Glossary of creative writing terms

A handy reference for writers and teachers of fiction and creative nonfiction

Jim Esch
13 min readJan 2, 2022


Good writers never stop learning. We want to make our stories better. Doing so requires critical tools for analyzing what works and what doesn’t when telling our stories. This glossary aims to give you the terms of art you often encounter when discussing stories in workshops.

The glossary of creative writing terms is focused on fiction and creative nonfiction. I leaned on the following excellent books for many of the descriptions. I have used them in the classroom and recommend them highly:

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Narrative Design
by Madison Smart Bell
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind

Teachers of writing, you are welcome to use and adapt these creative writing definitions for your own classes.

How to use the glossary of creative writing terms. It’s a handy reference. If you hear an unfamiliar writing term, you can run a search on this page and see if there’s a definition for it. Or you could skim the glossary, browsing for interesting terms, then apply them to your own writing projects.

The glossary is a work in progress. I update the list as I come across terms that have been overlooked. Bookmark this web page and revisit it on occasion. If you have terms you’d like to see added here, write me a comment. I hope you find it…