Decoding the Lingo of Fiction Writing

Learning the art of writing is daunting at worst, enlightening at best. We all want more of those Aha moments, where all the puzzle pieces magically fit together and for a split second we understand what it feels like to be a good writer. Because, let’s face it, most of us have days we can’t put two words together without second guessing ourselves.

Starting out on my own writer’s journey, I don’t think I was prepared to discover a whole new language waiting around the bend. I should have realized like any industry there’s a lingo that we need to learn for us to become successful. Acronyms and unfamiliar phrases I’d never heard of dotted the landscape of blog posts, books, and online writing courses I traipsed through. New buzzwords, and catch phrases like “The writer’s tool kit, and The Hero’s Journey,” jumped out at me from behind every tree and rock lining the road, and honestly, it felt a little overwhelming. Forget about the time wasted to look up each of their meanings. Ech!confused-look-226x300

I wanted to help my fellow writers just venturing out on their own. So, I’ve put together what I hope is a comprehensive list of words, phrases and acronyms to help you navigate your way.

The list is set up with three columns. First the word, phrase or acronym followed by the definition, and then an example.

For the purpose of giving clear information, I chose a story I believe everyone has some familiarity with. It’s one of Aesop’s fables called, drum roll please…

The boy who cried wolf.aob130ill

Yep, thought so, you’ve heard of it, or at least one of its variations.

On the off-chance you’re not familiar, the fable goes something like this:

A boy is asked by his Master to tend the sheep out in the pasture. His Master warns him about wolves and tells the boy to cry out if he sees one of the dangerous beasties. When the boy gets to the clearing with his flock he gets bored real quick. He decides to cry wolf so the villagers come running. They do, but only to find there was no wolf in the first place. Depending on which version you’ve read, the boy repeats his bogus cries for help several more times until finally the villagers have had enough. When the boy cries wolf again, the townsfolk ignore him, and guess what? The wolf is very real. Sadly, I think you know how it ends.

My hope is that you find this chart helpful in your plight to write, but if I’ve missed something you think is important, please let me know so I can add it in.

Term

Definition

Examples

Antagonist

 The villain or another character with ill intent towards the main character. Could range anywhere from a jealous friend to a psycho serial killer

This is the person who hinders the hero/heroine from reaching their goal.

 

 This is easy—The wolf.

 

Backstory

 This is the character’s life before your story begins.

 

 The boy is picked to go and watch his Master’s flock.

Black Moment/climax

 This is the point in your story where there is no going back for your main character. The decision he faces will change his life, as he knows it.

Also the highest point of tension in your story, think explosive.

 

 When the wolf really shows up.

Character Arc/Hero’s Journey

 

All the things that happen to create a lasting change in your main character’s life.

 The boy is chosen to watch over his Master’s flock, which is their livelihood, but he hates the idea of spending all his time outside and alone. He figures he can stir up some excitement and even though he know it’s wrong, he lies about there being a wolf but when the real wolf show up no one comes to help.

 

Conflict

 The thing or things that keep your protagonist from reaching their goal(s).

 

 He doesn’t want to tend the flock outside alone.

Denouement/ Wrap-up

This is the ending of your story after the climax happens this is the cooling down period where all the loose ends are neatly tied together in a lovely bow.

 

The boy sadly is never heard from again.

Deep POV

Writing from you character’s point of view so the reader can experience what they are experiencing Typically used when writing Third Person POV.

 

Peter sat on rock and played his flute until his lungs hurt from the cold evening air. Now what could he do to pass the time? An idea pop into his head. With a deep breath her let the word form on his lips. “Wooolf.”

Editing

Making sure your manuscript is ready to for publication. Can include line editing and revision.

The boy feels disagrees with his father’s Master’s decision to send him out alone by himself to watch the sheep flock.

First Person POV

 Writing from your character’s point of view as if they were speaking to the reader directly. Using pronouns, I & Me

 I do not want to spend another single second out here alone, and in the cold.

Genre

 Genre is the type of story you are writing. Romance, new adult, young adult, suspense, thriller, mystery, woman’s fiction, literary fiction, erotica, science fiction/fantasy.

 The Boy who cried wolf is considered Children’s literature or a fable. Don’t worry too much, a number of genres over lap.

Haven’t you ever read a romantic suspense?

GMC

 Goal, Motivation and Conflict

The key ingredients for any great story The goal is the purpose for the story.

The motivation is the reason behind the goal.

The conflict is what prevents the protagonist from reaching the initial goal.

 

(G) To figure out a way to stay indoors and have people to talk to.

 (M) It’s boring and cold and lonely outside alone.

 (C) His Master insists he do his duty and take the flock to the pasture.

Goal

 This is what your character wants.

 

 The boy wants to find a way to be around people and stay indoors.

Hook

 The hook is what keep the readers reading, wanting to turn to page to find out what happens next, and is usually at the very beginning of the story.

 The hook for the boy who cried wolf is when his master wants to speak with him. The reader wonders “just what does the Master wants with the boy” Their hooked because now they’re dying to find out what happens next.

Inciting Incident

 This is what sets the wheels in motion and forces your protagonist to move forward or take action.

 For this fable, the inciting incident is when his Master tells him he has to watch over the flock at night.

Internal Dialogue

 What the character is really thinking

Most of the time you’ll know what is internal dialogue because the word(s) are in italics.

 

Why?  The boy asks himself Why do I have to watch over them?

