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Fiction Writing, Publishing & Grammar Lexicon

from the pages of:

by Gordon A. Kessler

I fix novels! 

For information on my “Novel Mechanix” and “Contest Tune-Up!” services, please email me at:

Low rates, high results. Free initial consultation. 

(for more details go to Novel Mechanix or Contest Tune-Up!)

 

Appendix F: Terms and Definitions/Lexicon of 500+ Words (11.0)

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This lexicon contains terms used in the novel-writing, publishing and book-distribution industry. These key concerns are commonly used, some perhaps even originating from the business of novel writing, publishing and selling. The definitions given are subjective and deal specifically with this industry and might not be accurate otherwise.

 

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abridgment :   shortened form of a literary work keeping most important themes intact.  Done especially to longer novels and for the purpose of audio versions. 

 

abstract  terms :   prose that is non-specific, non-concrete, imprecise, vague or generic and does not give a good mental image to the reader.  

 

acknowledgment  page :   page of a book with author’s source credits including quoted material and those who have helped with research and editing.  

 

acquisition editor:  editor in charge of acquiring new material submitted to the publishing house. 

 

act :   part of a fiction work that is either beginning, middle or end in a three act work, or is beginning, rising action , climax, falling action or denouement in a five act work. 

 

action :   physical or emotional occurrences advancing the plot

 

action /adventure:  novel genre relying on physical action and life threatening events. 

 

action tag (a.k.a. dialogue action tag):  action of the character involved in dialogue used to help demonstrate which character is speaking and/or the mood of that character. 

 

active  voice :   descriptive, fast-paced prose, terse and precise, without use of any form of the verb be

 

adaptation :   rewriting of a novel into a screenplay or stage play, or visa versa.  

 

adjective :   modifier of a noun or pronoun, which describes, qualifies, restricts or changes the meaning of it. 

 

adult :   novel subject  matter especially of interest to adults but that may not be suitable for younger readers.   

 

advance :   publisher’s payment to an author, prior to publication of a novel, deducted from future royalties

 

advance sale:  commitment of wholesale book buyers to purchase books done by brand names, celebrities or experts in a very commercial topic. 

 

adventure novel:  see action/adventure

 

adverb :   modifier of a verb, adjective or other adverb, phrase or clause. 

 

agenda :   steps a character needs to take to reach an objective. 

 

agent (literary) :   business representative of the author with expertise in the publishing business. 

 

allegory :    story with hidden meaning sometimes using a specific character to explain a general truth. 

 

alliteration :   repetition of the same sound in a series of words for effect. 

 

allusion :   incidental mention or casual reference. 

 

ambiguous :   word or phrase that is able to be interpreted in more than one way, either intentionally or by author error. 

 

American Book Awards:  awards given to contemporary American authors without restriction to writers’ backgrounds or story genres. 

 

American Booksellers Association (ABA):   alliance of thousands of retail bookstores for the purpose of better understanding of the bookselling business. 

 

anachronism :   something out of time, not possible to have happened at the time of the story, e.g. a character driving a Ford Mustang during WWII. 

 

analepsis :   see flashback

 

analogy :   comparison of like features of two different things, sometimes describing a complex idea or thing using simpler terms, e.g. “the heart is a pump.” 

 

anaphora :   two or more sentences starting with the same word for emphasis. 

 

angst :   anxiety, dread, portrayal of intense feeling. 

 

antagonist :   protagonist’s opponent or center of conflict.  

 

antecedent :   original noun to which a pronoun refers. 

 

anthology :   grouping of several short stories or poems normally of a similar theme and by different authors, but can be a gathering of works by one author. 

 

anticlimax :  weaker than indicated or expected ending or a wrap up after the main climax, rarely effective. 

 

antihero :  heavily flawed character lacking in traditional heroic qualities, sometimes the protagonist or his companion, possibly lacking in morals but in pursuit of a righteous cause. 

 

antithesis :   directly the opposite or in contrast, e.g. “Give me liberty or give me death.” 

 

antonym :   words with opposite meanings, e.g. “night and day.”

 

aposiopesis :   when a speaker stops mid sentence for effect or due to intense emotion. 

 

apostrophe :   (not the punctuation mark) when dialogue is directed to an inanimate, non-existent or absent person or thing. 

 

arbitrary :   with no justification or reason. 

 

arc :   see dramatic arcor storyarc

 

archaism :   use of an out-dated word, style, or concept

 

archetype :  character, symbol or theme embodying a universal idea. 

 

Aristotle’s  Incline:  storyline visually plotted onto a straight inclining line that depicts the rise of dramatic tension versus the story length.  It is divided into three acts and indicates a point of catharsis near the top of the incline

 

argument :   mostly archaic term referring to plot summary

 

aside :   short speech by a character intended for the audience but not the other characters in the story

 

Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) :   professional organization of literary agents with a strong code of enforced ethics, e.g. no member is allowed to charge manuscript-reading fees. 

 

atmosphere :   the general feeling, mood or affect of story created with the use of word choice, setting, imagery, and/or dialogue

 

auction : bidding by two or more publishers for the rights to publish a particular manuscript. 

 

author  intrusion :   when an author breaks into the story with opinionated language not belonging to the story’s characters. 

 

author’s  alterations (AA):  text corrections on a galley made by the author. 

 

author’s  bio :   one or two paragraph biography of author used especially on book jackets/covers. 

 

author’s  copies:   books given to the author by publisher for no charge. 

 

author’s  discount:   reduction of retail price given to the author by the publisher for the purchase of that author’s books. 

 

Authors  Guild :   supportive organization of traditionally published writers. 

 

autobiography :   accurate telling of one’s own life story

 

avant-garde : adopted French term for military, political or artistic leaders. In this case means a style of writing that breaks from the traditional.

 

axiom , adage, maxim, saw, saying:  statement done in a witty way, e.g. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

 

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backfill :   device used by writers to fill in essential information that has taken place before the present story. 

 

backlist :   publisher’s books that are still in print after one season or year. 

 

backstory :  part of the story that happened before the present story and usually includes characters’ pasts and conflicts, which influence the current story. 

 

belles-lettres  :   elegant or beautiful but essentially trivial writing. 

 

beat :   one-count pause in action or dialogue usually indicated with a dash or ellipses.  

 

bestseller lists:  lists appearing in Publishers Weekly, New York Times, USA Today and local newspapers of the most commercially popular books. 

