Halloween Costumes by Carol Cassidy
There was no time in the room except dark and light. It was illuminated by the readouts of the machines she was hooked up to and the flickering of the soundless TV
She sat up suddenly from a half sleep. "Am I going to miss Halloween?"
"Halloween is next week. Honey. I'm sure you'll be home by then. They're just pumping this juice in your body so you'll be extra sweet."
She knitted her forehead in a frown. My small joke did not work.
"It's saline. Saline is salt. I'll be too salty by next week."
"Hey! Maybe you could be a pretzel! Anyway, there's glucose in there, too. And that's sugar. Who thought you could get more sweet?"
She lay back on her pillow with a half smile on her face.
"I could go as a chocolate-covered pretzel." We giggled.
"Or Rock Salt Candy."
"Or a salted doughnut."
"Or a margarita."
"It's a sweet drink with salt around the rim of the glass, so when you drink the drink, you get the salt, too."
"Mmmm. That sounds good. Can I try one?"
"I tell you what. The next time the nurse comes in to change your iy tell her you want a margarita in there instead."
Her eyes started to blink and close. She mumbled "OK" and turned her head to the side.
A few minutes later she turned her head back in my direction, her eyes still closed. "How can you make a glass for a costume?"
"We'll work it out, Honey. We'll work it out." I turned my head towards the TV so she could not see my damp eyes. I watched Lou Costello screaming silently.
Allegory — A narrative technique that uses characters to embody abstract ideas or conditions, usually for the purpose of teaching a lesson. Allegory works as a sustained, not necessarily explicit metaphor, sometimes through entire narratives. Allegory is often satirical. A classic allegory is John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.
Alliteration — Repetition of the first consonant sounds in words or syllables. Mary's flimsy fleece fell from her shoulders.
Allusion — A brief reference to a previous literary or historical figure or event, usually indirect. Western literature makes many allusions to the Bible and to the work of William Shakespeare. For example, in The Matrix Reloaded, the character Morpheus says, "I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me (sic)," an allusion to King Nebuchadnezzar from Daniel 2:3 of the Old Testament.
Analogy — A comparison that explains an unfamiliar object or event through its similarities to something familiar; for example, describing a heart as a pump.
Antagonist — Traditionally, the foil to a narrative's hero, or protagonist. The antagonist works against the protagonist. Often, this relationship elaborates the story's central conflict. A literary example would be the character Fagin from Charles Dickens' novel, Oliver Twist.
Anthropomorphism — A literary technique that endows animals or objects with human characteristics and/or human form. Disney characters are anthropomorphic, as are the characters in the youth series Redwall by Brian Jacques.
Antihero — A twentieth-century invention, the antihero is a central character who does not possess the typical qualities of a narrative hero, such as bravery and physical strength. Antiheroes eschew conventional ideals and question the status quo. Often, they acknowledge their positions as social misfits. An example is Joseph Heller's character, Yossarian in the novel Catch-22.
Archetype — Symbols, themes, or characters that embody universal human meaning. The term comes from the psychological theory of Carl Jung, who suggested that every human's unconscious memories arc preceded by collective unconscious memories of the human race. Archetypes in literature tap these collective memories and elicit powerful reader responses. Some familiar literary archetypes include stories of quests, initiations, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.
Assonance — The repetition of similar vowel sounds. That crabby cab driver bagged a tip anyway.
Autobiography — An individual's narrative account of his or her life story. An example is Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Bildungsroman — German for "novel of development," the bildungsroman is a coming-of-age novel, or a novel of education. Sandra Cisneros' House on Mango Street could be considered a bildungsroman.
Biography — A narrative of an individual's life story written by another person.
Character — A figure who plays a part in the events of the story. Characters are sometimes described as round or flat. Round and flat refer to the believability of the characters. A round character is multifaceted and complex, like a real human being. Flat refers to a character who lacks dimension, who may be a stock figure or a stereotype. Characters are not limited to human form. They can be animals, objects, and sometimes ideas, particularly through the use of anthropomorphism. Characters' actions become the narrative's plot.
Characterization — The process of creating believable characters in a literary work. Three methods writers use to characterize are 1) narrative description, in which the narrator describes the character; 2) the character's actions, speech, and interiority; and 3) other characters' responses to that character.
Climax — Traditionally, the climax is the realization of the story's conflict or tension. It is the moment when the rising action, or knotting up of the crisis reaches its greatest intensity. The climax signals a shift in the narrative, after which the story moves toward conclusion through the falling action. In J. K. Rowling's fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the climax occurs when Harry and his friends face the deatheaters in the Ministry of Magic.
