Literary terms in Prose

Prose: Prose is a general term that refers to non-poetic expression, writing that follows the conventional form of sentences and paragraphs.

Quest: This features a main character who is seeking to find something or achieve a goal. In the process, this character encounters and overcomes a series of obstacles, returning wiser and more experienced.

Romance is a term that refers to a variety of fictional works involving some combination of the following: high adventure, thwarted love, mysterious circumstances, arduous quests, and improbable triumphs.

Satire is a literary tone used to make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting or changing the subject of the attack.

Short story is a brief fictional work. It usually contains one major conflict and at least one main character.

Tragedy is a literary work in which the hero is destroyed by some character flaw or by forces beyond his or her control.

Antagonist: A character or a nonhuman force that opposes, or is in conflict with, the protagonist.

Anticlimax: An event or series of events usually at the end of a narrative that contrast with the tension building up before.

Biography: A work of nonfiction that recounts the life of a real person. If the person depicted in a biography is also its author, then we use the term autobiographyAn autobiography that focuses only on a specific aspect of, or episode in, its author’s life is a memoir.

Character: An imaginary person who acts, appears, or is referred to in a literary work.

(i) Major or main character: A central character that receives most attention.

(ii) Minor character: A marginal or secondary character that receives less attention.

(iii) Flat character: A relatively simple and two-dimensional character with few traits and predictable behavior or responses.

(iv) Round character: A complex, multifaceted character capable of surprising the readers.

(v) Static characters do not change while dynamic characters do.

Characterization: The presentation or delineation of a fictional personage.

(i) Direct characterization or direct definition occurs when the narrator explicitly tells what a character is like.

(ii) Indirect characterization or indirect presentation occurs when the narrative reveals a character’s trait/s implicitly, through his or her speech, behavior, thoughts, appearance, and so on.

Climax: The third part of plot (see Freytag’s pyramid), the point at which the action stops rising and begins falling or reversing; also called turning point.

Conflict: A struggle between opposing forces that sets the action in motion.

An external conflict pits a character against something or someone outside himself or herself—another character or characters or something in nature or society.

An internal conflict happens when the opposing forces are two drives, impulses, or parts of a single character.

Crisis: In plot, the moment when the conflict comes to a head, often requiring the character to make a decision; sometimes the crisis is equated with the climax or turning point and sometimes it is treated as a distinct moment that precedes, and prepares for, the climax.

Dénouement (French for “untying” as of a knot) – A plot-related term used in three ways: (1) as a synonym for falling action, (2) as a synonym for conclusion or resolution, and (3) as the label for a phase following the conclusion in which any loose ends are tied up.

Point of View: The perspective from which people, events, and other details in a work of fiction are viewed; also called focus, though the term point of view is sometimes used to include both focus and voice. The narrator conveys the point of view.

limited point of view reveals only the perspective of one character.

An omniscient or unlimited point of view reveals the perspective of multiple characters.

Protagonist: The main character in a work, whether male or female, heroic or non-heroic.

Suspense: This technique involves the creating of expectation through deliberate delay of information. It is commonly used to provoke the reader participation.

Flashback: This is a narrative technique used to bring into focus earlier occurrence in the course of a chronological sequence of events.

Foreshadowing: By this device a writer provides hints in the story about a future happening.

Imagery: This is the use of figurative language to call up a mental picture of something not actually present.

Theme: This is the main subject or idea in a book, film, discussion, etc.

Plot: This refers to the events that form the main story of a book, film or plays are described.

Style is the way a literary work is written.

Setting: This has to do with the place or time in which the events in a book or film happen.


  1. Mention ten (10) literary terms associated with prose.
  2. Explain any five out of the literary terms mentioned above..

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