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The Ultimate Guide to Every Story Ever Told

An Overview of Story Elements

Alan Hooten

on 18 October 2018

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Transcript of The Ultimate Guide to Every Story Ever Told

"Partly Cloudy"
Key Understandings:
Writers have specific ways of making a character come to life.
The most compelling characters are...complicated.

4 Methods Authors Use
to Develop Characters
Physical Descriptions
The way a character looks/is described (hair color, body type, clothing, facial expressions
What the Character Says and Does
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.
What the Character

Pay attention to what a character thinks. Our outward actions often do not reflect our inner attitudes.
What Other People Say/Think about the Character
Are others drawn to the character? Are they afraid of the character? Do some seek advice from the character?
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.
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
Static vs. Dynamic Characters
People (and characters) exist in a particular time and place...always. Where we live may contribute not only to our personality, but also to our values, attitudes, and problems.

Some stories may not change much if they are moved from one setting to another, but most stories would change DRASTICALLY.

Key Understandings:
Setting is the time and place that a story happens.
In a well-written story, SETTING impacts EVERYTHING!
A full understanding of the impact the setting has on a story often requires RESEARCH and INFERRING.
Nothing about the setting of a story is on accident!
Setting = Time
Clock Time
Calendar Time
Seasonal Time
Historical Time
Setting = Place
Physical Place
Non-Physical Place
General Place (area or region)

Specific Place (building or room)
Cultural influences (values of society, religion, education, environment, governmental structures, etc)
Setting often affects the MOOD of a story, giving it a certain feeling. What mood is created by this opening scene?
How does the mood change when the darkness is interrupted by a bright light?

Understanding the Setting's Impact on the Story Requires INFERRING and RESEARCHING.
How would the story be different if any of these elements of the setting were different?
Setting Impacts Everything!
Authors don't include details about the setting by accident. Everything has a purpose. The key is to ask WHY!
What can you infer about the place in which this story happens?
"Pigeon Impossible"
When your friend asks you what happened in the movie you saw this weekend, what they really want to know is the PLOT, or what happened in the story.

Every story has a plot - it's what makes it a story!

Key Understandings:
Plot, or narrative arc, is the sequence of events in a story.
At its core, the plot is centered on the CONFLICT in a story.
Understanding the story's narrative arc helps you see the big picture.
All plots are different in details, but they flow through similar stages.
Ways to Think About Plot
BME - Beginning, Middle, and End
SWBST - Somebody Wanted But So Then
Ways to Think About Plot
Ways to Think About Plot
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).
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.

Ways to Think About Plot
Using PLOT to Write a Booktalk
A BOOKTALK is a short "commercial" about a book you're reading. The purpose is simply to tell someone else basically what the book is about, and HOOK them in by explaining the plot up to a certain point.
1. Start by giving the book title and author.
2. Introduce the main character and tell a little bit of information about the setting (time and place)
3. Give any background information that's necessary.
4. Choose an exciting moment from (around) the beginning of the story. This moment should be related to the main conflict in the story.
5. Tell the story up to a certain point, and then STOP just before getting to the good part.
6. Say, "To find out what happens, you have to read the book!"
Write Your Own BookTalk
Everyone knows that what conflict is - we experience it every day. As we interact with people around us (or as characters in stories interact with others), sometimes it begins to look like two rough pieces of metal clanging together. Sparks fly!

Both in literature and in our lives, conflict is what drives plot. When the conflict starts, the story begins. When the conflict is resolved, the story ends. Conflict is the driver of all stories, both real and imagined!

Key Understandings:
Conflict is the struggle or clash between two opposing forces.
Conflict drives plot in story and in life, and most plots have many different conflicts.
"Opposing forces" can mean a variety of different things!
"For the Birds"
Internal External
A character wrestles within him/herself.


Struggling with a decision
Struggling to deal with a broken past
Struggling with identity issues
A character wrestles with something outside of him/herself.

