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Writing Glossary

Alpha: A strong, dominant, and take charge kind of character.


Advanced reader copy (ARC): A free book sent to a reviewer before being published.


Antagonist: The character who comes into conflict with the protagonist, creating an obstacle or multiple obstacles for them. It can also be a thing or situation such as a monster, a storm, etc.

Backlist: Books which have already been published by an author or publisher.


Backstory: The history and past of a character that affects his or her actions in a story.


Beat: A point of action that advances the plot of a story.


Beat sheet: A tool a writer can use to help plan and sequence a story.


Beta: A character who is secure in their personality and doesn’t feel the need to dominate their partner.


Beta reader: An early reader who gives feedback to an author on their unpublished work.


Black moment: The point of a story when all hope seems lost for the protagonist.

Book boyfriend: The fictional hero you want for yourself.

Category romance: A short romance novel (around 55k words) categorized by tropes and heat level by a publisher's line.


Catnip: A trope that a reader always wants to read more of.


Cinnamon roll: A male character who is considered to be sweet, in touch with his feelings, and there for his partner emotionally.


Climax: The highest point of drama and tension in a story.

Comp: A comparison title used to give agents, editors, or readers an idea what the book is like.


Conflict: The struggle, disagreement, or a difference between opposing forces that is at the center of a story, either externally or internally.

Core conflict: The major problem or issue at the center of a story.


Critique partner (CP): A writer with whom another writer shares and critiques work on a regular basis.

Exposition: Narrative intended solely to convey information to the reader.


External conflict: The struggle between a person and an outside force in a story. It can be divided into three types: character vs. character, character vs. nature, and character vs. society.


Female/female (F/F): A subgenre featuring two female leads.

Filter words: The specific words used to create narrative distance in the point-of-view character.


Flashback: A scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point in a story, often to provide backstory.


Foreshadowing: The act of suggesting something will happen in the story.

Freestyler: A writer who writes out of chronological order and arranges the book afterward.

Genre: A category or novel type, such as romance, mystery, or fantasy.

Goal: What a character wants.


Happily ever after (HEA): A story ending with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending, usually with the couple engaged or married.


Happy for now (HFN): A story ending with the couple together and happy.


Head-hopping: This is when an author suddenly changes the viewpoint character within a single scene.


Heat level: This refers to how much sex or passion there is in a romance story. It ranges from sweet romance, where pretty much everything happens behind closed doors, to erotica, where everything is shown.


Hero: The male main character in a traditional romance story.


Heroine: The female main character in a traditional romance story.


Hook: An element that grabs the reader and makes them want to read on.


Inciting moment: The moment that triggers the core conflict of the story and draws the protagonist in the plot.

Instalove: When one or both love interests immediately falls for the other without an emotional struggle.


Internal conflict: The struggle within a character in a story.

Logline: A one-sentence description of a story.


Male/male (M/M): A subgenre featuring two male leads.

Market: The demographic traits of the target audience for a story, such as adult or young adult.

May-December romance: A relationship spanning a large age gap.


Meet-cute: The first meeting of the two main characters.

Narrative distance: The distance between the reader and the point-of-view character.

Narrative drive: The sense that the plot is moving forward.


Narrator: The person or character who tells and explains the story.


New adult: A category of fiction featuring main characters between 18 and 30 years of age.


Novella: Typically between 17,000 and 40,000 words, a story with a fully developed theme that is longer than a short story and shorter than a novel.

Outline: The structured overview of how a story will unfold.

Pacing: The speed of a story, or how quickly it moves.


Pantser: A writer who writes without a plan, i.e. by the seat of their pants.


Paranormal romance (PNR): A subgenre featuring supernatural elements.


Plot: The direction of a story’s main events and incidents and how they relate to one another.


Plotter: A writer who plans out a story before they start writing.


Point of view (POV): The perspective from which a story is told or narrated. Options include first person (I/me), second person (you), and third person (he/she).

Premise: The general description of the story.


Protagonist: The main character in a story.

Query letter: A one-page letter used to describe a story when submitting a manuscript to an agent or editor.


Regency romance: A subgenre set during the period of British regency (the early 19th century) that has its own plot and stylistic conventions.


Resolution: The point in a story when an answer or solution is found to the conflict or problem.

Scene: An individual moment in a story.

Sequel: A second book that continues where the first book left off.

Series: Multiple books using the same characters and/or world.


Setting: The time, place, and conditions in which a story takes place.


Short story: A story that has a fully developed theme but is significantly shorter than a novel.


Show don’t tell: A writing technique in which a story and characters are experienced through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description.

Slow burn: A relationship that takes a while to get going.

Stakes: What consequences the protagonist will face if they fail to reach their goal.

Stand-alone: A novel that contains one complete story in one book.

Sweet romance: A feel-good romance without sex.


Syntax: The arrangement of words and phrases in creating sentences.

Tension: The sense of something about to happen that keeps readers reading.


Theme: The main idea or underlying meaning of a story.


Tone: The attitude of the writer toward the subject or audience, generally conveyed through the choice of words.

Trilogy: A story told over the course of three books.


Trope: A familiar and common plot device used in storytelling.

Word count: The number of words contained in a story.


Work in progress (WIP): An unfinished story that is still being added to or developed.


Young adult: A category of fiction featuring main characters between 12 and 18 years of age.