Fiction Terms

In discussing fiction, you'll want to know the names for the various techniques of storytelling.  Here's a brief list of terms I find particularly important in writing science fiction and fantasy, with links to longer articles on how to use the individual techniques.

Providing descriptions of how individual characters physically move.  Think of these as stage directions.

The chain of x-implies-y as related to the events of a story.  Generally, past events have a causal effect on the events that follow.  However, Time Travel Stories often ask the reader to question this assumption.

Information which the narrator tells the reader directly instead of through dialogue or action.

In Medias Res
Latin for "into the middle of things," this approach to fiction involves opening the narrative with immediate action.  Background information is filled in later on in the story.

Information Control
The way an author chooses when to release information in order to maintain the balance of clarity and tension.

The telling of a story.  This also refers to all the text given by the narrator (i.e. all the text which is not part of the dialogue).  See also Linear and Nonlinear Narrative, as well as the Narrative Present and Narrative Past.

The order in which the events of the story are told.  This is not the chronological order of those events - instead, it is the order in which the narrator chooses to relate the events to the reader.  See also Story.

Point of View (POV)
The perspective from which the story is told.  This is essentially the identity of the narrator, as understood through the narrator's opinions and knowledge.
First-Person: The "I" narrator, usually a protagonist telling his or her own story.
Third-Person: A disembodied narrator who is not a character in the story, but rather refers to all characters as he/she/it.
Third-Person Limited: A disembodied narrator whose knowledge and perspective are limited to that of a single character in the story.
Serial Third-Person Limited: Multiple point-of-view characters are used throughout the story, usually no more than one per chapter.
Third-Person Omniscient: A disembodied narrator who knows everything about the universe of the story, and can relate the perspectives of multiple characters at a time.

The chronological (or causal) order of events.  Think of this as the "history" of what we're being told, as if we were to take each scene of a story and place it on a timeline - flashbacks and memories of the past would be listed first, followed by the events of the present.  This is how a person actually living the story would experience the events.  See also Plot.

The verb tenses used in the story to differentiate the narrative present from the narrative past.
Present Tense: Implies tension and immediacy, but can also set the reader somewhat on edge.
Past Tense: The tense used in most fiction, this provides the "storyteller feeling" of a tale that has already occurred.  Can also be used for the narrative present.
Present Perfect ("he has done"): This is still present tense, just indicating that something done in the past is indicative of the present condition.  Works best in dialogue.  Can't be used in narrative unless the narrative present uses present tense.
Past Perfect ("he had done"): Even-more-past than past tense, it implies that an event took place before another event.  This is particularly useful if the narrative present is told using past tense - it allows an instant indication for memories, flashbacks, and causality.