 

bio : short summation of an author’s basic life and writing experience. 

 

biographical  novel :  fictionalized account of a true and documented life story. 

 

biography :  accurate telling of a person’s life story

  

black humor/comedy:  treatment of sinister or horrible matters in a humorous way. 

 

bleed :   copyeditor’s compensation for the cutting of a page’s edge to allow for the margin around the text or illustration on that page.  

 

blockbuster :   commercially successful novel with sales in the hundred thousands which positions it on national bestseller lists

 

blueline :   rapidly becoming obsolete, this is the book copy proof done in blue ink and used for the final review before the actual publishing of the book. 

 

blurb :   short copy on book cover or book jacket giving information about the novel or the author and may feature testimonials to promote the book. 

 

book  distributor :   wholesaler such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor dealing in large quantities of books and acting as a go between for publishers and book retailers. 

 

book  doctor :   skilled independent editor hired to offer story improvements concerning grammar, prose, plot, characterization, and dialogue.  

 

book  dump :   book display used to help promote a particular book or books. 

 

book  jacket or dust jacket cover:  loose printed paper covering on a hardback book.  

 

book  producer  or packager:  person working independently who puts together a series concept , contracts with a veteran writer, and sells the idea for an advance and royalties to a publisher

 

book  review :   published analytical evaluation of a novel by a book critique. 

 

book-promotion  tour :   personal appearances of author at bookstores and/or with media for the promotion of the author’s work. 

 

bound galley:  prepublication, paperbound novel made for promotion and book reviews. 

 

Bowdlerize :   story that has had important parts rewritten, especially sexual or violent situations, in interest of morality. 

 

brainstorming :   done alone or as a group, is a process of thinking about a writing project in order to overcome writer’s block or to develop a new concept by not dismissing even outlandish ideas until thoroughly considered. 

 

brand-name  author :   author with a large following whose works the publisher  considers to be consistently good sellers. 

 

breakout novel:  novel written by a previously published author that has sales far greater than expected, perhaps making the bestseller list, while the same author's previous works didn't sell exceptionally well. 

 

byline :   author’s name given as the creator of a work.  

 

 

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cardboard  character :   poorly portrayed novel character  that seems without life.  See three-dimensional character

 

case  bound :   hardbound, clothbound or hardcover

 

category  fiction :   see genre fiction

 

catharsis :   freeing or cleansing of the soul due to the reading of a tragic novel arousing pity or fear. 

 

chapter :  major division of a book, usually made up of one or more scenes.  

 

character :   any living thing in a fictional story

 

character  change :   important psychological transformation in a character brought on by story  experiences. 

 

character  sketch :   tool used by the writer to develop and keep track of a character in a story, by developing a character profile in which physical and psychological traits, background, etc. are listed. 

 

characterization :   creation and description of fictional characters to make lifelike. 

 

chronicle :   series of stories done in temporal sequence. 

  

Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) :  manual of writing style especially used by newspaper and media.  

 

classic :   work that has stood the test of time as a literary masterpiece. 

 

classical :   something that conforms to ancient Greek or Roman examples. 

 

cliché :  unoriginal and overly used phrase, term or description with none of the intended impact. 

 

cliffhanger :   suspenseful story buildup of dramatic question to a point where the climax is imminent and expected but the outcome unsure. 

 

climax :   high intensity action or emotions.  Usually a point where protagonist and antagonist meet for the final and decisive battle in a story.

 

closed punctuation:  use of formal punctuation rules according to a particular style guide. 

 

closure :   sense of finality or completeness at the end of a story.  

clothbound :   old publishing term meaning hardcover or casebound. 

 

co-authored :   work of which two or more writers have contributed. 

 

collaboration :   two or more writers (an illustrator may be included in some cases) working on the same novel.  

 

colloquial  language  or colloquialisms:  informal everyday language especially using terms unique to a specific region and sometimes considered slang

 

colophon :   a publisher’s logo and/or credits. 

 

comedy :   novel genre relying on humorous antics and unusual situations. 

 

comic  relief :   literary device using humor during or following a high-tension scene .  

 

coming  of age:  story about growing up or crossing a threshold. 

 

comma splice:  sentence using only a comma and no coordinating conjunction in order to separate two or more independent clauses.  This practice is prohibited in closed punctuation, but used often in the more relaxed, open punctuation style  of fiction writing. 

 

commercial  fiction :   popularly sold fiction. 

 

complication :  factor or occurrence that complicates the plot by adding an obstruction or challenge for the protagonist to overcome.  

 

concept :   preliminary story idea involving story situation and character

 

concrete  term :   noun that gives the reader a specific mental picture of the item described. 

 

conflict :   key element in storytelling, the situation involving a barrier to a desired goal. 

 

connotation :   implied meaning of a word that may be subjective and vary from person to person. 

 

consonance :   repetition of identical or similar consonants in words closely following each other, e.g. “bitter batter.” 

 

content :   storyline  of a scene or story. 

 

context :   setting where story or scene takes place and includes events that happen before and after. 

 

contrived :  writer intended surprise coming across obviously preplanned to the reader. 

 

conventions :   commonly accepted practices or devices used to tell a story

 

coordinating conjunction: the words for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so when used to connect two phrases, word groups or clauses. 

 

copyeditor :   editor responsible for correcting punctuation, grammar, spelling and inconsistencies in a manuscript. 

 

cover  letter :   letter accompanying a completed and requested manuscript acting as an introduction of the work and a reminder that the editor or agent solicited it. 

crisis :   decisive point where the final action is set in motion.  In some stories, a series of crises are linked together. 

 

criticism :   discussion of a story using reason, but always subjective. 

 

crone :   good crone is a wise old woman, whereas a bad crone many times is a female antagonist.  See death crone

 

crossover novel:  novel that successfully crosses genres, perhaps even from literary to a specific genre. 

 

crux :   part of a story sometimes difficult to understand, possibly because of ambiguity, but its understanding is critical to completely understanding the story. 

 

cycle :   series of works built around a particular subject or theme, sometimes written by several authors. 

 

critique  group :   gathering of like writers to review each other’s works and provide constructive criticism

 

 

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dark  (black) moment:  point in the climax of a story when the protagonist seems overwhelmed and can see no way to succeed.  The protagonist makes a decision that causes the resolution of the main conflict, ends the crisis and leads to a psychological change at the end of the story. 