Colloquialism — Less informal than slang, a colloquialism is a word, phrase, or form of language that is considered acceptable in speech but not in formal writing. Often, colloquialisms are particular to a specific geographical location or a group of people. Writers sometimes use colloquialisms in dialogue to specify a character. Mark Twain's dialogue in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn employs colloquialisms, particularly when Huck and Jim are conversing.
Conflict — The central problem in a narrative. The conflict can occur between two characters (traditionally the protagonist and the antagonist) or the conflict may exist within a central character's pysche. The conflict impels the story's rising action and indicates what must be resolved or shifted.
Connotation — The impression or implication a word offers beyond its literal definition or denotation. For example, the terms pig-headed and strong-willed both mean stubborn, but pig-headed implies condemnation while strong-willed gives an impression of admiration.
Consonance — Like alliteration, consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds. However, alliteration repeats the beginning consonant sound. Consonance can occur with any repetitive consonant sounds, particularly end sounds; for example, Anna's rock garden shook with the quafce.
Convention — A popularly accepted narrative device, style, or form. Often, literary conventions are specific to historical time periods; for example, the epistolary novel was a convention of the eighteenth century.
Creative Nonaction — "A hybrid of literature and non-fiction; combining the literary elements of fiction with the facts and information of nonfiction" (Savage).
Denotation — The literal definition of a word, distinct from the word's associative meaning or connotation.
Denouement — (Falling Action.) A French word meaning the unknotting, denouement indicates the movement toward a story's resolution. After the story's climax, the denouement often suggests a necessary shift within a character.
Description — Description is the writer's paintbrush. Descriptive writing uses details to elicit a scene or image in the reader's mind, often to evoke a specific emotional response.
Dialogue — Conversation between characters in a narrative.
Diction — The arrangement of words in a literary work toward a specific effect. Diction is categorized as formal, scholarly writing; informal, less structured but educated language; colloquial or everyday speech; and slang, which uses newly invented or coined phrases and is not formally recognized.
Didactic — An adjective that describes a narrative that seeks to instill some kind of lesson, usually a work in which the message is more important than the form.
Dystopia — The opposite of Utopia, a dystopia is an imagined world that is characterized by hellish conditions. A contemporary novel that depicts a dystopia is Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale.
Empathy — Understanding another's physical or emotional sensations, often due to personal experience with the sensation. A strong character is said to elicit empathy in the reader.
Epiphany — A moment of self-revelation that is triggered by a mundane, rather than dramatic event. James Joyce borrowed the term from religion and fashioned his fiction around epiphanic moments.
Epistolary Novel — A novel as a series of letters. The epistolary novel was particularly popular in the eighteenth century. A contemporary example is Ana Castillo's The Mixquiahuala Letters.
Essay — A prose composition with a focused subject of discussion. The term was coined by Michel de Montaigne to describe his 1580 collection of brief, informal reflections on himself and on various topics relating to human nature. An essay can also be a long, systematic discourse. An example of a longer essay is John Locke's "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding."
Exposition — An account of the information necessary to understand a narrative. A story may include exposition as an element in the rising action to present the story's character, setting, and conflict.
Fable — A narrative that imparts a moral lesson, often told in an engaging or humorous manner and with characters that appear as animals. Classic examples include Aesop's Fables.
Fairy Tales — Tales that feature mythical beings, including fairies, trolls, and elves. Fairy tales emerged from folklore in particular regions. In the 1800s the Brothers Grimm published their collected fairy tales native to Germany. Hans Christian Andersen was famous for his rendering of fairy tales. Contemporary writers often allude to fairy tales and recently, many have rewritten classic tales. Angela Carter's Heroes and Villains is an example.
Falling Action — See Denouement.
Fantasy — A form of narrative in which events take place outside of the known world, in fantastic setting, and with mythical or magical characters or creatures. Unlike science fiction, which adheres to certain physical "realities," fantasy is not limited to plausibility or even possibility. Contemporary fantasy examples include J. R. R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series.
Fiction — A narrative of a created or imagined world, one that is not a documentation of actual events or conditions. While a fiction writer uses elements of the "real world," and may base fictional events on actual events, a work of fiction is a creation of the writer.
Figurative Language — Literary techniques that disrupt conventional word order, sentence construction, and/or meaning to arrive at a particular effect or meaning. The opposite of literal language.
