Fiction Writing Terms Explained

Fiction writing is a vast, complicated craft, with a plethora of specialised terms. It isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary to understand any of these terms in order to write good fiction. However, it does help to know what the terms mean, even if for research purposes.

Here is a list of commonly used fiction writer terms, and what they mean.


When telling a story, it is often necessary to give background information, relating to the characters or events at hand. In order to get this information across, it should be worked naturally into the plot or dialogue. This is referred to as exposition.

Bad exposition is when the information is not worked naturally into the story.

Flat Character

Traits, quirks, motivations and personality are what make fictional characters interesting. However, if a character is lacking these important factors, or otherwise seems bland and uninteresting, this is referred to as a flat character.

Giving a character a combination of relatable motivations, as well as interesting quirks or traits, will make them rounded, and more interesting.


Foreshadowing is a story telling technique used to hint at a future event that will occur. The foreshadowing can be used, technically speaking, to hint at any future event, but is most often used to suggest that a tragedy will occur in the plot.

For example it might be humorously established that a central character is constantly absorbed in their smartphone, browsing a mobile casino. Later, that same character may cosmetically miss an important plot event, due to once again being absorbed in their smartphone.

Freytag's Pyramid

Most know this as the basic, most commonly used structure of storytelling. Freytag’s Pyramid indicates that a story should first establish its characters and plot in the first act, reach a climax, then wind down to a satisfying resolution. The visual representation of this formula is depicted as a pyramid shape, with the climax being the peak.


Parody and satire are often used interchangeably, though do refer to specific styles of comedy story telling. A parody is an imitation of a particular style or genre of entertainment, with the flaws of the chosen target being heightened for comedic effect.

For example, a parody of an action film may depict the hero as being unrealistically impervious to bullets, no matter how many are shot in his direction.


Satire, on the other hand, is a similar technique, but focusing on real world groups, or situations. In the case of a satire, real world politics may be the target, with a comedic story making fun of how ludicrous various political situations can become.

For example, a satirical political story may poke fun at the American political system, depicting similar characters to those that are running for office stretch tents for sale in the real world. The fictional characters would be humorously heightened versions of the real world candidates.


The tone of a story dictates if it is a comedy, tragedy, thriller, horror, or any combination of multiple genres. Importantly, the same story can be retold with various tones.