2 Plot: The Sequence of Events The Basic StructureIntroduction/ExpositionThe author introduces basic elements of the story—setting, characters, conflict—so that the reader can understand the following elementsRising Action/ExpositionThe author gives us more in-depth information on the introductory elements. He or she may also introduce additional conflicts to engage the reader.The Crisis/The ClimaxThe most critical or decisive point in the story—everything following is based on this element.The Resolution/The DenouementThe ending of the story—it does not have to be an ending in which everything is perfectly tied together.Some resolutions have Indeterminate Endings or endings without the primary conflict being resolved.Deus Ex Machina refers to resolutions in which chance or coincidence determines the outcome, often too heavily.
3 Plot: The Sequence of Events Authors love to tweak the sequence of stories so to capture readers. Below are some of the ways in which they innovate.In Medias Res (in the midst of things)Some stories begin with a key event and work backward. This is primarily to create suspense, interest, confusion, or wonder.FlashbackWhen the author moves to a time prior to the primary events of the story so as to provide needed information, develop character, distract, or create links.Framed StoryWhen the story is set in the middle of another.ForeshadowingWhen the author provides clues as to the outcome of conflicts or events in the story.
4 Conflict: What Drives the Plot The struggle between opposing forces is what causes the reader to keep his or her interest in the story. Typically this conflict is between the protagonist and an antagonist. There are several types of conflict, all of which are either internal or external: man v. man, man v. himself, man v. society, man v. machine, man v. god, etc
5 Character: Who/What Acts A fictional representation of a person, place, or thing. A character does not have to be human to be a character (Charlotte’s Web), but the character has to be psychologically realistic.Characters are developed through their actions, thoughts, reactions, physical appearance, speech, expression, and names. Every aspect of a character is vital to understanding him or her.In order to understand the character, we must try to understand what drives him or her, which is called character motivation.
6 Character: Who/What Acts Types of Characters (Characters may fit more than one)ProtagonistThe main characterAntagonistThe person, being, or force against the protagonistRoundA well-developed character. The reader knows the positives and negatives of his or her personality.FlatAn undeveloped or stock character. This person just helps to further the action. He or she may be so stereotypical that we already know what will happen or how he or she will react.FoilA character who emphasizes the protagonist’s qualities by representing the oppositeDynamicThe character changes throughout the course of the story, sometimes having an epiphany (a major life-changing realization).StaticThe character stays the same throughout the story.
7 Characterization: How We Judge The author’s quandary is how to show these elements of character. He or she accomplishes this feat in the following manners:Direct CharacterizationWhen an author tells us how to feel about another character via narration. Another character may also tell us.Indirect CharacterizationWhen we judge the character based on that character’s actions or words.
8 Setting: Where It’s At The time, place, and atmosphere of the story. Sometimes the setting is a character—most likely an antagonist.Not all stories place importance in the setting, but many do.
9 Setting: Where It’s At Three Elements of Setting Historical Setting You must understand the basics of the era in which the story was placed in order to understand the story. A character in a medieval story would behave differently than one in a modern one. Likewise, a character from 1950 would have an entirely different set of cultural norms than one from today.Physical SettingThe physical space in which a character lives is vital to understanding the story. Even the time of day can be vital—most ghosts are seen at night. Look for descriptions of the spaces in which a character acts and you may discover the meaning.Geographical SettingThe where is vital to understanding character. Just as you act and speak differently than someone from Hawaii, characters do as well. Look at the geographical setting in order to understand the context of the story.
10 Point of View: The Narrator Types of NarratorsFirst Person NarratorIf the narrator uses I or we to tell the story. This narrator may be a minor character, observer, or major character. This type of point-of-view is useful because it can create opportunities to use irony.Second Person NarratorThis is directed at the reader. You or Your is the clue.Unreliable First Person NarratorThis is a narrator who is completely unstable and creates a sense of disbelief in the reader. Think of MacBeth being told by Lady MacBeth. Unreliable narrators help us gain perspective into the purpose of the story.Third Person Omniscient NarratorThese are your all knowing narrators. They get into the minds and personas of several characters and help give insight to the norms of the story.
11 Point of View: The Narrator Types of Narrators ContinuedThird Person Limited Omniscient NarratorThis narrator can only get into the mind of one character, but remains outside of the story. This limits the reader’s insight as it only gives us one perspective, but frees us from judging the events from a skewed point of view.Third Person Objective NarratorObjective narrators remain outside of the minds of characters and the events of the story. It is as if the narrator is a journalist and must remain emotionless and opinion-less to the events.