 

death  crone :   female antagonist who is interested in the protagonist’s demise. Can be young and beautiful, old and ugly, or anything in between.  

 

declarative  sentence :   sentence that makes a statement or declaration. 

 

deconstruction :   story that ignores the conventions of its genre and shows them in a new light. 

 

dedication  page :   page preceding the start of the novel that gives thanks to those of the author’s choosing. 

 

denotation :   strict dictionary definition. 

 

denouement :  portion of a novel following the climax where loose ends of the plot are tied up, questions answered and clarified. 

 

dependent clause: subordinate clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence and depends on the remainder of the sentence to be complete. 

 

derivative  works :   translations, adaptations and abridgments of a novel

 

description :   showing of a person, place, or thing through the author’s prose, using precise, easily understood terms concerning appearance, sound, smell, taste and feel. 

 

detective :  who-done-it” novel genre linked closely to mysteries and with a detective protagonist

 

deus ex machine(de’oos eks ma’ki na):  Greek for “god from machine” originating from the times that an intervening god descended onto a stage during a play through mechanical means.  Today, it means an unlikely ending that is not linked to the plot

  

device :   technique used to create a desired effect. 

 

dialect :   socially or geographically influenced variation of a language as in phrases or word pronunciation used in a specific region. 

 

dialogue :   spoken words used by at least two interacting characters. 

 

dialogue  tag :   phrase inserted directly prior, during or directly after dialogue to indicate what character is speaking and sometimes includes how the words are said. 

 

didactic :   instruction given in a dull or overly formal manner. 

 

direct internalization:  character thought given directly, word for word, in present tense and first person. 

 

digression :   deviation from the central theme or plot to something, at most, distantly related. 

 

distributor :   business that buys books from a publisher and resells them to retail outlets and wholesalers. 

 

dot  the dragon’s eye:  from Chinese phrase hualong dianjing used in Chinese painting and translated as “dot the dragon’s eye, and it comes to life.”  Referring to fiction, this means that with a specific key detail, an otherwise lifeless, unrealistic story can become realistic and believable.  Adding detail not key to the story only makes the dragon’s tail (the tale being told) longer. 

 

double  entendre :   word or expression intended to have more than one meaning. 

 

drama :   storytelling made interesting with vivid, emotional conflict and suspense, expressed in real time, present story scene  with action and/or dialogue.  

 

dramatic arc:  single storyline in a narrative defined by a specific conflict or goal that is dealt with to a resolution.  It is not unusual to find more than one dramatic arc in a complex story

 

dramatic rights:  rights to a stage play or screen adaptation of a novel

 

dramatic  irony :   when a character’s remarks at the beginning of a story mean something different when stated at the end of a story.  Also refers to information provided the reader that isn’t known to the characters. 

 

dramatic  question :   events that cause the reader of a story  to wonder what will happen next. 

 

dynamic character: story character  that acts, goes into action, to help advance the plot. 

 

 

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Edgar  Awards :   group of awards established by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc. that recognizes outstanding contributions to the mystery genre. 

 

editor :   broad term for a person working for a publishing house who may be responsible for a number of different aspects of the publishing business.  Jobs may include copyediting, content editing, acquisitions, or production. 

 

editor of acquisitions:  see acquisition editor

 

effaced  narrator :   see objective viewpoint

 

e.g. :   abbreviation for the Latin term exempli gratia meaning for example. 

 

 

electronic  publishing (e-books):   publishing of novels over the Internet, on diskettes or CD-ROMs. 

 

em :  measurement of typeface the approximate size of a capital M, e.g. with twelve point type, an em is approximately twelve points.  There are twelve points to a pica and six picas to one inch.  The  

em  dash is used to illustrate a change of thought direction, a parenthetical explanation of something previously said, or to indicate an interruption of thought or speech. 

 

empathy :   the feelings created by the telling of a story causing a reader to identify with and have the same emotions as a character in a story. 

 

en :   an en is half as wide as an em

 

epic :   story describing great heroes and great deeds at great length, usually over a period of many years. 

 

epigraph :   quotation or paragraph at the beginning of a novel relating to the theme of the story

 

epilogue :   concluding section of a story giving information about what happened, usually to the characters, after the present story actions in the final chapter

 

epiphany :   sudden revelation, usually of great consequence. 

 

epithet :   descriptive adjective added to a person’s name, e.g.  Alexander the Great.

 

eponymous :   “name giving” referring to a story character ’s name being given to the novel, e.g. Tom Jones. 

 

erotica :   novel genre dealing with sexual aspects. 

 

escapist  fiction :   term referring to genre fiction

 

ethnic :   type of any novel genre in which the central characters are African American, Hispanic, Native American or any other specific cultural group. 

 

ethos :   distinguishing characteristics or moral element determining a character’s action.   Ethics. 

 

euphemism :   word or phrase used in place of a more disagreeable one, e.g. instead of died, passed on

 

experimental  fiction :   type of any novel genre that is obviously unusual in structure, plot, narrative technique or style

 

exposition :   description, explanation, or interpretation by the author giving requisite background information and introducing characters, at times effectively intertwined with dialogue and reminiscence (referring especially to a story’s beginning). 

 

expurgate :   removal of objectionable words, phrases or scenes without rewriting. 

 

exterior plotor actionplot :   action following the storyline of a novel

 

 

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faction :   information presented in fiction but is based on actual fact. 

 

fair  use :   refers to the amount of copyrighted material that may be quoted without infringing on a copyright. 

fairy  tale :   children’s fiction genre with magic, wizards, witches, fairies and/or talking animals and objects. 

 

falling  action :   action taking place after the climax of the story, usually made up of a change in the story situation, or reversal, and a resolution or unraveling of the plot—a tying up of the loose ends of the story. 

 

false  plant :   see red herring

 

fantasy  novel :   novel depicting unrealistic portrait of the real world. 

 

Fichtean Curve:  with the ideas of German philosopher Johann Fichte, American writer John Gardner coined this term for the charting of the reader’s emotional involvement in a story in a manner that is similar in appearance to Freytag’s Pyramid and seems to be a blending of it and Aristotle’s Incline.  Some sources also call this a story arc

 

fiction :  untrue account told as if real. 

 

figures of speech:  language differing from formal construction and order including metaphors, similes, axioms, hyperboles, onomatopoeias, etc. 

