Monday, 17 November 2008

Words and what they really mean

An excerpt from The Offutt Guide to Literary Terms, author Chris Offutt explains what a number of literary words really mean.

Creative nonfiction: prose that is true, except in the case of memoir.

Memoir: from the Latin memoria, meaning "memory," a popular form in which the writer remembers entire passages of dialogue from the past, with the ultimate goal of blaming the writer's parents for his current psychological challenges.

Novel: a quaint, longer form that fell out of fashion with the advent of the memoir.

Short story: an essay written to conceal the truth and protect the writer's family.

Plot: a device, the lack of which denotes seriousness on the part of writers.

Chick lit: a patriarchal term of oppression for heterosexual female writing; also, a marketing means to phenomenal readership and prominent bookstore space.

Personal essay:characterized by 51 percent or more of its sentences beginning with the personal pronoun "I"; traditional narrative strategy entails doing one thing while thinking about another.

Literary essay:akin to the personal essay, only with bigger words and more profound content intended to demonstrate that the essayist is smarter than all readers, writers and teachers.

Experimental writing: the result of supreme artistic courage when a writer is willing to sacrifice structure, character, plot, insight, wisdom, social commentary, context, precedent, and punctuation.

Poem: prose scraps.

Prose poem: either a poem with no line breaks or a lyric essay with no indentation. No one knows.

Deconstructionism: A moderately successful attempt by the French to avenge the loss of Paris as the global center of literature.


BarbaraS said...

I was cringing before I saw what Offut had to say about the poem. Some would say that he's right... esp. about the prose poem ;)

Ossian said...

More literary terms: Why did the fictional chicken cross the road?

Lisa Alber said...

Funny! And I needed a smile. Thanks.

emordino said...

I reckon this should be taught on day one of any writing class. Not to mention undergrad course.

Emerging Writer said...

Great links ossian!

Newbie writer
To look in the mirror and think about all the other main characters and their relationships all at once!