12 Irony: The Twist Dramatic Irony Situational Irony Verbal Irony When the reader knows the outcome (or truth of some sort) prior to some of the characters.Situational IronyAn event or situation is drastically different from what the reader would expect.Verbal IronyWhen the narrator (or speaker) says one thing, but means another.
13 Symbol: The Clues to Theme An object, person, action, or place that has literal meaning in the story, but also represents something larger. A symbol may have more than one meaning or may connote multiple interpretations. All symbols fall into either of the following categories:Universal or Archetypal: A set of symbols that are a part of the human experience and are consistent throughout cultures.Grim Reaper, The Earth Mother, the Wise Old ManConventional Symbols: These symbols are only shared by those who experience the same culture.The Vapid Heiress, Snakes as Evil
14 Symbol: Clues to the Theme Types of SymbolismName SymbolismSometimes a character’s name can represent an aspect of their personality or a larger message in the text. Think of Pony from The Outsiders. A pony is a young horse, and though Pony the character is initiated into manhood, he wants to always be able to look at the world with fresh eyes—“stay golden.”Object or Action SymbolismObjects and Actions can be Symbolic. In Night, Juliek’s violin was a symbol of beauty and truth being destroyed just as Hitler destroyed the Jews. Also, the hanging of the pipet was a symbol of innocence destroyed.Place SymbolismOften writers place their characters in symbolic landscapes. The forest, for example, is often a symbol for mysticism and devilry. In Hemingways’s Hills Like White Elephants, the railway represents the crossroads at which the couple have arrived. They can choose to travel either way—just as she can choose to abort or not.
15 Theme: What’s the point? All literature is written for a purpose. Some fiction (most popular fiction) is only meant to entertain the reader; however, literature’s purpose is to reveal a truth about life. Theme is what separates Twilight from Dracula or an Eric Jerome Dickey novel from one of Toni Morrison’s. Theme is the central message of the piece or generalization that can be made based on the text. There can be more than one theme within a text.Theme is not the moral of the story. For example, there is no moral to Night, but there are themes such as there is no god in the world and human life is full of depravity and darkness. Weisel did not write that to teach us to be kind to each other, but to share a human experience.
16 Theme: What’s the point? You do not have to agree with the theme of a novel. Themes can go against every belief you hold. But, if there is evidence in the text that it exists, it does.Theme should be able to be expressed in a sentence. Instead of saying that the theme is godlessness, you should say that Wiesel expresses that religion is a myth because there can be no god in a world full of depravity and suffering.The theme should be a generalization. Notice that I did not refer to the Holocaust in the above statement. I could apply that theme to several novels because it is generalized.Avoid terms such as all, every, always, etc. Do not make a blanket statement.You must be able to prove theme. Use the text and those previous literary elements to derive the theme.Do not use a cliché to express theme. “Love is blind” is not a theme. It’s a cliché.
17 Style: How It Is Written Writers manipulate language for a specific purpose. Each word you read has been constructed especially to convey a particular tone via diction, syntax, and structure. Style also dictates tone—the narrator or author’s view of the subject, events, or characters.DictionDiction refers to word choice. It can either be formal (think Poe) or informal (think ).Dialect: When it is written in the manner of authentic speech.SyntaxSyntax refers to the order of the words. A single thought can be expressed in a variety of manners. Authors choose syntax to convey tone and contribute to the formality or informality of the work.The structure of the sentences dictates the tone.Stream-of-consciousnessThis is when a narrator speaks whatever comes to his or her mind so that we can get a realistic glimpse of the brain waves—sometimes neuroses—of the character, but sometimes it doesn’t always follow a specific pattern or train of thought just as you are now totally confused as to what this is talking about. My dog is looking confused too. I probably need to feed the beasts. I hope you ask questions if you are confused as to what stream-of-consciousness—or any other term—is or if you think you get it I am glad. Yay!
18 Style: How It Is Written Poetic LanguageRepetitionIt adds emphasis to a thought process, character, or situation. Sentences, phrases, or words can be repeated.AlliterationThe repetition of sounds allows the words to stream softly or harshly and creates a tone.ParallelismSentences are often structured so that they follow the same pattern. Look for series that have the same verb tenses and structures.Metaphors, Similes, Hyperboles, and Understatements all contribute to tone as well.Allusions—those pesky references to people, places, and major events always expand the reader’s understanding of the work.Imagery- the sensory experience of the work.