Book Writing Terms You Should Know

If you’re writing a book for the first time, there are probably at least a few writing terms with which you’re not completely familiar.

We’ve assembled a glossary of common terms with brief definitions to help you navigate your way through this new venture. Click on the term to get more information on utilizing it in your own work.

Acknowledgments – A section at the end of a book where the author recognizes the people who have influenced the book or the author’s life.

Antagonist – The character in a story who opposes the protagonist.

Anthology – A published collection of poems or other types of writing.

Autobiography – A self-written account of one’s life from childhood to the present.

Biography – An account of someone’s life from childhood to present or death, written by an author who is not the subject.

Characterization – The process of creating a fictional character for a book.

Children’s book – A book intended for readers ages 3-8.

Climax – The point of highest intensity or action in a book’s plot.

Commercial fiction – A type of fiction intended to reach as wide an audience as possible. Often called genre fiction.

Conflict - Any struggle between opposing forces, often between the main character and someone or something else.

Dialogue - The written or spoken conversation between two or more people in a book.

Draft – A preliminary version of a book.

Exposition – The events at the beginning of a story that introduce background information, setting, and characters.

Falling action - A series of events after the climax that begin to wrap up the story.

Fantasy novel – A novel that takes place in a fictional universe, often inspired by myth and folklore.

Fiction - A written work that depicts imaginary events and people.

Flash fiction – A fictional story that is very short, typically less than 1,000 words, but contains all elements of a full-length fiction work such as character and plot development.

Foreshadowing – A writing device where the author hints to the reader what is going to happen later in the story.

Genre - Broad category or kind of book, often defined by the book’s subject matter or intended audience, such as romance, historical fiction, true crime, and self-help, for example.

Ghostwriter – A person contracted by an author or publisher to write or co-write a book, but goes uncredited upon publication.

Historical fiction - A novel set in a recognizable period of history, which often involves political or social events that were taking place at the time.

Imagery – A writing device where the author uses vivid and descriptive language to appeal to the senses and add depth to their work.

Libel – A written defamation or false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, or group.

Literary fiction – A type of fiction where style and technique are as important as the subject matter.

Manuscript – An author’s written work that has not yet been published.

Memoir - A nonfiction account of specific moments or events in the author’s life.

Middle-grade book – A book intended for readers ages 8-12.

Mystery novel - A novel where elements remain unknown or unexplained until the end of the story.

Narrative structure – The framework of how a story is told, including plot, character, point of view, setting, and theme.

Narrator – A character who recounts the events of a story.

Nonfiction - A written work that depicts real events and people.

Novel – A written work of fiction that is more than 40,000 words in length.

Novella – A written work of fiction between 17,000 and 40,000 words in length.

Novelette – A written work of fiction between 7,500 and 17,000 words in length.

Outline – A general description or structure to help authors plan their book before the writing stages.

Pace - The speed at which a story is told, including how fast or slow events unfold and how much time elapses between scenes.

Plot – The sequence of events within a story.

POV (Point of view) – Who is telling the story, done in either first, second or third person.

Premise – The central idea of a book.

Protagonist – The main character of a story.

Resolution - The final part of a book when the main conflict resolves and loose ends are tied up. Also known as a denouement.

Rising action - A series of events that create tension and lead up to the book’s climax.

Romance novel – A novel where a love relationship is the focus of the plot.

Science fiction novel – A novel that uses elements of science and technology as a basis for conflict or as the setting. Most science fiction stories take place in the future, but not all.

Setting – The time and geographic location in which a story takes place.

Short story – A written work of fiction between 3,500 and 7,500 words in length.

Style – An author’s word choice, tone, and sentence structure that work to establish mood and meaning.

Subplot – A secondary story that supports the main plot, often involving characters other than the protagonist and antagonist.

Synopsis – A short description that summarizes what happens in a book. 

Syntax - The way in which words and sentences are placed together.

Target market - A specialized, potentially profitable audience, characterized by a particular interest, topic, or subject, to whom you will write your book. Also known as target audience.

Theme – A story’s underlying message, or the belief/idea that the author is trying to convey in his or her work.  

Thriller novel - A novel that creates feelings of excitement or suspense and often focuses on topics of illegal activities, international espionage, psychology, or violence.

Tone - The way an author expresses her attitude through her writing using syntax, POV, and level of formality.

Voice - The author or narrator’s style of speech and thought patterns that convey attitude, personality, and character.

Young adult (YA) book – A book intended for readers ages 12-18.

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