Help Me Build the Ultimate Glossary of Writing Terms
I still clearly remember the day I learned what “WIP” meant. I was a newbie on a writing forum, and everybody was using special writing terms like “WIP.” It got to the point where I wanted to scream: What’s a WIP? And why don’t I get one tooooooo? Then I googled it. Oh. Work-in-progress. That’s what it means. Of course.
As with any specialized occupation, writing comes complete with an equally specialized lexicon of its own. Now days, I take for granted terms like “WIP,” “MC,” “deus ex machina,” and “head hopping.” But there was a day when all I could do was slack my mouth and glaze out in confusion.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt this way.
Introducing the Ultimate Glossary of Writing Terms
A description of the actions (gestures, facial expressions, or even thoughts) that accompany a speaking character’s words. It is included in the same paragraph as the dialogue as an indication that the person performing the action is also the person speaking.
The opposite of passive voice. Example: Beautiful giraffes roam the Savannah. (active) As opposed to The Savannah is roamed by beautiful giraffes. (passive) In active voice, the person or thing performing the action serves as the subject of the sentence, whereas with passive voice, the subject is the person or thing being acted upon. In linguistics, the actor in a sentence is called the “agent,” and the passive receiver of action is called the “patient.” These are independent of “subject” and “object,” but which is which determines the voice of the verb.
A stylistic literary device identified by the repeated sound of the first consonant in a series of multiple words, or the repetition of the same sounds of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables of a phrase. For example: “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.”
An alpha reader is among the first to read a completed manuscript (MS) or work-in-progress (WIP) and is usually a close friend of the writer. The role of the alpha reader is to provide cheerleader-like support and encouragement rather than constructive criticism. See also: Beta Reader
A protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality. These individuals often possess dark personality traits such as disagreeableness, dishonesty, and aggressiveness. Examples: Captain Mal in Firefly or Holden in The Catcher in the Rye.
“As you know, Bob…” A method of dumping exposition through dialog, infamous for its awkwardness and lack of realism. It involves an otherwise unnecessary conversation between two characters that the author forces on them solely to inform the reader of what the characters both already know. Writers often choose this technique to avoid taking the reader out of the story to reveal important background information, but it usually works against them by taking the characters out of the story instead.
The additional parts of a book, appearing after the main body of the text (i.e., acknowledgements, historical notes, explanatory notes, end notes, an afterword, index, bibliographies, and appendixes). Also called End Matter.
Inserting information about past events or thoughts that shaped the characters or story world.
A term closely related to outlining. Basically, a description of the important action to take place in a story. May or may not be incredibly thorough, but is likely to hit the highlights of the important action of the story.
Beta readers provide feedback during the writing and/or editing process and are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes and problems with continuity, characterization, and believability. In fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.