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Breaking Down the Elements of the Short Story

Alan Hooten

on 17 September 2015

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Transcript of Copy of SHORT STORY UNIT

like readers and writers.
Thinking intelligently about literature
Was Gus conflicted in any way?
How does Gus act? What do his actions reveal about who he is?
Direct v. Indirect Characterization
A Dynamic Character changes throughout the course of the story, usually as a result of facing a conflict.
A Static Character is the same at the beginning of the story that he/she was at the beginning.
What were the writers of this short trying to communicate about Gus through his appearance?
Let's talk about Gus.
The most effective way to analyze a character: ASK MEANINGFUL QUESTIONS!
What were the authors trying to communicate about Peck based on his physical appearance?
What do his actions tell us about who he is?
Did Peck have any internal conflict?
Direct Characterization:
Indirect Characterization:
The author explicitly tells us specific aspects and traits about the character.
The audience must infer (or intelligently decide) which traits a character has based on speech/dialogue, thoughts/feelings, other character's opinions, thoughts, or actions towards our character.

This type of trait is revealed through the character's actions, thoughts, mood, or emotions. It can also be inferred by how others treat and perceive the character.
What direct characterization is visible in this scene? (Physical Traits)
What indirect characterization can you infer from this scene?
Up's short:
When Peck, Gus's stork, leaves to talk with another cloud, how does Gus react?
Character development is important, otherwise characters are flat and boring. Lively
characters that grow, morph, do the unexpected, and/or change
are much more exciting. They help move the story, as the story moves them. They're traits are directly connected to the plot and conflict.
Gus has changes in his emotional state, he's not static and boring.
Physical Attributes
Speech/Dialogue & Actions
Other's Opinions, Beliefs, & Actions Toward Our Character
Inner Thoughts & Emotions/Feelings
4 Methods Authors Use to Develop Characters
This ties hand-in-hand with inner thoughts/feelings!
Gus has emotional ups and downs within the short, which makes him more interesting, allows the audience to feel empathy towards him, and most of all - makes Gus believable.
Physical attributes: hair (or lack of) & color, height & weight (body size), skin color, eye color, age, clothing, texture of character, and any other unique qualities that describe the character through one of the senses.
Things a character says and does reveals the type of character they are

When characters speak, we [the audience] can make inferences about them. We can be the judge of their actions (if they are moral or immoral).

There is typically a reason why characters do what they do, and the audience can characterize, or label, the specific character according to their actions.
The way
interact with the character

