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The Seven Key Elements of Fiction



There are two meanings for the word character:
1) The person in a work of fiction.
2) The characteristics of a person.

Persons in a work of fiction - Antagonist and Protagonist

o One character is clearly central to a story with all major events having some connection
to this character;

o She/he is the PROTAGONIST.

o The character in opposition to the main character is called the ANTAGONIST.

The Characteristics of a Person
In order for a story to seem real to the reader, its characters must seem real. Characterization
is the information the author gives the reader about the characters themselves. The author may
reveal a character in several ways:
a) his/her physical appearance
b) what he/she says, thinks, feels and dreams
c) what he/she does or does not do
d) what others say about him/her and how others react to him/her

Characters are convincing if they are: consistent, motivated and life-like (resemble 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 – Stereotypes; they have one or two characteristics that never change and are often


What exactly is this elusive thing called theme?

The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme of a piece
of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.

In fiction, the theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented directly at
all. You extract it from the characters, action and setting that make up the story. In other
words, you must figure out the theme yourself.

The writer's task is to communicate on a common ground with the reader. Although the
particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story, the general

there is a shifting of time and this is the way we learn what happened and why. 4. events and details of a story are viewed. Exposition is the information needed to understand a story. good stories always have all the plot elements in them. Writers vary structure depending on the needs of the story. A plot's structure is the way in which the story elements are arranged. What Goes into a Plot? Narrative tradition calls for developing stories with particular pieces -plot elements . o What allusions are made throughout the story? o What are the details and particulars in the story? What greater meaning may they have? Remember that theme. Sometimes it tells you a lot about the theme. POINT OF VIEW Remember. all helping to inform and reflect back on each other. . But. the "why" for the things that happen in the story. It is simply one of the elements that make up the whole. Here are some ways to uncover the theme in a story: o Check out the title. plot and structure are inseparable. Sometimes these lead you to the theme. 3. is important to consider when reading a story. 2. someone is always between the reader and the action of the story. 4. That someone is telling the story from his or her own point of view. Resolution is the set of events that bring the story to a close.underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking. the point of view from which the people. in a mystery. It's not always a straight line from the beginning to the end of story. 1. Complication is the catalyst that begins the major place. o Notice repeating patterns and symbols. Sometimes. Also. This angle of vision. the author will withhold plot exposition until later in the story. Climax is the turning point in the story that occurs when characters try to resolve the complication. it keeps us interested in the story. be aware that a theme we determine from a story never completely explains the story. PLOT A plot is a causal sequence of events. The plot draws the reader into the characters’ lives and helps the reader understand the choices that the characters make. For example. 3.

CONFLICT Conflict is the essence of fiction. We learn about the characters through this outside voice.Types of Point of View: Objective Point of View With the objective point of view. It creates plot. Sights. has a limited omniscient point of view.What feeling is created at the beginning of the story? Is it bright and cheerful or dark and frightening? 6. Third Person Point of View Here the narrator does not participate in the action of the story as one of the characters. colors and textures are all vividly painted in words as an artist paints images on canvas. the writer tells what happens without stating more than can be inferred from the story's action and dialogue. . of a particular place)? e) mood or atmosphere . Setting is created by language.What is the daily life of the characters like? Does the story contain local colour (writing that focuses on the speech. stormy. etc? d) social conditions . we need to realize that what the narrator is recounting might not be the objective truth. etc. or omniscient. Omniscient and Limited Omniscient Points of View A narrator who knows everything about all the characters is all knowing. Many authors leave a lot of these details up to the reader's imagination. year. A narrator whose knowledge is limited to one character. First Person Point of View In the first person point of view. A writer imagines a story to be happening in a place that is rooted in his or her mind. the narrator does participate in the action of the story. Some or all of these aspects of setting should be considered when examining a story: a) place . mannerisms. We should question the trustworthiness of the accounting. either major or minor.geographical location. sounds. customs. The location of a story's actions. dress.Is it rainy. Where is the action of the story taking place? b) time . remaining a detached observer. 5. The conflicts we encounter can usually be identified as one of four kinds. The narrator never discloses anything about what the characters think or feel. but lets us know exactly how the characters feel. sunny.When is the story taking place? (historical period. is the setting. along with the time in which it occurs. etc. time of day. How many or how few details we learn is up to the author. When reading stories in the first person.) c) weather conditions . SETTING Writers describe the world they know.

