Storytelling Slang

Just as many different cultures have their slang, writers have their own secret code words that they have for things. Outsiders may wonder at words and terms like “plot device”, “climax”, or “character development”. Now, these terms specifically mean things, but not everyone one knows exactly.

Worry no longer! This article is all about defining common words and phrases used in writers’ parlance. I have no doubt that you will recognize some of these words, but even so, you may not have known exactly what they meant.

Protagonist: Simply put, this is the hero/heroine of the play. The main character, the chief object, the big cheese. The audience is rooting for the Protagonist. However, remember this: the hero/heroine will be a paragon of virtue and moral standard; whereas the protagonist can be as dirty as he/she pleases. This is where antihero stories spring.

Antagonist: Similarly, the Antagonist is the one who opposes the Protagonist. Like the Protagonist, the Antagonist does not have a set moral characteristic. Usually, however, the Antagonist is of opposite moral characteristic to the Protagonist. Unquestionably, however, the Antagonist exists to oppose the Protagonist, just to create a conflict.

Character Evolution/Character Development: Humans change. All things do. When a character in a story goes from one defined phase to another, especially big distinctions like the change between a morally good character and a morally bad character, we call that Character Evolution or Character Development. As Anakin Skywalker shifts to Darth Vader, we get a Character Evolution.

Plot Device: This is a object or motive that is used to further the story in lieu of a character. Where a character would be changing the story by their actions, a Plot Device changes the story because of its presence. Without it, the plot would be greatly changed. For example, Excalibur is the main reason for Arthur’s quest to find it. Without the sword, Arthur’s quest for a weapon would have begun and ended in the castle armory.

Foil: This is a character who has no particular weight in the story (i.e., someone who has no influence) but is added as an opposite to balance the standard of the Protagonist. He/she is added as a contrast to compare to another character. So, in a sense, they have a purpose, but that purpose is in just standing about.

Climax: This is the high point in the story. Poetically put, it’s the storm before the calm. The storm is the Climax, and the calm is the resolution. There must be an Armageddon, a Ragnarok, a Reckoning. A squaring of problems through strife and conflict. This is the most tense moment in the story, and it’s called a Climax.

Genre: This is a type of story, usually in one of the many archetypical types out there like sci-fi or fantasy. This isn’t pertaining to storytelling itself, but it’s still a good word to know.

Foreshadowing: This is hinting, giving the reader a glimpse of what is to come. usually use in mystery stories, this can be used as a captivating tool to draw the reader in and keep him/her on a constant flow of revealed material. It gives them something to look forward to.

Anyway, these are just a few of the many terms in literature. However, I judge these to be the most important. Keep these in mind as your write.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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