Figures of Speech — Writing that breaks with conventional structure to achieve an effect. Simile and metaphor are two primary figures of speech. Irony and hyperbole also are figures of speech.
Flashback — A literary device that recalls events or conditions that precede the present action of the story. Flashbacks often occur as memory.
Foil — A narrative character whose attributes contrast and emphasize qualities in another character. Professor Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes' foil in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's series.
Folklore — Stories (or myths) and traditions of a particular culture or group of people. Folklore is an oral tradition; that is, it is passed on by storytelling rather than in written form. Folklore includes legends, songs, and fables.
Folktale — A story that communicates folklore. Folktales can include legends, ghost stories, accounts of historical figures, and proverbs.
Foreshadowing — A literary device that suggests events in the narrative that have not yet occurred. Edgar Allan Poe used foreshadowing in his short stories to create suspense.
Form — The way in which a narrative is constructed. Form identifies genre. The novel and the short story are both narrative forms.
Genre — Category of literature. Genre can refer to form, the novel or the essay, or to a type of literature such as mystery or romance.
Gothic Novel — A novel that features horror, gloom, and/or the supernatural. Traditionally, the gothic novel has a medieval or medievally influenced setting. A revived interest in the gothic over the past two decades has introduced contemporary gothic novels that may not have an historically gothic setting but construct a story with similar elements of dread and terror. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a classic gothic novel. Writers such as Truman Capote, William Faulkner, and Carson McCullers use gothic elements in their fiction.
Grotesque — A narrative or a particular narrative style that uses freakishness, exaggeration, chaos, and sometimes abusurdity. Flannery O'Connor used elements of the grotesque in her fiction.
Hero/Heroine — The central sympathetic character (male or female) in a narrative. Traditionally, heroes and heroines embody noble characteristics such as courage and integrity. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is an example of a literary heroine.
Hyperbole — Deliberately exaggerated language to create a specific effect, whether comedic, ironic, or sympathetic. An everyday example is the phrase "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." William Shakespeare often employed hyperbole, as in Macbeth's speech after killing King Duncan:
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No. This my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 1)
Idiom — A verbal expression characteristic of a particular group of people or a specific language. Idioms are often confusing for nonnative language speakers because meaning cannot be inferred from the words in the expression. For example, a nonnative English speaker might be confused by the phrase lemon to describe a bad car.
Image — A detailed representation of an object or sensory experience. Images, while usually visual, represent the other senses as well. Images can be literal, in which the words represent an image through concrete, realistic description, or figurative. Image usually elicits the mood or emotion associated with the object being described.
Imagery — Images in a narrative; also defined as figurative language.
Interior Monologue — A narrative technique that reveals characters' thoughts and emotions at both the conscious and unconscious level. Interior monologues often rely on images. Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway relies on interior monologue to take the reader through various characters' perspectives.
Irony — The discrepancy between what is said and what is meant by a specific word or phrase. Three types of irony are 1) verbal irony: the writer or speaker says something but means the opposite; 2) dramatic irony: the audience perceives something that a narrative character does not know, and 3) irony of situation: an incongruity between the expected result and actual results.
Jargon — Language particular to a group of people, often a profession. Jargon may be unintelligible to people outside that group or profession.
Literal Language — language that presents an event, action, or condition without embellishment; the opposite of figurative language. For example, She ate the sandwich is literal language. She devoured the sandwich in a single mouthful employs figurative language (hyperbole).
Literature — In the widest sense, literature includes any written or spoken work. More often, literature identifies creative writing, including poetry, drama, and fiction. Literature also refers to broadcasts and oral compositions such as movies and television programs.
Memoirs — A form of autobiographical writing that does not necessarily center on the writer's personal life and times. Rather, a memoir offers the writer's impressions of a specific event, condition, or idea. A contemporary example is Mark Spragg's Where Rivers Change Direction.
Metaphor — A figure of speech that suggests an object, condition, or an idea through its equation with another similar or dissimilar object, condition, or idea.
Modernism — Modernism is often defined simply as modern literary practices. The term also applies to the period in modern history following World War I through the end of World War II. Modernists rejected nineteenth-century values and expressed their disavowal in writing that began to value form and language over meaning.
Mood — The emotional atmosphere created within a literary work.
Myth — Unauthored stories or legends of particular cultures or geographical areas. Often, myths explain the natural world, like birth and death, through supernatural phenomena. All cultures have their own mythologies.