(or view the character) can give insight into the thoughts of and traits of that character.
Are others drawn to the character? Are they afraid of the character? Do some seek advice from the character?
Internal thought [internal monologues]; traits that can be inferred by what the character says, does, or thinks; facial expressions can help the audience make judgements about the character.
Let's take a look at the characters from the Pixar short we just watched, Partly Cloudy.
A Flat Character is basic and simple, known for only one particular trait.
A Round Character is known for his/her complex personality. He/she is often portrayed as a conflicted or contradictory person.
Flat vs. Round Characters
Let's focus on one of our main characters: Gus or Peck
Ways you can describe the character by simply looking at them. As much as we don't want to make judgements based on appearances, authors often leave us clueas about the character through their description of him/her.
The way a character thinks and feels about what's happening around them helps us label their character traits.
Breaking down the aspects of
The Incredibles' short: Pigeon Impossible
The CLIMAX is the turning point of the story and where the conflict reaches its peak.
The place and time at which a play, novel, short story, or film is happening. The place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place.
LIFTED has a setting that is unique because the two aliens are in a ________________________ and the sleeping human is in a _____________.
spaceship/ UFO
Using your knowledge of America, which U.S. state could be a possible setting for our Pixar short? Why did you choose the state you chose?
When the short opens, it's dark and the setting is inside the house - specifically in the boy's bedroom. What kind of mood does this set up initially?
When the bright light interrupts the dark setting, how does the mood change?
What do you notice about the setting INSIDE the spaceship? How is it different from the house? What kind of feeling does the setting give you?
Some example settings...
Why did the writers choose to place the setting here? Why not in the middle of a city? Why not in the desert?
If there were a forest of trees, and they surrounded the house - how would the scene be different? Would it be as humorous if there were more trees when the young boy gets stuck?
Time (What era does this take place in? Is it present day, in the past, or in the future?)
Place (Where does the story take place? Is it in the U.S., somewhere else in the world, or beyond Earth?)
Surroundings (If you had to stage a production of the story, what props would be needed? What important [non-human] elements are included in the story?)
The setting is NOT random. It's purposeful. EVERY PART (even the things you don't think are important)! When you're reading or watching a story, the author uses specific details in the setting to create a mood or add specific elements like suspense or conflict.
Let's be honest, CONFLICT makes entertainment!
Think about the funniest story you've ever heard. It probably had a suspenseful beginning that built the CONFLICT and had an unexpected climax [perhaps clever].
Many stories have multiple CONFLICTS intertwined throughout the plot line.
Many people shy away from CONFLICT. They avoid the word and any interaction with it at all costs...
Much can be learned from CONFLICT! CONFLICT can help educate, change opinions, and be the driving source behind people's actions.
All this talk about CONFLICT, but what is CONFLICT??
CONFLICT is at the heart of all stories. It drives the plot, it motivates the characters, and it excites the audience [or reader]!
Main character v. himself/herself
Main character v. outside force [man, society, nature]
A struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces or emotions.
character v. character
character v. society
character v. nature
character v. self
What was the conflict in...
Back to our feature short film!
What two conflicts are apparent in the Pixar short "For the Birds"?
The next aspect that we need to cover in our short story unit is THEME.
This is an abstract concept that may be difficult to communicate. It will require us to put all the pieces together - from character [including character development] to plot elements and conflict.
THEME varies depending on the type of media (i.e. literature, film, or performance).
The THEME of a fable is its moral.
The THEME of a parable is what it teaches.
The THEME of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.
Before we look at "Doug's Special Mission", let's find out more about THEME.
Our protagonist, who is a clumsy, yet kind dog.
the pack of dogs that tries to convince Doug to do random acts.
Our short film is set in an exotic land that Pixar created based on the beautiful landscape of Venezuela!
What is the conflict in "Doug's Secret Mission"?
Doug introduces himself to the audience and he is excited because it's his birthday!
When he finds out the other dogs are trying to catch the bird, he asks if he can help the pack.
He is assigned to meaningless tasks and useless jobs, then is reprimanded by the Alpha-dog. Doug feels ashamed and is saddened on HIS day - his birthday.
What message or truth can we gain from the short "Doug's Secret Mission"?
Is Doug an optimist or a pessimist?
Character who is positive, and sees the good in things.
Character who is negative, and sees the bad in things.
Perhaps you felt like the focus was more on the pack of Bad Dogs.
What lesson or truth can be learned from the actions of the dog pack?
Example of a THEME:
The THEME of karma [i.e. your fate is decided by your actions today] is clearly demonstrated by the pack of bad dogs' actions and how nature punishes them.
And, now to address THEME in our short film...
What role does the setting play in a story? How would the story be different if it were in a different setting?
This is one possible theme. Perhaps you see a different message/truth in this short...
Theme Statements
Many people think that a one word topic is a theme.
A question like this will help you think about the theme:
A theme is a statement about the subject.
We've watched...
Choose one of the short films we've watched and write three complete sentences describing it's THEME.
In (title of story - in quotation marks), Pixar was trying to say that (make a statement about life that can apply anywhere and to anyone).
Explain why!
The next aspect of the short story that we'll be covering is...
DEFINITION: When a character speaks with someone else.
The short film we'll be watching has unique DIALOGUE because the characters are speaking gibberish [a made-up language], yet their tone is very telling of what they're saying.
La Luna
Our short film, called La Luna, has three characters:
While I don't want to give away any of the short, I want you to focus on the tone of Nonno and Papa's voices when they argue.
It's also important to know that Papa is Bambino's father, and Nonno is Bambino's grandfather [and Papa's father].
Now, for our feature short film - La Luna...
How do you know if a character in a comic is speaking?
Just as their are rules to help the audience understand who is speaking in a comic, there are rules for putting dialogue into short stories. Don't worry! We'll cover these!
The dialogue in La Luna adds:
_______ [choose your own adjective]
How would you describe Papa's voice?
Does he speak quickly or slowly? Does he seem to get frazzled? Does he yell or speak quietly? Would you consider Papa an optimist or a pessimist?
Describe Nonno's voice:
Answer the same questions from Papa's section, but for Nonno.
Many teachers (myself included) you have will show you a plot diagram that looks something like this.
The problem with this is that most stories
(even short stories) are more complex than this!

An artist by the name of Grant Snyder has, in my
opinion, a more accurate portrayal of how the events
in stories typically unfold.

He calls this the STORY COASTER.

Are these themes?
NO! These are subjects!
In (title of story), what was (name of author) trying to say about (subject - normally an abstract noun)?
Static vs. Dynamic Characters
Introduction of characters
Elements of setting revealed
Potential conflict introduced
Rising Action
Conflict is developed
Suspense is built
Series of events leading to the most important moment
The turning point in the story. Usually the protagonist comes face to face with the conflict in an ultimate showdown.
Falling Action
The falling action is generally how the main
characters react to the climax. The story is not
yet over, but it is leading towards a conclusion.
The resolution is the conclusion of the story. It ties together all of the loose ends (or leaves you hanging for a sequel).
Protagonist vs. Antagonist
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