External conflict can take a variety of different forms.
Man vs. Man

Man vs. Nature

Man vs. Technology

Man vs. Society
the character is in conflict with another character (protagonist and antagonist)
the character is in conflict with a natural force
the character is in conflict with a technological force
the character is in conflict with society at large
Man vs. Man

Man vs. Nature

Man vs. Technology

Man vs. Society
Key Understandings:
Point of View is the PERSPECTIVE from which a story is told.
When thinking about POINT OF VIEW, you need to consider (1) grammatical person and (2) the level of insight of the narrator.
A story's POINT OF VIEW determines your experience as a reader, giving you empathy into certain characters.
First Person
Second Person
Third Person
Limited Omniscient
Grammatical Person
Level of Insight
Third Person
The narrator is one of the characters in the story.
 First person pronouns, such as I, me, my, and mine are used in telling the story.
 Since the narrator is a character in the story, he/she may not be completely reliable.
 We find out only what this character knows, thinks, and witnesses.
Third Person Objective
 The narrator is not a character in the story.
 Third person pronouns such as he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, and them are used in telling the story.
 The narrator is an observer who can only tell what is said and done.
 The narrator cannot see into the minds of any of the characters.
 We find out only what the characters say and do.
Third Person Limited
 The narrator is not a character in the story.
 Third person pronouns such as he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, and them are used in telling the story.
 The narrator tells the story from the vantage point of one character.
 The narrator can see into this character’s mind, but not any of the other characters.
 We find out only what this character does, knows, thinks, and witnesses.
Third Person Omniscient
 The narrator is not a character in the story.
 Third person pronouns such as he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, and them are used in telling the story.
 The narrator is all-knowing, and can see into the minds of all of the characters. The narrator can also report what is said and done.
 We find out what all of the characters do, feel, think, and witness.
With a little help from Mr. Turner's English!
Second Person Point of View
 Second person pronouns such as you, your, and yours are used.
The narrator is speaking to the reader.
 Most stories are not told in second person. It is reserved for items of personal address, such as letters.
Third Person Point of View
 The narrator is not a part of the story.
 Think of 3rd person on a spectrum in which the narrator has different levels of insight into the other characters.
Key Understandings:
A theme is a message an author wants to make about a certain topic (usually an ABSTRACT NOUN).
Themes are implied (not directly stated) and they are debatable.
Any theme is valid if it can be supported by TEXTUAL EVIDENCE.
The THEME of a story is what the story is REALLY ABOUT.
Understand Some Key Terms
TEXTUAL EVIDENCE - specific lines, quotes or parts of the story that support an idea

TOPIC - the topic of a story is always an ABSTRACT NOUN

ABSTRACT NOUN - a noun that cannot be experienced by the senses
- Setting is established.
- Characters are introduced.
- Conflict is introduced.
- The moment the conflict is introduced into the story typically initiates the rising action.
- The conflict is developed, along with characters, problems and themes.
- Filled with peaks and valleys.
- Tension slowly builds.
- The moment of highest tension/suspense.
- The turning point.
- The crisis moment.
- Moment often results in a change in the main character.
- The main character begins to resolve the conflict
- The tension reduces.
- The result of the climax.
- The conflict is settled.
- Denouement "to untie"
- The new normal
- Sometimes includes a lesson
Authors will frequently suspend the chronological time sequence in a story to revisit an earlier episode or moment. This is referred to as a FLASHBACK. Flashbacks are used to provide background to a character's motivation or to help the reader more fully understand a certain conflict.
Authors will often drop hints at certain parts of the story about what may happen later. Most of the time, these are subtle, and you may only notice them the second time through the story. FORESHADOWING is used to increase the suspense or the tension that's created in a story, AND to intentionally lead the reader down a certain logical path.
Key Understandings:
A SYMBOL is something CONCRETE in a story that represents or reflects something ABSTRACT.
Symbols allow writers to add layers of meaning.
The way characters feel about the item (symbol) is the way the character feels about what it represents.
A SYMBOL is something concrete in a story that reflects an abstract idea or concept.
Authors include symbols to add layers of meaning to a story. Symbols communicate concepts in powerful ways that literal words would miss.
Symbols are like mirrors.
These pages give a list of different common symbols that are typically found in stories.
You can find this document on the LEAP page of the website.
the daughter's shoes
the man's shoes
the shoe doll
the footprints
the drawings
the window
the lamp in the house
love, hope, future
reality, poverty
love, sacrifice
examples, journey
memories, childhood
unattainable dreams
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