a story or explored through argument.

Tone - A writer's attitude toward his or her subject matter revealed through diction, figurative language, and organisation of the sentence and global levels.

Tragedy - Representations of serious actions which turn out disastrously.

Tragic Flaw - Tragic error in judgment; a mistaken act which changes the fortune of the tragic hero from happiness to misery; also known as Hamartia.

Triplet/Tercet - Three lines with end rhyme

Trochee - Opposite to Iamb, stressed followed by stressed DAda DAda DA… (Duple meter)

Tropes - Figures of speech where the meaning is different to the literal interpretation.

Understatement - Deliberately representing something as much less than it really is.

Unity - A work of fiction or nonfiction is said to be unified is all the parts are related to one central idea or organizing principle. Thus, unity is dependent upon coherence.

Verbal Irony - When the reader is aware of a discrepancy between the real meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the writer's words.

Vernacular - The local language and terminology of a geographical region.

Vignette - A ‘snap-shot’, may be an image, a micro-story etc.

Villanelle - A French poem with structure; six stanzas, five with three lines and sixth stanza with four lines. Rhyming pattern is ABA for first five and then ABAA in final stanza.

Zeugma - The writer uses one word to govern several successive words are clauses.


Well-Known Member
Apr 4, 2014
this definitely deserves a bump!

also, absie, you might want to add pathetic fallacy....


Well-Known Member
Apr 4, 2014
and three more - anthropomorphism, enjambment and monologue could be added.

and a few typos here and there...

but otherwise a fantastic, fantastic job! :D


real human bean
Nov 17, 2007
Keep 'em coming. It's been proofed (to an extent), but there was no way everything was going to be correct on the first publish.


real human bean
Nov 17, 2007
There is a visual/audio list in the works, but that still needs some more writing. But that also means some of the techniques that get mentioned will fall under that list.


Active Member
Oct 29, 2008
For even more check out the book: A glossary of literary terms (abrams)


Well-Known Member
Apr 4, 2014
bumpity bump for a useful resource

even though already stickied :D

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