or word choice. diction. calm or excited. imagery. theme. it tests the limits of a person’s strength and will to live. An internal conflict is a good test of a character’s values. The musical quality in language. The devices used to create the mood and atmosphere of a literary work. Elements of tone include diction. somber. adventurous. bring others around to a sympathetic point of view. consonance. An author's attitude or focus point toward his/her subject. Human versus Society The values and customs by which everyone else lives are being challenged. irony. In this concern. more than one kind of conflict is taking place at the same time. tone is the emotional colouring or the emotional meaning of the work and provides an extremely important contribution to the full meaning. or vivid appeals to the senses. In spoken language. symbolism. etc. the existence of conflict enhances the reader’s understanding of a character and creates the suspense and interest that make you want to continue reading. resigned. Human versus Self Internal conflict. Often. or it may be decided that society was right after all. The character may. Does he/she give in to temptation or rise above it? Does he/she demand the most from him/herself or settle for something less? Does he/she even bother to struggle? The internal conflicts of a character and how they are resolved are good clues to the character’s inner strength. on the other hand. . In every case. In this sense. facts that are included or omitted. syntax. 7. the tone depends upon the sounds of words. According to Harry Shaw (Dictionary of Literary Terms). it is indicated by the inflection of the speaker's voice. Not all conflict involves other people. assonance. The character may come to an untimely end as a result of his or her own convictions. 3. The emotional meaning of a statement may vary widely according to the tone of voice with which it is uttered. incredulous. their arrangement and their sequence. romantic. the grammatical arrangement of words in a text for effect. mocking or reverent. the tone consists of alliteration. Human versus Nature This involves a run-in with the forces of nature. Sometimes people are their own worst enemies. TONE In literature. 2. etc. On the one hand. we cannot really understand a poem unless we have accurately sensed whether the attitude it manifests is playful or solemn. tone can be determined by three points: 1. it expresses the insignificance of a single human life in the cosmic scheme of things. In poetry. the tone may be ecstatic. details. however. the speaker's voice can guide us to the tone. On the other hand. But. depressing. the tone can be realistic.Human versus Human Conflict that pits one person against another. metre. the correct determination of tone in literature is a much more delicate matter. In spoken language. imagery. Here. etc. despairing.

for example. a strict teacher.  Backdrop Setting: the setting is vague and general. interactive book) Characters 1) Types of Characters:  Protagonist (hero): the central figure with whom we usually sympathize or identify  Antagonist (villain): the figure who opposes the protagonist and creates the conflict  Foil Character: the figure whose personality traits are the opposite of the main character’s. This is a supporting character and usually made to shine the protagonist. usually toward greater maturity. The setting helps to establish the mood of a story. 3) The ways characters are revealed:  What the narrator says about the character  What the other characters say about the character  What the character says about himself or herself  What the character actually does Setting 1) The setting refers to the time. static characters or stereotypes): they have no depth and no change. and the general environment and circumstances that prevail in a narrative. the geographical locations.  Round Characters (dynamic character): they have more fully developed personalities. usually found in historical fiction. a helpful policeman. and an evil stepmother. 2) Two types of setting:  Integral Setting: the setting is fully described in both time and place. This type of setting is often found in folktales and . 2) The ways characters are portrayed:  Flat Characters (stock. The Elements of Literature Characters Setting Narrative Point of View Plot Conflict Theme Style Tone *Story Example: Goldilocks and the three bears (video. We expect the protagonists and antagonists to be rounded individuals who express a range of emotion and change throughout the narrative. timeless tale. we only see one side or aspect of them. Most supporting characters are portrayed in this way. which helps to convey a universal.