Narrative — An account of a real or imagined event or sequence of events. Narratives can be as short as a sentence or as long as a book and include novels, short stories, essays, diaries, letters, and other forms. Narrative can be used as an adjective as in narrative technique.
Narrator — The teller of a story. The narrator may be the author or a character in the story through whom the author speaks. Huckleberry Finn is the narrator of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Novel — A prose fiction that emerged from the novella and other early narrative forms. A novel is generally constructed around a plot that develops around particular character action. The novel is most often cited as having emerged in the mid-eighteenth century with works such as Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson's Pamela.
Novella — Italian for new and for story, a novella was originally a long story. Contemporarily, it is a literary form denoting a short novel. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is considered a novella.
Onomatopoeia — The use of words that express meaning in their sound. Words that mimic the sound they describe, such as hiss, are onomatopoeiac.
Oxymoron — A phrase that combines two contradictory terms, such as mandatory option.
Parody — A form of satire that imitates the style of a well-known work. In so doing, the original is mocked or held up to ridicule.
Personification — A literary device or figure of speech that lends human qualities to animals, objects, or ideas.
Plagiarism — Using another person's written material as one's own or without crediting the original source.
Plot — The sequence of events in a narrative. Plot can imply causality, i.e., event B happens as a result of event A. Plot can be summarized as "the beginning, middle, and ending" of a story but plot is not limited by chronology.
Point of View — The perspective from which a narrative is told. Point of view can be the perspective of a character or multiple characters within the narrative or the perspective of the narrative itself. There are four traditional points of view: third-person omniscient allows the narrative to move in and out of various characters' con-sciousnessess, giving the reader a perspective that is not limited by time and space; third-person limited narrates from a limited perspective. The perspective may be that of a primary character or simply the narrative. Unlike third-person omniscient, this perspective limits the reader from seeing other characters' inferiorities. The first-person point of view relates events from the perspective of the main character using "I." The narrator in a first-person narrative should not be equated with the writer (except in certain nonfiction forms). The least common perspective is the second person. Second person employs the pronoun "you" and addresses the reader as if he or she is experiencing the story's action.
Virginia Woolf uses third-person omniscient in her novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a short story told in third-person limited. Many of Alice Munro's stories are told from a first-person viewpoint. Jay Mclnerney's Bright Lights, Big City uses the second-person point of view.
Postmodernism — The period of time extending from the 1960s that followed Modernism. Like modernism, postmodernism rejects traditional values and social constructions, arguing that all meaning is socially constructed. Postmodern writers expanded modernist literary exploration with increased emphasis on disruption of traditional language conventions. Postmodern writers include Thomas Pynchon, /Main Robbc-Grillet, John Barth, Kathy Acker, and Margaret Drabble.
Prose — Written language that represents ordinary speech. Prose is distinguished from verse because it is usually nonmetrical and not rhymed. Narratives, from essays to novels, employ prose.
Protagonist — A narrative's central character, sometimes synonymous with hero. Traditionally, the audience is directed to identify or sympathize with the protagonist. Sethe from Toni Morrison's Beloved is the novel's protagonist.
Proverb — A practical expression of wisdom or truth; for example: A closed mouth catches no flies.
Pseudonym — A "pen" name. Writers often write under pseudonyms to hide their identities. Stephen King has published novels under the name Richard Bachman. Anne Rice writes erotica under the pseudonym, Anne Rampling. In the nineteenth century, women writers often wrote under pseudonyms in order to publish their work. George Eliot's real name was Maryann Evans. The Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Ann, and Emily wrote as Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell.
Resolution — The "end" of a story. Typically, the conflict is resolved.
Rhyme — The repetition of similar sounds. Rhyme is classified according to where it occurs within a sentence or line. True rhyme identifies words with almost identical sounds as in boil, toil, and soil. Words that have similar but not identical sounds are referred to as near rhyme, sometimes called slant, oblique, or half rhyme. Examples would be care/car and ocean/Asian.
Rising Action — The knotting up of a story's action. Rising action builds toward the climax or the turning point of a narrative.
Romance — A narrative, particularly a novel, that highlights a romantic relationship and often uses idealized characters and setting.
Satire — A humorous work that ridicules or criticizes, particularly in order to affect change. Satire can directly address readers, and is known as formal or direct satire. Characters' ridiculous behavior can be a form of indirect satire. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is an example of satire, as is George Orwell's 1984. While Orwell's work is more grim than humorous, it is a chilling assessment of the political climate in which he was writing. A more contemporary, popular cultural satire is the animated television series, "The Simpsons."
