action-adventure: fiction genre that features action and/or adventure designed to excite the reader.
allegorical: having hidden meaning that transcends the literal sense
antagonist: a character who actively opposes the protagonist or hero of a story; an adversary
anthology: a collection of literary pieces grouped together by author or by theme.
autobiography: narrative non-fiction that tells the story of one's own life
beat generation: a literary movement that rejected the established narratives to explore spirituality through non-conformist social behaviors.
biography: narrative non-fiction that tells the story of an individual life
biopunk: literature that focuses on the impact of biology based enhancements to mankind, such as DNA manipulation.
black lives matter: a movement organized around the social inequities and injustices experienced by people of color in our American communities
coming-of-age: the point at which a individual loses their innocent (child-like) perceptions of life
coming-of-age novel: a pieces of fiction, in any literature, in which events force the protagonist to grow up.
contemporary: existing at the same time; authors who are writing about issues occurring in their life times are writing about their contemporaries.
contemporary: literature that focuses on settings, issues, and characters contemporary to the reader
cross-genre: stories that present features of 2 or more different genre.
cyberpunk: literature that examines the negative potential of technology on mankind.
dark fantasy: fantasy in which supernatural beings - both good and evil - live alongside normal humans in the real world
dieselpunk: a genre of speculative fiction set in and featuring gas-powered machinery
dystopia: an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic
dystopian literature: speculative fiction that examines real world problems through the lens of "what if the worst were to happen?"
epic: extending beyond the usual or ordinary in size or scope
espionage: the practice of spying or of using spies, typically by governments to obtain political and military information
fantasy: imagintive fiction featuring especially strange settings and unique characters.
fantasy, high: a fantasy in which complex characters experience adventure within an elaborately constructed world
fantasy, low: a fantasy in which magical charcters and acts within or very near the real-world
gothic: associated with a dark mood, relates in literature to fiction that features desolate settings and violent events
gothic literature: SEE horror
graphic novel: a presentation of narrative through visual images or a combination of images and text.
greenpunk: literature that examines the intersection between renewable energy, the do-it-yourself movement, and human response to the consequences of global warming.
heroic fantasy: fantasy in which a heroic figure takes on a task in a realistic (often historical) setting. Magical elements do not supersede the realism of the imagined world.
historical setting: the time period in which a story takes place
horror: intense fear, dread or dismay
horror fiction: a subgenre of suspense in which readers are presented with situations and ideas that horrify or evoke terror
literary movement: a term used for pieces of literature by different authors (usually within the same period) who share similar reasons for writing in a particular way. #ownvoices (see below) is a current literary movement, characterized by authors who share a common point of view as the characters they introduce
literary period: a span of time in which literature shares common intellectual, linguistic, artistic, and social influences
macabre: disturbing and horrifying depiction of injury and death
magical realism: the introduction of unexplained magical element into an otherwise real-world
"marvelous real, the": real places and objects that are extraordinary or strange
memoir: narrative non-fiction that tells the story of a single episode or period in one's own life
metafiction: fiction that deals with the process of writing, often by referring to itself
mystery: a subgenre of suspense in which investigators attempt to solve a puzzle.
nanopunk: literature that imagines the consequences (both good and bad) of emerging nanotechnology on mankind.
narrative: a story
narrative non-fiction: true events that are presented as stories
neurodiversity: the range of differences in individual brain functions and behavior traits. Commonly used in reference to people on the autism spectrum, the term applies to anyone whose differences are an expression of brain function. These differences are regarded as normal variations in the human population
novel-in-verse: a story presented entirely through a series of free-verse poems.
normalized: unusual elements that are presented as normally occuring
#ownvoices: stories told by people who have first hand experience similar to those experienced by characters in a story (i.e. stories about being black in America told by black authors, stories about mental illness being told by people with those conditions, etc.)
paranormal fantasy: SEE dark fantasy
picaresque: fiction featuring rogues or rascals
portal fantasy: a fantasy in which characters are transported to an alternative world through a portal in the real world.
protagonist: the main character of a story, generally a champion of good or the character through whom which the reader will gain understanding
quest: a long or arduous search for something of meaning
retelling / retold: fiction that is based on myth, legends, and existing literature. Literary devices from the original allow the author to address new social issues and ideas.
retrospective: looking back on; dealing with past events
retrospective punk: speculative fiction, set in historical times and utilizing known technologies to achieve imagined abilities.
reveal: a plot device in which a previously unseen key character or element is revealed to the audience
reversal: when an element appears as one thing and changes suddenly, resulting in a change in the reader's perspective
robinsonade: fiction centered around the survival of an individual stranded or separated from civilization
science fiction (sci-fi): fiction featuring the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals.
space opera: science fiction that features space travel and interplanetary relationships
speculative: based on conjecture rather than knowledge
speculative fiction: highly imaginative fiction based on curiosity (what if?...) and conjecture rather than knowledge (see steampunk; dieselpunk)
sports fiction: fiction in which sports is a key element, necessary to the plot.
steampunk: a genre of speculative fiction set in and featuring steam-powered machinery
survival fiction: SEE robinsonade
suspense: a state of mental anxiety related to outcome.
suspense fiction: mysteries, thrillers, or horror fiction that engages a reader's sense of anxiety.
swashbuckler: fiction featuring a daring and swaggering hero, often a soldier
thriller: a subgenre of suspense in which characters attempt to resolve a situation of extreme anxiety.
tone: the general attitude of a place, situation or piece of literature; the mood
toxic masculinity: current terminology used to describe any expectations placed on young men that limit their ability to socially express emotion or empathy or respect the rights of women
uncanny: strange, especially in an unsettling way
uncanny valley: phenomenon, described by Masahiro Mori, when robot appear so "human-like," but too perfect, resulting in the human sense of revulsion.
urban fantasy: a sub-genre of fantasy set in a modern gritty urban society and often featuring elements of the supernatural.
utopia: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect
world-building: the development of imaginary worlds complete with geographic features, unique inhabitants, inventive systems of government and, sometimes, fully developed languages.
whodunit: a popular term for mystery narratives
wuxia: a genre of Chinese fiction that itinerant warriors of ancient China, capable superhuman feats of martial arts.
xiaxia: fantasy influenced by Chinese mythology, ancient religions, martial arts, and other traditional Chinese elements
Want more? See Glossary of Literary Terms
Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin
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