 

first  draft :   first typed version of a story

 

first  edition :   published, original and never-revised version of a particular title.   

 

first personPOV :   story narrated using “I” by main character in the story or one that has knowledge of it. 

 

first  printing :   first run of books of a particular title printed in an edition. 

 

flashback :   recollection by a character of an event previous to the present story

 

flashforward :   narrative sometimes at the end of a story giving a hint of what might happen with a situation or to a character in the future. 

 

flat  character :   character that is not fully fleshed out and doesn’t seem real.  Also referred to as cardboard character

 

Fog  Index  or Gunning Fog Index:  readability index using school grade reading levels to gauge.  A commercial novel  should be written on a fourth to tenth grade level.  

 

foil :   sometimes referred to as sidekick, a character or thing that makes another character seem better or more notable.  Sometimes the foil assists the protagonist to unravel the plot, helps in creating a more realistic protagonist, or is a vehicle for important analytical dialogue

 

foreshadow :   hinting of future events. 

 

foreword :   brief commentary in the front of a book. 

 

formula  story :   story in which the plot and characters are consistent with a set of guidelines required by a particular genre, especially common in romance  and male action/adventure .     

 

framed  story :   story within a story—the story usually starting and finishing at a point in time after that of the main story within it. 

 

frontlist :   usually the new titles published that are given the most exposure by the publishing house and have the most profit potential. 

  

Freytag’s Technik des Dramas (a.k.a. Freytag’s Pyramid/Triangle):  simple line drawing showing high point of an inclining line meeting a declining line of equal length that depicts a story’s rising action (incline), climax (apex—meeting of the two lines) and falling action (declining line).  

 

future  tense :   telling of a story as if it were to happen in the future using verbs in the future tense.  Very uncommon and difficult to pull off effectively, it is considered risky and experimental. 

 

 

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galley  proof :   preliminary typeset version of manuscript used for editing and occasionally sent out to critics and well-known authors for review (review copy).  

 

genre  fiction :   class or category of fiction writing including mystery, detective, suspense, thriller, romance, western, science fiction, fantasy and action/adventure

 

gerund :   verb with an -ing ending that is used as a noun, e.g., Traveling through the mountains is fun. 

 

ghostwriting :   writing of a story in which the credit and byline goes to someone else, perhaps a well-known celebrity. 

 

gothic :   novel genre, many times set in old mansion or ancient castle, involving an innocent protagonist being tormented by a very evil or supernatural antagonist(s). 

 

grammar :   rules and guidelines that define the basic structure of a language and concerns clear and precise communication. 

 

grand  guignol :   horror story  depicting blood and gore. 

 

graphic :   type of novel, typically in the action/adventure  genre, in which comic-like drawings are used to help tell a story

 

gutter :   space between columns of type especially between two opposing pages. 

 

 

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haiku :   Japanese poetry in a verse of three unrhymed lines with five, seven and five syllables respectively. 

 

half  title :   book page that contains only the novel’s title and nothing else. 

 

hard copy:  paper copy of a manuscript. 

 

hardcover :   book bound in hardback form. 

 

high  concept :   novel with a simple but compelling and very commercial plot.  Hollywood material. 

 

historical :   novel, usually epic or romance, which is set in a particular period of history. 

 

homily :   moral instruction or sermon. 

 

homograph :   two words that have the same spelling but sometimes are pronounced differently and have different meanings and origins, e.g. lead a horse and the element lead.

  

homonym :   two words pronounced the same, usually spelled differently and have different meanings and origins, e.g. the animal boar and bore, to drill. 

hook :   compelling part at the beginning of a story that draws the reader in to want to read more.  Also, hook can mean the concept or theme of a novel that sets it apart. 

 

horror :   novel genre involving horrific events, usually supernatural. 

 

hyperbole :   obvious and intentional exaggeration for emphasis. 

 

 

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idiom :   culturally specific phrase or term unrelated to what it describes, e.g. she kicked the bucket

 

i.e. :  abbreviation for the Latin term id est meaning that is

 

imagery :   description of a thing or scene given in colorful or expressive terms, metaphors, or similes to depict the image in a manner easily conjured by the reader. 

 

imprint :   publisher’s line of a particular type of book. 

                              

independent clause:  clause (word grouping containing a subject and a predicate) in a sentence that can stand on its own as a sentence. 

 

infinite-verb  phrase :   sentence introductory phrase which begins with the present participle form of a verb (verb form ending in ing) and indicates two actions taking place simultaneously. 

 

in medias res:  Latin term meaning to start telling the story in the middle of the action or a dramatic event.  This storytelling device is used to immediately capture attention. 

 

inner monologueor interior monologue (sometimes incorrectly called inner dialogueor interior dialogue):  see internalization

 

inspirational :  type of writing which incorporates a particular philosophy that may be adapted to the reader’s own life.   

 

interjection :   word used to express an emotion or surprise i.e. Hey! Darn! Wow! Oh!  Interjections should be used sparingly (if at all) in exposition and dialogue as they are generally meaningless and unimportant. 

 

internalization :   written expression of a character’s thoughts. 

 

interrogatory  sentence :   question. 

 

intrigue :   concerning a secret or intricate plot

 

introductory clause:  clause (word grouping containing a subject and a predicate) that starts a sentence but is dependent on the rest of the sentence. 

 

inversion :   reverse of the normal syntax of a sentence for dramatic effect. 

 

introspection :   internalized inspection of one’s own self. 

 

irony :   humorous, poignant or dramatic difference between what is said and what is meant, or the structurally expressed difference between what apparently occurred and what really happened. 

 

irony (dramatic) :  reader knowledge of a dramatic element of which the character is unaware. 

 

irony (situational) :  when the result of an action is not what is expected and may even be the opposite of what is intended.  This result can be humorous or even tragic. 

irony (verbal) :  when a character’s actual feelings are not consistent with what she says.  Dialogue might be sarcastic in tone to convey a disparity between character’s thoughts and the literal meaning of her verbalization.  

 

ISBN :   acronym for International Standard Book Number, which is a unique, ten-digit identifying number, used to catalogue books. 

 

 

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jargon :   words or specific terms used by a particular professional or social group, e.g. law, military or medical jargon. 

 

journal :   writer’s collection of thoughts, story ideas, observations and impressions. 

 

juvenile :   novel genre intended for children from ages two through twelve. 