Science Fiction — A narrative based in real or imagined technologies and scientific possibilities. Science fiction often takes place in alternate dimensions, space, and the near or distant future. S.F is sometimes called speculative fiction, after a 1947 essay by Robert Heinlein, whom some consider the father of science fiction. This is Heinlein's definition of science fiction: realistic speculation about possible...events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 are classic science fiction novels.
Setting — The where and when of a narrative. Setting includes the time period, place, and specific social context in which the action occurs. Setting also may include psychological environments. Alice Munro's early stories are set in rural southern Ontario, Canada; Junot Diaz' urban stories are set in New York City. A writer may choose a setting for the mood the setting invokes. Suspense writing often takes place in gritty urban settings. Adventures and romances often are set in exotic locales and horror stories in traditionally gothic locations.
Short Story — A short piece of fictional prose. Traditionally, the short story's scope is more focused than the novel and often elaborates one event or a singular character.
Simile — A comparison using like or as. As with metaphor, a simile usually compares two seemingly different objects or conditions.
Slang — Informal language that may include exaggerations or widely used words or phrases. WTiile usually not appropriate for formal writing, slang is useful for constructing believable dialogue. Slang can particularly identify a character's background or personality. A current example of slang is the use of way as an adjective meaning very.
Stereotype — A person or thing that is characterized as being the same as all others of its type. In fiction, stock characters, such as the boy-crazy teenage girl, have become stereotypes.
Stream of Consciousness — Like interior monologues, stream of consciousness writing reveals the inner landscape of a character. This technique attempts to represent consciousness as it functions without logical associations or language constructions. James Joyce's Ulysses is one of the best-known examples of a stream of consciousness novel.
Structure — The form of a piece of writing.
Style — The manner in which a writer uniquely constructs sentences, uses figurative language, diction, rhetorical principles, and other writing elements. Style also can be classified according to time period (Elizabethan or Romantic), authors (Jamesian), or language (expository, poetic).
Subplot — A secondary story in a narrative that motivates, complicates, elaborates, or distracts from the primary plot. In J. R. R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings, the development of the friendship between Frodo and Sam Wise is a subplot to the main plot of Frodo returning the Ring of Power to Mordor.
Suspense — A literary device that sustains the audience's attention through increasing tension toward an eventual outcome.
Symbol — An object, person, or a place that substitutes for or represents something beyond its literal meaning. For example, a skull and crossbones represents poison. Literary symbols often suggest a meaning rather than substitute for it.
Tale — A short, simply plotted story that relates a message.
Tall Tale — A comedic tale told in serious tones but relating ridiculously implausible events. This form has been popular in the United States with tall tales surrounding frontier life and legendary heroes such as Paul Bunyan and John Henry. Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi is a good example of a literary tall tale.
Theme — Traditionally, the main idea or ideas of a literary work; for example, the themes of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are love, duality, and fate.
Tone — Tone is often equivalent to attitude. A narrative's tone suggests the writer or the narrator's attitude toward his or her audience and also toward his or her subject matter. Tone can be formal, informal, satirical, comedic, and/or colloquial.
Urban Realism — Writing that reflects the often brutal reality of modern urban life. Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote as urban realists. Drown by Junot Diaz is a collection of contemporary stories that feature urban realism.
Utopia — A perfect society, particularly a fictional one. Sir Thomas More's Utopia is a classic literary example. Another example is Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland.
Verisimilitude — The appearance of truth. Verisimilitude in literature refers to writing that seems true to the reader and was of particular interest to certain Victorian realists such as Henry James.
Victorian Novel — Broadly, a novel published during the reign of Queen Victoria of England (1837-1901). Certain qualities are considered representative of that era, such as belief in social progress, materialism, and conservative morality. Many of these qualities were reflected, with varying degrees of critique, in the Victorian novel. While writers such as Charles Dickens and George Eliot were critical of the prevailing social climate, their work tended to reinforce the value of social progress. Other Victorian writers included Jane Austen, Charlotte, Ann, and Emily Bronte, and Nathanial Hawthorne.
Voice — A somewhat ambiguous term, voice refers to the unique characteristics of a narrative, including tone and diction. The voice of an individual piece of writing is not necessarily equivalent to the voice of the writer. Often, a young writer is encouraged to "find her own voice," which refers to discovering both a narrative style and one's own story.
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