usually of chapter length. the narrator is "all-knowing"): the narrator is not a character in the story but knows everything about the story.  Omniscient Narrator (multiple points of view. For example. The omniscient narrator can show the thoughts and experiences of any character in the story. then follows the rising action through to a climax (the peak of the action and turning point). without being confined by the protagonist’s educational or language restrictions. and concludes with a zzdenouement (a wrapping up of loose ends). simply sets the stage and the mood. Episodic plots work best when the writer . It permits the writer the broadest scope. A plot is all about establishing connections. This type of narrative permits the narrator to quickly build a close bond between the protagonist and the reader. and showing relationships.  Limited Narrator (External Subjective Narrator. but not necessarily. "long ago in a cottage in the deep woods" and "once upon a time there was a great land that had an Emperor. Plot 1) The plot of a story is a series of interconnected events in which every occurrence has a specific purpose." Narrative Point of View  Internal Narrator (First-person Narrator. 2) Four types of plot structure:  A Dramatic or Progressive Plot: This is a chronological structure which first establishes the setting and conflict. suggesting causes. the protagonist. the 3rd person point of view): the narrator is not a character in the story but looks at things only through the eyes of a single character. often. tied together by a common theme and/or characters. the narrator uses "I" to refer to himself/herself): the narrator is a character in the story.  An Episodic Plot: This is also a chronological structure. This narrative point of view allows for a very personal touch in the story telling. but it consists of a series of loosely related incidents.

Flashbacks can occur more than once and in different parts of a story. Conflict 1) Common types of conflicts:  The Protagonist against Another  The Protagonist against Society  The Protagonist against Nature  The Protagonist against Self 2) A single story may contain more than one type of conflict. the nature of their existence. It permits authors to begin the story in the midst of the action but later fill in the background for full understanding of the present events.  A Flashback: This structure conveys information about events that occurred earlier. although one often predominates.  A Parallel Plot: The writer weaves two or more dramatic plots that are usually linked by a common character and a similar theme. wishes to explore the personalities of the characters. and the flavor of an era. . The conflict provides the excitement and makes possible the growth and development of the protagonist’s character.

poignant. It is woven subtly into the fabric of the story rather than being lectured or preached by the author. warm. Tone 1) Tone refers to the author’s mood and manner of expression in a work of literature. humorous. and the varied length of sentences. sentimental. love and friendship. agitated. underlying idea of a piece of literature. and swift action. sensitive. such as adjustment to society.  Prose has rhythm just as poetry does. We laugh at the tension resulting from something out of the ordinary. Children prefer a balance between exposition and dialogue. zealous. . not to the reader. Theme 1) The theme is the main. the use of repetition with a slight variation of patterns.  Longer sentences work best when explanations and descriptions are needed. 4) Dialogue: the words spoken by the characters. 2) Among the frequently found thematic issues in children’s literature are the problems of growing up and maturing. tension.  Humor can be either sympathetic or negative. The tone can be serious. caustic/sarcastic. usually to each other.  Humor is elusive. indifferent. 2) Humor:  Incongruity is the foundation of humor. passionate. didactic. and so on. Style 1) Word Choice 2) Sentence Length and Construction  Short sentences best convey suspense. 3) Exposition: the narrator’s passages that provide background information and/or introduce characters to help readers understand the events of a story. and finding one's place in the world. One prerequisite is that the victim must seem to deserve the fate or the harm must not be critical. Children especially enjoy dialogue as a realistic and convincing way of defining character.  Humor tends to be age specific. satirical. achieving one’s identity. Its rhythm can be produced by the juxtaposition of sounds.

http://www2. 4) Condescending tones:  Condescending tones are inappropriate for children's stories. placing the adult narrator in a superior position. or cynical tone is not appreciated in children's literature nowadays. a  For examples. name-calling.  Parodies can demonstrate the vitality of literature and can suggest new ways of interpreting old tales. usually using exaggeration for comic purpose. Ten Types of humor most common in children’s books ( jokes and puns. sentimental.nkfust. or the misinterpretation of language. 3) Parody:  A parody is a literary imitation of another piece of literature.htm . malapropisms (the unintentional misuse of language).  A parody implies a degree of sophistication that deconstructs the original story and depicts the characters from a different perspective. 1967):  Exaggeration  Incongruity  Surprise  Slapstick  Absurdity  Situational humor  Ridicule/satire  Defiance  Violence  Verbal Humor: word play. didactic.