Literary Terms

Jumping the Shark

A term used to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity, usually due to a ridiculous direction. (Entry)

The term comes from the 1970’s television show, Happy Days. It was immensely popular, but they had an episode where the main characters went to southern California on vacation and Fonzie, the guy in the picture, jumped a great white shark while water skiing. People thought it was so ridiculous and stupid, that they quit watching the show. Forever.

“Jumping the Shark” can ruin a perfectly good story. If all of the sudden the story goes in a ridiculous direction, people reject it. Imagine if in Outdoor Dude, Yewbie suddenly pulled a flying suit out of his pack and sailed out over the glacier like Superman.  It would seem so unrealistic, readers would say, “How stupid.”  That doesn’t mean you can’t have unrealistic things happen in stories. You just have to foreshadow them. The author has to establish early on in the story that the story is going to be unrealistic. All those Captain America movies are good examples. They’re completely unrealistic, but the writers make it clear from the beginning so that you can see them that way right off. But throw Captain America in the middle of Roald Dahl’s “Boy,” and all of a sudden you’ve “Jumped the Shark.”


Static vs Dynamic Characters

Dynamic characters change. The events of the story force them to change or grow. They’re usually the primary characters.

Static characters don’t change. They’re usually minor characters. They’re also called “flat” characters.

In Outdoor Dude, Yewbie is slowly changing. Derek is changing too. They’re dynamic. The challenge for me as an author is how to make Grampa more dynamic.

In Ringtone, characters such as Auggie, Madame X, and Ms. Edgar are all static. Although important to the story, they don’t really change or take action to change the outcomes. Cali and Penelope are dynamic. Cali goes from being technologically-challenged and fearful to confident, determined, and technologically capable. Penelope goes from being unaware of Cali’s needs to fully aware of what Cali has done and willing to accept it. Both characters learn lessons and change.

Epiphany: When a character suddenly figures something out.  When the “lightbulb” comes on, that “a-ha” moment. (entry) 

Cliché (klee-shay) — A cliche is a word, phrase, or idea that is overused. It shows lack of original thought. (In other words, don’t use them.) Modern cliches include phrases such as LOL and bruh.

Teach Students How to Omit Cliches


Not idiots, it’s idioms! An idiom is a figure of speech in which you say something that isn’t meant to be taken literally such as “It’s raining cats and daogs.”  Can it really rain cats and dogs? No (unless a bunch of airplanes flew over us and dropped cats and dogs out by the thousands, which would get all the pilots sent to prison and would probably kill lots of people on the ground, not to mention all the poor animals). Anyway, what it means is that it’s raining hard, but it is a figurative idea rather than a literal one. Copy the chart into your journal.

Theme vs Main Idea

A theme is the general topic or concept that is repeated throughout the body of the work. The main idea is more-specific. The main idea is the most important point the author is making about the theme. One theme in Room of Shadows is “Anger.” The main idea is, “If you don’t find healthy ways to deal with your anger, bad things will happen to you.” (Entry) 

All stories have “themes” and a “main idea,” and they’re often hard to tell apart. Look at this chart from It does a good job of showing the difference.

In works of literature (fiction books/chapter books/picture books), setting includes the time and place the story takes place. Setting helps create the mood or tone of the story. In Ringtone, the setting is the present (modern times) in a broken-down haunted schoolhouse. In Saving Sweetness, the setting is a small town in the old west, which means the distant past. Every story has “setting.” Copy the following chart into your journal:

Today’s Literary Terms post has to do with “Point of View,” which is also called “Perspective.” When we read or hear stories we have to be aware of who’s telling the story. For example, in Room of Shadows, David is narrating his own story. In Ringtone, Cali is narrating her own story. In Boy, Roald Dahl is narrating his own story. Those are examples of FIRST PERSON. We see the story through the eyes of that narrator. The narrator him or herself is the main character.

In Riding Freedom, Dr. Doolittle, and Keepers of the School, an unseen narrator is telling the story about the main character. That’s called third person. Harry Potter books are written in third person. Our two plays are written in THIRD PERSON. We see the story through the eyes of the main character, but the narrator is telling us what that character is seeing and thinking.

SECOND PERSON stories are more rare.  In these stories the narrator is speaking directly to you as YOU live the story. You’re the main character. Choose Your Own Adventure books are second person.

Here’s what to write in your journal:

The first image is your entry for Wednesday, April 22. The image below it shows some examples.

Stars can’t really wink….when we use a figure of speech like that, we’re using “personification.” We’re “pretending” an object or animal can think, feel, and act like a human. See the next image for more examples. Write the definition (above) and a few examples in your blue lit terms journal.