Every story has certain elements that “make” it a story. These elements are also present in novels, but they are more complex and drawn out. They are: Setting Plot Conflict Character Point of View Theme There are also smaller elements such as symbolism and foreshadowing.
Setting The time and location of when and where the story takes place, but there are things to take into consideration besides a year/era and a geographical location. Some things to consider are: Geography: Where does the story take place? Consider how a story in the deep south of the US would differ from a story in South Africa. Time: When does the story take place? This, too, will affect the timbre of the story. Different eras have different ways of looking at things. For instance, people living in the Victorian era would have a much different view of sex than people living in our time.
The weather: Is it raining? Sunny? Stormy? The weather often helps to set the next consideration-- Mood or atmosphere: What feeling is created at the beginning of the story? Is it bright and cheerful or dark and frightening? If a story begins, “It was a dark and stormy night,” what type of story would you expect to be reading? Social conditions: What is the daily life of the characters like? Does the story contain speech dialects or the dress, mannerisms, customs of a particular place?
Plot PLOT -- The plot is the sequence of events in a story or play. The plot has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The short story usually has one plot so it can be read in one sitting. Novels contain the same elements, but action can rise and fall several times. There are five essential parts of plot: 1. Introduction: The beginning of the story where the characters and the setting are presented. 2. Rising Action: This is where the events in the story become complicated and the conflict in the story is revealed . 3. Climax: This is the highest point of interest and the turning point of the story. The reader wonders what will happen next; will the conflict be resolved or not? 4. Falling action: The problems begin to resolve. The reader knows what has happened next and if the conflict was resolved or not 5. Denouement: The final outcome of the story.
CONFLICT: The plot needs conflict; without it, the story is dull and blah. A short story might have one central struggle, or there may be one problem with some minor ones. There are two types of conflict: 1. External - A struggle against outside forces. 2. Internal - A struggle within one's self. There are four types of struggles:1. Human vs. human (physical) - The leading character struggles with his physical strength against outside forces. 2. Human vs. Circumstances (classical) - The leading character struggles against fate, or the circumstances of life facing him/her. 3. Human vs. Society (social) - The leading character struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of other people. 4. Human vs. Himself/Herself (psychological) - The leading character struggles with himself/herself; with his/her own soul, ideas of right or wrong, choices, etc.
The plot or action would look like this on a line graph. The conflict escalates to a crisis, then is resolved. Crisis Conflict Resolution
Characters CHARACTER—There are two facets of character:1. The people in a story. 2. The characteristics of those people. Antagonist and Protagonist: The main character is the protagonist—often called the “hero.” The antagonist opposes the main character. Characteristics: The author will give the characters traits to make them seem realistic. There are several ways to portray the characters:1. Physical appearance 2. What the character says, thinks, feels and dreams 3. What the character does or does not do 4. What others say about the character or react to his/her presence and actions
Characters are convincing resemble or remind the reader of real people Characters are:1. Individual: round, many sided and complex personalities. 2. Developing: dynamic, many sided personalities that change, for better or worse, by the end of the story. 3. Static: stereotypical, having one or two characteristics that never change and are emphasized.
Point of View AKA : POV 1. Innocent Eye - The story as seen through the eyes of a child. 2. Stream of Consciousness - The unfolds just as the character sees and hears the world around him/her. The reader “hears” the character’s thoughts. 3. First Person – Told from the POV of “I.” This is limited to the action as seen by one person. 4. Omniscient- Third person, “he,” “she.” The author move from character to character, event to event, having free access to the thoughts, feelings and motivations. There are two main types of omniscient point of view: A. LimitedOmniscient– The reader sees only what one character experiences B. Omniscient Objective – The reader sees the action as if it is on film. There is no comment on the characters or their thoughts. The reader is placed in the position of spectator without the author there to explain. The reader has to interpret events on his own.
Theme The theme is basically the “moral of the story.” The title of the story often refers to what the writer is saying and various tools might be used to emphasize the theme: symbol, allusion, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, or irony. In reality, there are few themes that are repeated. Some include:- Things are not always as they appear to be - Love is blind - Believe in yourself - Don't judge a book by its cover
In Addition In addition to the elements, authors will use techniques to clue in the reader. Symbolism is important to the theme in short stories just as it is in poetry. Foreshadowing is often used to portend how the plot will resolve itself. When you read a book or watch a movie, whenever you say, “I knew that was going to happen” is either because of the foreshadowing or because the theme/plot is old and stereotypical.
As you read, keep these elements in mind and ask questions about them. Why does the author use a particular time period or geographical location? How does the narration or POV affect the story? Is the narrator reliable? If an element is missing, it affects how we view the story or the ability of the author. For example, if the conflict is not resolved, we feel cheated. We want everything tidied up at the end.
We will be reading some short stories and you will write a paper on a poem or story. One way to approach such a paper is to merely examine the elements and how the author uses them. Another would be to compare/contrast two short stories and the different styles of the authors and their use of the elements.