 

 

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-K-   &   -L-

kitsch :   popular but worthless art. 

 

lampoon :   humorous, insulting attack on an actual person or event meant to ridicule. 

 

larger-than-life : usually referring to a character that is more dynamic, imposing, attractive and/or capable than most known real life people 

 

leading  (pronounced ledding):  white space between letters or lines of a typeset page. 

 

lead time: time from the purchase of a manuscript to the publication of the book. 

 

leitmotif :   recurring word or theme portraying a concept in order to tie a story together. 

 

libel :   defamation to a person or company’s name or reputation. 

 

libretto :   Italian meaning little book, the plot or storyline around which music is written.  

 

Library of Congress catalog card number:  number assigned by the Library of Congress (free of charge) to a book in advance of publication to help classify and to assist in ordering by libraries (see PCN). 

 

limited subjective POV :   use of only one viewpoint character  per scene

 

literal :   exact, accurate, without exaggeration. 

 

literary  fiction :   style of fiction writing, sometimes referred to as serious fiction in which characterization drives the story and is more important than the plot.  Emphasis may be placed on writing style and technique.  Seldom is this type of writing as commercial as is genre fiction

 

literature :   any body of work focusing on a certain subject or theme

 

local  color :   writing with the concern of describing the geographical setting (including population and their speech patterns) to give realism

 

logline :   one word description of a story

 

logos :  word or words, thought, speech or reasoning. 

 

 

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mainstream :   novel with broad appeal traditionally centered around realistic, everyday life subjects.  Sometimes mainstream is considered more literary, transcending typical genre novels. 

 

mass-market paperback:  economical softcover novel approximately four by seven inches and sold in grocery stores as well as bookstores. 

 

medical thriller:  sub genre of the thriller set in the medical field. 

 

melodrama :   sensationalized or exaggerated emotion or action lacking in realism

 

memoir :  telling of an event or events from a person’s life’s memories by recreating dialogue, characters and imagery while not focusing on accuracy but emphasizing the artful telling of the memory itself. 

 

metaphor :   comparison equating two unlike things using a form of the word is and without like or as, e.g. love is a rose. 

 

métier :   trade or profession in which one is most suited. 

 

metonymy :   use of the name of an object in place of another that is related, e.g. boat for ship

 

mid-list :   publisher’s commercially viable but not bestselling titles. 

 

minimalism :   terse writing using short descriptions and simple sentences. 

 

mixed metaphor:  use of two or more unlike metaphors, in part or in whole, in a comparative expression. 

 

MLA :   Modern Language Association of America, a style used especially concerned with documentation and used widely by students and scholars. 

 

monologue :   one character’s speech, either alone or with others, without interaction. 

 

motif :   recurring idea, subject or theme, e.g. rags to riches in many novels. 

 

motivation :   purpose driving a character into conflict or opposition. 

 

motive :   reason for a character’s action 

 

ms :   abbreviation for manuscript (mss  plural). 

 

multiple contract:  book deal involving two or more titles by the same author. 

 

multiple submission:  sending of more than one manuscript/story to an agent or editor at one time (sometimes mistaken for simultaneoussubmission ). 

 

Muse :   goddess who inspires creativity.  Nine muses were in Greek mythology. 

 

mystery :   novel genre relying on discovery of clues to solve dilemma. 

 

 

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-N-

NA  or 1st N.A.:  refers to publication rights in North America. 

 

narration :   composition or account of a story. 

 

narrative :   the telling of a story

 

narrator :   teller of a story

 

naturalism :   application of scientific objectivity in depicting life without idealizing or giving value judgments. 

 

Nebula Awards:  annual awards presented to science-fiction writers by the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.   

 

nemesis :   person or thing with evil intentions and in conflict with protagonist

 

net receipts:  amount of actual profit a publisher makes on a given title. 

 

neutered character:  character neutral in affection, not seeming interested in or perhaps even capable of love or sex. 

 

new age:  genre focused on contemporary culture, especially concerned with spiritual consciousness, reincarnation, astrology and meditation. 

 

Nobel Prize for Literature:  one of the most prized literary awards presented annually by the Swedish Academy of Literature.  

 

nom de plume:  see pen name

 

nonfiction novel:  work in which real people and places are depicted in fictional form in order to camouflage them or to embellish or better understand the facts. 

 

nostalgia :   personal, emotional writing of a particular time in the past dealing with people, events, customs and products of that time. 

 

notions :   ideas, beliefs or opinions. 

 

noun :   part of speech that is the name of an idea, place, thing or person

 

novel :  extended fictional prose narrative  usually at least 45,000 (some sources say 60,000) words long and may be as many as 200,000 words or more. 

 

novella :   short novel/long short story 15,000 to 50,000 words depending on source. 

 

novelette :   long short story of between 7,500 and 15,000 words depending on source. 

 

novelization :   adaptation of a movie into a novel

 

 

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objective correlative:  use of scene, setting, action, situations, etc. to mirror or portray emotions of a character (especially weather and character mood). 

 

objective viewpoint:  narration without characters’ internalization.  Also called an effaced narrator.  

 

omniscient POV:  telling of a story from a god-like, all-knowing viewpoint

 

onomatopoeia :   words imitating the sound they describe. 

 

open punctuation:  use of informal, conversational and relaxed punctuation. 

 

option clause:  clause giving the publisher first refusal rights for an author’s next book. 

 

outline :   general description only giving the main plot points by scene or chapter

over-the-transom :   submission of an unsolicited manuscript, referring to days of old when a manuscript was passed over the transom of an editor’s door. 

 

oxymoron :   combination of seemingly contradictory terms, e.g. bittersweet or sarcastically, military intelligence

 

 

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-P-

pace (pacing) :   rate of progression of a plot toward its conclusion as measured by the affect on the reader. 

 

paraphrase :  restatement using at least slightly different wording to make the original statement clearer and more succinct—to give the essence of what was said. 

 

parody :  somewhat humorous imitation of a well-known story

 

participial phrase (a.k.a. infinite verb phrase):  phrase beginning with a present participle, e.g. going to the window, he opened it.   

 

passive voice:  writing that is slow in nature due to sentence structure, word choice or use of any form of the word be

 

past tense:  telling of a story as if it has already happened using verbs in the past tense

 

pathetic fallacy:  attribution of human feelings and emotions to natural phenomena and inanimate objects. 

