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Fiction An Overview ENG 404: AP English Literature and Composition

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1 Fiction An Overview ENG 404: AP English Literature and Composition
Unit I: Genre Study - Fiction

2 An Overview of Fiction What is fiction? Elements of Fiction

3 What Is Fiction? Definition: narratives based in the imagination of the author, not in literal, reportorial facts One of the three major genres of imaginative literature Notes on fiction Writers of fiction may include historically accurate details, but their overriding goal is to tell a story and say something significant about life. The essence of fiction, as opposed to drama, is narration, the recounting or telling of a sequence of events or actions.

4 Roots of Fiction Rooted in ancient legends and myths
Local priests told stories about gods and heroes Travelling storytellers would entertain listeners with tales of adventure in faraway countries Legends and epics reinforced the local religions and power structures In the fables of Aesop and the parables of Jesus, a short narrative provides an illustration of a religious, philosophic, or psychological conclusion. Starting about 800 years ago, storytelling in Western civilizations was developed into a fine art.

5 Modern Fiction Fiction in the modern sense did not begin to flourish until the 17th and 18th centuries. Classical view of man: human beings are in a fallen moral state and need guidance of church and monarchy Renaissance view of man: humanity should be viewed with greater latitude; some people can become moral without control of church and/or state First true works of fiction in Europe were more concerned with adventure than with society or politics. Increased levels of education in 18th century facilitated development of fiction.

6 Edgar Allen Poe’s Theory of the Short Story
Described in a review of Hawthorne’s “Twice- Told Tales” Convinced that “worldly interests” prevented people from gaining the “totality” of comprehension and response A short, concentrated story was ideal for producing such a strong impression. Short, concentrated story = “a brief prose tale” that could be read at a single sitting

7 Elements of Fiction I: Verisimilitude and Donnée
Fiction, along with drama, has a basis in realism or verisimilitude. Creation of events that are anchored in the real world Fiction and drama as arts of imitation Donnée (“something given”), postulate, or premise Assumption that authors make about the nature of their story material “ground rules” for the setting in which the story takes place Once established, governs the directions in which the story moves Scenes and actions must follow the author’s stated or implied ground rules, even in works of fantasy fiction.

8 Elements of Fiction II: Character, Plot, Structure, and Idea or Theme
Character brings fiction to life Character = a reasonable facsimile of a human being Modern fiction developed alongside increased interest in psychology Plot is the plan of fiction Plot = actions and incidents as they develop sequentially or chronologically conflict = struggle between protagonist and antagonist

9 Elements of Fiction II: Character, Plot, Structure, and Idea or Theme
Structure is the knitting together of fiction Refers to the way a story is assembled Does not have to follow chronological order Idea or theme is the vivifying thought of fiction Idea = result of general and abstract thinking Fiction embodies ideas and themes that underlie and give life to stories and novels Issues Involve characters in direct or implicit argument or opposition Bring out crucially important moments of decision about matters of public or private concern Major themes tie individual fictional works together

10 Elements of Fiction III: The Writer’s Tools
Narration creates the sequence and logic of fiction Narration = the reporting of actions in sequential order Renders the story, makes it clear and brings it alive to the reader’s imagination Style is the author’s skill in bringing language to life Point of view guides what we see and understand in fiction Point of view = voice of the story, speaker who narrates Speaker or narrator may use authorial voice or a persona Dialogue creates interactions among fictional characters Acts as means of showing or actualizing rather than reporting May indicate traits of the speakers (intelligence, emotions, etc.)

11 Elements of Fiction III: The Writer’s Tools
Tone and irony guide our perceptions of fictional works Tone = way the author conveys attitudes toward readers and subjects in the work Irony = disconnect between what is and what is perceived or expected Symbolism and allegory relate fiction to the larger world Symbols may be cultural/universal or contextual Allegory = a complete story, which maintains its own narrative integrity, which can be applied point by point to a parallel set of situations Commentary provides us with an author’s thoughts The elements together are present in works of fiction

12 Writing about Plot

13 Plot: The Motivation and Causality of Fiction
Plot: the elements governing the unfolding of actions in a story Stories composed of actions/incidents that occur in chronological order Plot makes sense and creates meaning from these actions E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel Not a plot: “The king died, and then the queen died.” (lacks motivation and causation) Plot: “The king died, and then the queen died of grief.” (motivation and causation forms a plot) In a well-plotted story: Effects follow causes Nothing is irrelevant or accidental; everything is related and causative

14 Conflict Conflict: Conflict may take many forms.
The controlling impulse in a connected pattern of causes and effects People/circumstances that a character must face and try to overcome Conflict may take many forms. Man vs. Man Interpersonal Based on morality, emotion, or other impulses May play on comparison and contrast, centering on similarities and/or differences Man vs. Self Internal dilemma Based on making a personal choice May involve outside influences, but boils down to the protagonist’s own decision Man vs. Society Conflict between groups (or an individual vs. a group) May include cultural values and/or man-made institutions Man vs. Nature Opposing or opposed by larger forces May include conflict with nature (Earth, environment, weather), supernatural forces, gods, fate, etc.

15 Conflict Is a Key Component of Fiction
Conflict is the driver of plot because opposing forces Arouse curiosity (Who will win?) Cause doubt (outcome is uncertain) Create tension (tug-of-war) Produce interest (investment in characters, outcome, etc.) Without conflict, plot is less interesting and may not engage the reader. Plot w/o conflict: John and Jane meet, fall in love, and get married. Plot w/conflict: John and Jane meet, fall in love, but face complications and obstacles before getting married. John wants to start a family as soon as they marry, but Jane wants to focus on her career first They cannot agree, and the anger and resentment tear them apart Each one marries someone else, but is not completely satisfied Later in life, one is divorced and the other widowed; they reconnect With the original obstacles removed, they marry Regrets and lost time make marriage bittersweet, but they have found a happy ending

16 Find the Conflict to Determine the Plot
Identifying the conflict is the first step to outlining the plot. 1. Identify the conflict 2. Find the points at which the conflict begins (initiating event) and is resolved (climax). 3. Classify all other events based on these two points

17 Writing about the Plot of a Story
An essay about plot is really an analysis of the conflict and its developments. The essay should develop from elements of the conflict, not from events in the plot. Strategies for Organizing Ideas Be selective. Rather than describe everything a major character does, focus on the major elements of his/her conflict. Take a broader view. Analyze the plot in terms of impulses, goals, values, issues, and historical perspectives that cause events, rather than just the events themselves. In your conclusion, you might Consider the impact or effect produced by the conflict Discuss if the arrangement of story elements produces bias Evaluate whether the plot is possible/impossible, serious/comedic, fair/unfair, powerful/weak, etc.

18 Questions for Discovering Ideas
Who are the major and minor characters, and how do their characteristics put them in conflict? How can you describe the conflict or conflicts? How does the story’s action grow out of the major conflict? If the conflict stems from contrasting ideas or values, what are these, and how are they brought out? What problems do the major characters face? How do the characters deal with these problems? How do the major characters achieve (or not achieve) their major goal(s)? What obstacles do they overcome? What obstacles overcome them or alter them? At the end, are the characters successful or unsuccessful, happy or unhappy, satisfied or dissatisfied, changed or unchanged, enlightened or ignorant? How has the resolution of the major conflict produced these results?

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