It’s important to know a few basic literary terms before you contact a ghostwriter so that the two of you share a common language. This helps prevent confusion, and it ensures that the two of you stay on the same page. You probably learned them in high school English class, but if not (or if you’ve forgotten them), here’s a quick refresher:


Tone – the overall mood or attitude of a piece of writing, mostly dictated by the author’s word choice. It is funny? Serious? Upbeat? Nostalgic?

Voice – the author’s own unique writing style as it is perceived by the reader. An author’s voice does not typically vary from one work to the next, so readers may start to recognize a specific author’s work. In the case of first person narrative, however, the voice may be determined by the character who is telling the story.

Point of view – essentially the storyteller. If the narration comes from a character within the story, it is a first-person point of view. If the story is being told by an outside source, typically the author, it is a third-person point of view.

Theme – a common thread that shows up throughout a work. A piece of writing usually has many themes.

Thesis statement – a sentence or paragraph, usually early on in the work, that determines and establishes the main point or purpose of the piece as a whole.

Audience – the person, or people, whom the author is speaking to or intends to speak to.

Protagonist – the main character or hero in a story. This is usually the figure that the reader ends up feeling the most attachment to.

Dialogue – a conversation that takes place between characters in a piece of writing. It is usually denoted by the use of quotation marks.

Conflict – the problem or roadblock that the protagonist faces. It can be a clash with another character or some sort of inner turmoil that the main character faces. This is something that needs to be resolved and is usually taken care of by the end of the story.

Climax – a point at which the plot of a story reaches its most intense, pivotal time. This is the part when most of the action takes place, leading to some sort of resolution that has been anticipated throughout the work.

Resolution – the point in which the conflict or conflicts are figured out and resolved in a story.

Nonfiction – a work that is based on real facts and actual events.

Novel – a fictional piece that is substantial in length.

Characterization – the creation of a character in the mind of the reader by the author. The use of words to paint a physical and emotional picture of a character.

Metaphor – an idea that is expressed through the use of other imagery.

Simile – a comparison statement that typically uses “like” or “as” to connect two elements. It describes one element by comparing it to something similar.

Personification – when an author gives human qualities to an inanimate object through description and word choice.

Even if you’re not going to be doing the writing yourself, it is important to be familiar with these basic literary terms. Having a good grasp of these concepts will help you work better with your ghostwriter and communicate with ease throughout the writing process.



About the author

Rachel Rachel Brownlow is founder and CEO of Your Written Word LLC, a ghostwriting company that helps successful and aspiring business leaders take their ideas from conception to publication. She has written, edited, proofread, consulted and/or created publishing proposals for more than a dozen nonfiction books. She also contributes to a variety of magazines and publications, including the Austin Business Journal, Austin Monthly, NSIDE Magazine and Georgetown View Magazine. You can find more of her work at