 

pathos :   art or event that, when viewed, stimulates deep feelings.  

 

PCN :   Preassigned Control Number.  A number assigned by the Library of Congress free of charge to help catalog books and for ordering purposes. 

 

pen name:  pseudonym, nom de plume or byline name used by an author other than legal name.  Can be an a.k.a. (also known as).   

 

periodic sentence:  sentence not able to be understood until it is read completely. 

 

person :   see point of view (POV ). 

 

personify (personification ):   to speak of a an inanimate object as though it is alive, or to give an object or animal human qualities. 

 

pica :   font measurement on written page.  Six picas equal an inch—twelve points equal a pica. 

 

picaresque :   novel with a scoundrel as its main character, e.g. Tom Jones

 

piracy :   unauthorized use of copyrighted material. 

 

pitch :   author or agent’s one to two sentence story summary  intended to entice a publisher

 

plagiarism :   direct quotation or obvious paraphrasing of another’s written word without accreditation. 

 

plant :   information placed in a story that will make future incidents work and be believable. 

 

plot :  carefully devised chain of events in which a fictional story progresses. 

 

plotline :   overview of the how and why of a narrative

 

plural subjective POV:  point of view of two or more characters given at collectively. 

 

poetic license:  writer’s unspoken privilege to deviate from fact to achieve a particular effect. 

 

poetic justice:  when good is rewarded or evil is punished in an especially fitting way. 

 

point :   referring to type/font size, twelve points equal a pica and seventy-two equal an inch. 

 

point of view(POV ):   perspective from which a story or scene is told. 

 

popular fiction:  see genre fiction or commercial fiction

 

précis :   see synopsis. 

 

predicate (simple): word grouping in a sentence containing the verb and its auxiliaries, e.g., could be done

  

pre-empt :   when a manuscript is taken off the table prior to an auction, normally by way of a major purchase by a publishing house

 

preface :   see prologue

 

premonition :   see foreshadowing

 

premise :   what a story is about, the idea of the story, expressed in a sentence or short paragraph.   

 

prequel :   story that is set before a previously published story with recurring characters and or theme

 

present story:  main body of a story in which the primary conflict exists. 

 

present tense:  telling of a story as if it were happening presently by using verbs in their present tense

 

press kit:  promotional package including press release and reviews used to help the author promote her/his work. 

 

prolepsis :   see flashforeward

 

prologue :   first part of a novel which includes important action taking place that sets up the main story of a novel.  Usually, the prologue is set at an earlier time than, a location distant from or includes characters apart from the main or present story.  Sometimes, the prologue might include showing a crime that the rest of the novel is focused on solving.  

 

pronoun :   part of speech that is used in place of a noun (antecedent ). 

 

property :   specific work of an author. 

 

proposal :   submission from an author (usually one with a good track record from previous sales) to a publisher consisting of a story treatment  and/or chapter-by-chapter outline.  

 

prose :   words not set in a rhythmic, poetic pattern that are used to tell a story

 

protagonist :   usually the central character in the story on the side of good and in conflict with the antagonist

 

pseudonym :   see pen name

 

psychological thriller:  sub genre of the thriller novel in which psychological aspects are key to the conflict and resolution of the story

 

psychic distance:  relative intimacy between reader and viewpoint character .   The closeness the reader feels to the point of view

 

publishing house(publisher ):   company that edits books, prints them or has them printed and then distributes them to wholesalers and/or retailers.  

 

Pulitzer Prize in Literature:  annual award presented for distinguished achievement in literature by the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University.  

 

purple prose:  overdone or overwritten, obscene or profane.  

 

 

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-Q-  &  -R-

query :   letter written to an editor or agent to elicit interest in a particular work. 

 

raison d’etre:  French for the reason of existence, referring to character motivation

 

reader identification:  when readers feel as though they understand, relate to, or even know a character as if it were a real and breathing human being due to well-done characterization

 

real time:  narration of the present story in dramatic scene as the action takes place. 

 

realism :   accurate depiction of the real world. 

 

ream :   five hundred sheets of paper. 

 

recast :   rework or redo a scene, paragraph or sentence. 

 

recollection :   the calling back to mind a memory or remembrance. 

 

recto page:  odd numbered pages on the right side of a book.  The first page of story narration of a novel is almost always a recto page.  

 

recurring object:  object, also known as a sacred object, that appears several times throughout a story to help bind story scenes and serves as a reminder or to symbolize certain plot elements. 

 

redaction :   editing or revising of a novel before final publication.  Also, the blacking out or deleting of sensitive information. 

 

red herring:  device used to plant information that is not critical to the plot but, to the reader, seems to be.  Used to throw the reader off track and help provide interesting twists and turns in the plot line. 

 

redundancy :   stating the same thing more than once, possibly unnecessarily. 

 

rejection  slip :   correspondence from an agent or editor to inform an author that her work has not been accepted. 

 

 

remainder :   copies of a book that did not sell well and are offered at wholesale price or less.  In which case, the author will receive no royalties

 

reminiscence :   memory or remembrance. 

 

residual  rights :   rights retained by the copyright owner. 

 

resolution :   untying of the plot, the tying up of loose ends at the end of a story following the climax

 

returns :   copies of a title that went unsold and were returned to the publisher

 

reversal : 1. story situation as it has been left after the climax, returning to a more ordinary world.  2. new roadblock, complication, situation or conflict that the protagonist must overcome just when it seems she has a clear shot at her goal. 

 

review  copy :   bound copy of a novel sent free to media sources and is used for promotional purposes and to elicit reviews. 

 

rhythm :   beat, sound, and appearance of a written story

 

rising  action :   portion of the story after the opening that leads up to the climax and that gives information and shows situations essential to the development of the plot

 

romance :  novel genre relating passionate love and heroic events with very emotional plot

 

romantic  suspense :   sub genre of romance that relies on suspenseful scenes in which characters’ lives are at high risk. 

 

round  character :   fully developed fictional person that is portrayed so adeptly in all aspects as to seem real. 

 

royalties :   percentage of retail price to be paid to the author for each book sold (and not merely placed in bookstores). 

 

royalty  publishing :   publishing of a book in which the publisher gives the author a royalty payment in consideration for each copy sold retail. 

 

 

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-S-

saddle  stitch :   stapling along the folded spine to bind some magazines and short books. 

