Literary Glossary: F–G

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Fable

A short story or folk tale, often with a specific moral outcome intended to instruct the audience.

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Fairy Tale

Stories either created or strongly influenced by oral traditions. The plots often feature stark conflicts between good and evil, with magic and luck determining the usually happy endings.

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Fantasy

A type of story that includes elements of magic in plot, setting, or theme. The story's main characters may or may not enter the fantasy world from the real world.

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The Fates

In Greek Mythology these three female figures were considered the spinners of the thread of life, responsible for determining a human beings span from birth to death. Their decision was final—no god could interfere. They personified “destiny” and each played a role in the process: Clotho spun the thread of destiny with a distaff to determine the time of birth of an individual; Lachesis measured the thread to determine the length of life; Atropos cut the thread to determine the time of death.

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Fiction

Literary works, most often prose narrative, that are imaginative rather than factual.

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First-person narrative

A story told from the viewpoint of a character writing or speaking  directly about themselves and their first hand experiences. It uses first-person pronouns (I or we) to provide an account of an event. The story, therefore, is colored by the narrator’s views and personality.

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Foil

In literary studies a foil is a character who shows qualities that contrasts with another character. The objective is to highlight particular character traits in the other character, usually the protagonist. The foil is often a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance their importance (i.e., Fallstaff to Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry plays). Though the term is generally being applied for a contrasting character, it may also be used for any comparison that is drawn to portray a difference between two things.

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Folklore

First coined in 1846 by William John Thoms, a British antiquarian. Folklore can be divided into its two component words, folk and lore. Folklore is thus all the lore shared by a particular folk.

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Folk Tale

A traditional prose narrative that conveys a story originating in popular culture, typically circulated and preserved orally.

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Frame Story

A literary technique, whereby a main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage for a second narrative embedded in it. The frame story leads readers from a first story into another, smaller one (or several ones) within it.

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Genre

In literary studies a type or category that a written work can be classified under because it shares the same general characteristics as others of that type (i.e., poetry, fiction, hymn, scientific writing, sermon, drama, and so on). The word genre come from the French meaning “kind, sort, or style.”

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Gothic

An artistic style characterized by melodrama, terror, madness, and irony. Southern Gothic, a specific type of the Gothic, is unique to American literature and includes elements of the "grotesque," deeply flawed and repulsive characters or situations.

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Graphic Novel

A type of book that, in the visual style of comics, presents its fully developed story in panels of juxtaposed text and illustration.

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