Line Editing

Going through your manuscript line by line looking for mistakes, misspelled, and incorrect words.

Thought he hadn’t seen anything, which looked like a wolf…

Is replaced with, Though he’d hadn’t seen the wolf…

Motivation

 This is the reason your character behaves the way he/she does.

 It’s boring, cold and lonely outside alone with nothing but sheep.

Pinch Point

 Is similar to the inciting incident but happens throughout your story.

 The first, second and third time the boy cries wolf.

Plot

 

The physical story. What event happen during the story.

 The boy gets lonely and cries wolf until the townsfolk have enough of his antics. He’s lost their trust by lying too many times. When the real wolf makes an appearance no one comes to save the poor boy and he is never heard from again.

Plot Diagram

 A tool used to keep the writer on tract with their WIP.

 There are many that can be found on-line.

Plotter/Pantser

 Plotters, well, they plot out their entire story before sitting down to write. Pantsers tend to fly by the seat of their—yep, you guessed it—pants Maybe they have an idea or can visualize a character but they don’t usually know where the story will lead until they sit down and start writing.

 A plotter will outline, write a backstory, and develop all their main characters before they even put pen to paper or in modern times, fingertips to keyboard

A pantser will just sit down and begin to write without the developmental groundwork Neither is right or wrong it’s entirely up to the author what method they use Some writers’ use a bit of both. 

Premise

 The underlying idea of your story is summed up in one or two sentences. Premise is the takeaway message of a story.

 If you lie too often, not will believe the truth.

Protagonist

Your main character

Can be the hero or heroine or even a villain if your story revolves around him or her.

 The boy, the story is about him.

Revision

 This is a manuscript overhaul After the first draft, this is where you look for inconsistencies in plots, characterization and story.

 Similar to editing though revision focuses more on the story arch to make sure the story flows so nothing important is missing in the plot.

Synopsis

 

 

You story told in short snippets       when submitting for publication.

This is where you break down your manuscript by chapters or events.

  1. A boy is sent to tend his Master’s flock in a pasture.
  2. The boy gets lonely and wants some company so he thinks about ways to make people to come to him.
  3. He figures if he cries wolf, everyone will come.
  4. He’s right, everyone show up only they are upset when they don’t find a wolf.
  5. The next day he repeated his false cry for help and the townsfolk once again come to his aid, but they are even more angry with him for his lying.
  6. The nest day the wolf appears and when the boy calls out, no one comes to help.

Scene

 A short action snippet that moves the story along.

Think goal, conflict and disaster.

 The boy takes the flock out to pasture and gets bored so he decides to cry wolf for the first time to see what happens.

Setting

 Should be self-explanatory. It’s where your character is physically, right now in your story. Are they in an urban setting like NYC or screaming from a mountaintop in Tibet? Setting also includes the time of day. The month of the year and the year in which your story takes place. Setting can change often, but make sure you place your main character there in every scene.

 The boy is out in a pasture, his flock milling about eating grass He sets out to find a place to sit and play his flute but the ground is cold. He perches on a rock and watches the townsfolk gather in the square. He wishes her were there with them.

Sequel

 This is the emotional transition between scenes The time your character reflects on what just happened and now has to make a decision, which leads back to the next bit of action.

 The boy cries wolf for the third and last time he realizes no one is coming to help He now has to decide to make, either run for it an try to escape, or stay to protect the flock and surely get eaten.

Show vs. Tell

Showing helps the reader experience what is happening by using rich description, whereas telling is more like exposition.

 The boy is bored – telling statement

The boy tried to get comfortable, but the ground felt cold even through his coat There was nothing to do but count the stars – showing statement.

Story

 This is the emotional aspect of your character’s growth.

 The boy doesn’t like to be alone and does everything he can to have a bit of fun.

Style

 The way in which writers express themselves through language.

 Not to be confused with voice, Aesop’s style was simple and straightforward His word choices were direct and to the point.

 Theme

 A message or idea, the overall truth of your story Simple huh? What is the big picture?

 Lying doesn’t pay, or in this case it can even get you eaten.

 

Third Person POV

 Uses pronouns of he/she him/her and is typically a third person viewpoint of what is happening.

 The boy’s Master calls him over (Third person POV).

My Master calls me to him (First person POV).

Voice

 This is the unique way a writer tells his or her story

Voice is not the same as style.

 Aesop used a moralistic voice (imho) his stories taught the reader right from wrong.

 

 

WIP

 Work in Progress

The story you’re currently writing.

 Sadly, Aesop doesn’t have a WIP at this time.

World Building

 This is creating the world in which your characters live. It can be simple or elaborate depending on, say, how familiar your readers are with 16th century England vs. 21st century subways.

In science fiction and fantasy usually more world building is required.

 

In the boy who cried wolf, we know the boy is out in the fields and pastures We don’t need the writer to go too much into details, as most of us know what both look like and can fill in the blanks with our own imaginations.

 

I would love to hear from you. Let me know if you found this helpful.

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3 thoughts on “Decoding the Lingo of Fiction Writing

    1. Glad you like it. I wanted to point out there is a second usage for Sequel. It can also mean another book in a series. The form I used in the chart has more to do with writing structure. Using a scene-sequel method, I believe was coined by Steve Alcorn in his book, How to Fix your Novel.
      I hope this doesn’t confuse anyone.

  1. Pingback: Do you have Logophobia? – luv2write2

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