 

saga :   Icelandic term used for a story about the adventures of heroic figures. 

 

SASE :   self-addressed, stamped envelope. 

 

scene :   1. continuous action taking place in the same setting and time.  2. aspect of description—the showing, in real-time present story, of an event as opposed to the telling of it in static exposition

 

science  fiction :   novel genre, mostly futuristic, relying on high-tech or scientific props and/or ideas and theories. 

 

second-level story:  refers to the inner, psychological lives of characters, sometimes called interior or inner plot

 

second  person  (POV ):   a story viewpoint  using you.  Storytelling to you

self-publishing :   when the author takes on the job of publisher and has his novel printed, acquiring all necessary numbers and copyrights, and marketing his own book. 

 

semantics :   contextual meaning or deliberate distortion or twisting of the intended meaning. 

 

sequel :   1. type of scene used as a transitional unit linking two action scenes that gives pause to reflect on what has just happened in the previous scene and provides motivation for what will happen in subsequent scenes.  2.  story published that relates to an earlier work, with recurring characters and or similar in theme. 

 

serendipity :   accidental discovery of necessary clues or facts, looking too easy, forced or unrealistic. 

 

series :   two or more novels usually by the same author with reappearing characters in different situations but usually with similar basic plots. 

 

setting :   location and time in which a portion of a story takes place. 

 

shelf  life :  amount of time a book stays on the bookstore shelf. 

 

show don’t tell:  storytelling convention concerning the conveyance of drama in scene in order to better depict a believable narrative. 

 

sibilance :   type of alliteration repeating hissing sounds, e.g. the slipper sank slowly into the soup

 

simile :   comparing of two unlike things using the word like or as, e.g. love is like a rose. 

 

simultaneous  submission :   submission of the same manuscript to more than one editor or agent at one time. 

 

slang :   colloquial expression, jargon or idiom used in place of more accepted language. 

 

slant :   specific approach, point of view, time, etc. to a particular story subject

 

slice  of life:  story set in a normal setting under ordinary circumstances, with typical conflict and familiar characters. 

 

slug line:  header placed on the upper, left-hand corner of each manuscript page other than the first.  It should give the author’s last name, first letter capitalized, a slash, then the title of the work in all caps. 

 

slush  pile :   where publishing houses’ low priority unsolicited manuscripts go to be reviewed by interns and low-level editors for consideration of being sent to deal-making editors. 

 

small  press :   publisher producing a small number of titles annually, normally five or less. 

 

soliloquy :   extended monologue or out loud expression of thoughts by a story character  without expectations of an answer, especially speaking to himself. 

 

specificity :   use of specific details and concrete terms in story description

 

speculative fiction:  story concerned with realities that are outside of the known, usually sci-fi, alternative history, horror or fantasy. 

 

spine :   part of the book separating the front to the back. 

static  character :   story character that adds little or nothing to a story. 

 

static exposition:  part of narrative that explains situations and gives information without using dramatic elements of action

 

stet :   proofreaders’ term meaning to disregard correction and leave as originally stated. 

 

stereotype :   an immediately recognizable, stock, overused and unoriginal type character

 

stilted :   forced and overly formal language for the story being told. 

 

stock  character :   expected type of character for a specific genre—in some cases considered stereotypical. 

 

stock  situation :   common circumstance in a particular type story, e.g. boy meets girl

 

story :   narrative written or told involving characters and situations and contains a beginning, middle and end. 

 

story arc:   continuing storyline in episodic storytelling such as TV soap operas and comic strips. 

 

storyboard :   board or drawing in which elements of a story can be displayed in order to better visualize its idea. 

 

storyline :  overview of what happens and whom it happens to in a narrative. 

 

stream of consciousness:  written expression of author’s or story character ’s thoughts without constraints of reason or time. 

 

structure :  way a story, scene or sentence is assembled. 

 

Sturm und Drang:  German play title which grew into meaning against established society which actually translates into confusion or storm and stress in English.  It became the name of the early eighteenth century romantic movement in German music and literature

 

style :   way in which an author writes considering word choice, rhythm, syntax, etc. 

 

style sheet:  set of guidelines issued to the writer concerning manuscript preparation for a particular publishing house.  It usually is mostly concerned with manuscript format but sometimes may include formulaic information for genres such as romance and male action/adventure

 

subject :   part of a sentence that names what or who a sentence is about. 

 

subjective  viewpoint :   narration using characters’ internalization to help tell a story and create more reader empathy for the POV character

 

subjunctive mood:  English language mood in which present tense verbs do not change from basic form to indicate the person or number of the subject.  It is used in clauses expressing something that doesn’t exist, especially when: 1. the clause begins with if or that, e.g. If I were president, things would change. 2. expressing a wish, e.g. I wish I were in Hawaii. Also used when:  1. expressing an urgent request, e.g. I demand that he go now!  2. following verbs indicating something that has not yet become a reality, e.g. I suggest the idea be discussed.

 

submission :   mailed or emailed manuscript or portion thereof. 

 

subplot :   plotline  involving characters, situations or settings not following the main plot but, usually, at least loosely tied to it. 

 

subsidiary  rights :   rights for other than original publishing such as movie, audio and book club rights. 

 

subsidy  publishing :   see vanity publishing

 

subtext :  story within a story, sometimes relating to theme—what the story is really about. 

 

summary :   see synopsis

 

superfluous :   unnecessary or excessive word, sentence, scene or chapter

 

surprise  ending :   completely unexpected ending, also referred to as a twist

 

surrealism :   bizarre, unreal, dreamlike happening. 

 

suspense :  novel genre relying on the building of fear, anticipation and uncertainty.  Also, an element of fiction in which the outcome of a critical situation is uncertain and the leading up to resolution is gripping. 

 

suspension  of disbelief:  willingness of a reader to accept the imaginative elements of a story and suspend what he knows to be true in real life in favor of briefly believing a fictional story as if it were true. 

 

Swiftie a.k.a. Tom Swiftie:  play on words using a dialogue  tag  with a verb or adverb that relates in a humorous manner with the dialogue, e.g. “That just won’t cut it, Bob,” she said sharply.  This term specifically refers to author Edward L. Stratemeyer’s character Tom Swift who commonly used this sort of pun in Stratemeyer’s stories.  This type of humor isn’t recommended for contemporary novels as today’s audiences are less accepting of the intrusive cleverness of the author (author intrusion) and more interested in the story itself. 

