A Glossary of Writerly Jargon, Part 2

Some time ago I wrote a post sharing some writerly jargon: terms that writers use that you may or may not be familiar with. To follow up on that post, here are a few more terms that you’ll likely encounter in the author world: 

In Medias Res 

Latin for “in the middle of things.” It means to start a scene or a story in the middle of the action. Not necessarily in the middle of a heated battle, but for example, in the middle of a conversation or the middle of some other activity that matters to the story. Stories that begin with the main character waking up, getting out of bed, eating breakfast, and so forth can get things off to a very slow start and you risk boring your reader with unimportant actions.

Backstory

Backstory is the background of your characters; it’s what has happened to them before the actual story begins. Sometimes elements of back story make it into the main story and are very important (for example, in the Harry Potter series, the backstory of his parents’ death is vital to the story and is revealed in gradually increasing detail over time.) Backstory often doesn’t make it into the final story, though, and that’s ok. Either way, though, it’s important for the author to know some backstory about their characters and their world; this adds depth and believability to the story. 

Flashback 

Backstory is often revealed through a flashback in the midst of the story. A flashback pulls the reader out of the main flow of the story to share an important detail or event that occurred before the main story began. 

Info Dump 

An info dump is just what it sounds like: a large amount of information dumped into the middle of a story. Info dumps usually occur because the author needs to explain something in great detail. Sometimes with explanations less is more, though, and a lot can be figured out by the reader through context as the story progresses. I posted about info dumps here, during the April A to Z blog challenge recently.

Purple Prose 

The term “purple prose” refers to writing that is unnecessarily elaborate. Why use 10 words when 35 will do? some might say. Wordiness has its place (sometimes), but purple prose usually does not. A sentence, paragraph, or book that is so full of flowery, ornate, verbose writing that it starts to detract from the actual story or point of the piece is a bit too “purple.”

What are some other writerly terms that you wonder about, or enjoy using?

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