 

symbolism :   something described that has an underlying symbolic meaning. 

 

sympathy :   sorrowful feeling for, or an understanding of, a story character ’s grief. 

 

sympathetic character:  character whose emotions are evident in the storytelling, that has feelings of some kind for the other story characters and the story world. 

 

synonym :   word having the same or nearly the same meaning as a different word within the same language. 

 

synopsis :   summary of important plot elements, scenes and events in a story

 

syntax :   order of word types (subject, verb, object, etc.) in a phrase or sentence.  Also: dramatic syntax follows the form of character’s thoughts, objective syntax follows the form of action, subjective syntax follows the form of author’s thoughts. 

 

 

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-T-

tag  (character ):  giving a character a particular and easily identifiable trait. 

 

target  audience :  group of readers to which a specific novel will be of the most interest. 

 

tautology :   unnecessary repeating of an idea by rephrasing or using different words. 

 

techno-thriller :   thriller involving high-tech devices, computers, weapons, etc.  

tense (verb) :   time at which a scene takes place, as in past, present, and future.  See past tense, present tense, or future tense

 

tension :   effect created when readers anticipate action caused by conflict

 

terse  writing :   writing using active verbs and descriptive nouns, with minimal use of adverbs and adjectives. 

 

text :   word content of a novel

 

theme :   significance of the plot.  The consistent idea of impact throughout a story, e.g. the good guys always win or we all, eventually, pay for our mistakes.   

 

thesaurus :   reference book that lists synonyms and antonyms. 

 

third-person  POV :   story viewpoint  using the point of view character ’s name or referring to her/him in a form of she/he in the narration of the story. 

 

thoughtshot :   pause in story action  to reflect on a particular detail or event. 

 

three-dimensional  character :   fictional character that has been fleshed out and seems real, having believable characteristics and a past, present and future. 

 

thriller  novels :   high concept novel  genre relying on physical and emotional action and suspense with high stakes and huge risks affecting many lives. 

 

tie-in :   work introduced in two or more media such as when a novel has a movie tie-in

 

timeline :   chronological order of a story.  

 

timely stories:  stories that seem taken from the day’s headlines, that are topical, dealing with popular concerns of the day. 

 

title  page :   page at the beginning of a novel that includes the title of the work, the author’s name and other publishing information of the publisher’s choosing. 

 

tome :   volume of several volumes of work or a large, scholarly book. 

 

tone :   overall feeling of a scene influenced by and crafted with author’s word choices and narrative rhythm

 

top list:  publisher’s commercially viable, bestselling titles. 

 

tour de force:  French term used to describe an exceptional achievement by an author. 

 

touchstone :   test of genuineness or value. 

 

trade  books :   books distributed mainly through retail bookstores. 

 

trade  discount :   discount off retail price given the bookseller, usually 40 to 50%. 

 

trade  paperback :   softbound book that is larger than mass-market paperback  (about the size of hardcover) and uses higher quality paper and print, sold primarily in bookstores. 

 

trade publisher:  conventional, traditional publisher that produces books for the masses. 

tragic  flaw :  flaw in the protagonist’s character that leads to his initial failure to overcome the antagonist.  

 

transition :   passage at the beginning of a scene that helps the reader shift focus from the last scene and into the setting of the one to come. 

 

treatment :   initial brief narrative concerning the key story idea from which a novel or screenplay is created. 

 

trick  ending :   see surprise ending

 

trilogy :  single main story made into three parts for commercial reasons especially done in concern over story length.  Each is individually complete however, they have relating subjects or themes. 

 

triple  goddess :   three major female archetypes, being the virgin as a young female associated with white, the mother as a child-bearing woman associated with red, and the crone as a wise old woman associated with black. 

 

triteness :   unoriginal words or phrases that are overused and have lost their effectiveness. 

 

true  crime :   nonfiction story based on a factual re-creation of a criminal event. 

 

twist :   see surprise ending

 

 

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-U-

unconscious :   mental processes existing outside of awareness. 

 

understate :  writing device in which the writer intentionally does not emphasize or build up an aspect of a story in order to allow readers to create their own impact.  Not often done by beginning writers—is an admired trait among experienced authors.   

 

universal stories:  stories dealing with concerns that always find interest to a broad range of readers. 

 

university  press :   press associated with a university that publishes more scholarly work of narrower interest than the trade publishers

 

unlimited subjective POV:  point of view that shifts among two or more characters within one scene or paragraph. 

 

unreliable  narrator :   telling of a story by a point of view character  that does not have a clear understanding of the facts and thus may be in error. 

 

unsolicited  manuscript :   manuscript not requested by an agent or editor

 

vanity  press :  publisher that requires the author pay part or possibly all of the cost of editing, printing and promotion. 

 

 

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-V-

verb :   part of speech and part of a sentence that expresses action

 

verbatim :   written in exactly the same words as previously expressed. 

 

verbiage :   wordiness. 

 

verisimilitude :   semblance or appearance of truth, realistic, highly probable or possible. 

 

vernacular :  dialect or language common to a specific people, place or time.  

 

verso  page :   evenly numbered page on the left side of a book. 

 

vet :   submitting a manuscript to an outside expert source for review before publication. 

 

viewpoint :   see point of view (POV ). 

 

villain :   antagonist of a story.   However, the antagonist is not necessarily a villain, e.g. nature or an animal

 

 

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western :   novel genre set in western United States especially during the late 1800’s.  

 

who done it:  mystery story in which the perpetrator the central crime is unknown until the end and the mystery itself revolves around who is the perpetrator. 

 

wholesaler :   company that buys books in quantities to resale to stores and libraries. 

 

word count:  approximate number of words in a written work—usually most accurately counted by the “word count” function of the word processing program in which the story/document was made. 

 

worldview :   writer’s basic view of the world concerning morals, justice, politics, people and nature. 

 

writer’s block:  point at which a writer finds it difficult to continue a story due to lack of creative enthusiasm or satisfactory ideas. 

 

 

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-X-   -Y-  &  -Z-

yin and yang:  according to Chinese philosophy, yin is the female (sorry ladies), night, passive, negative force of the Universe in contrast but also complementary to the opposite force of yang which is the male, day, active, positive. 

 

young adult:  books targeting twelve to eighteen-year-old readers. 

 

zeitgeist :   story that captures the essence of a place or time. 


 


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