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Copy of Elements of a Short Story

Provides the basic elements of a short story with an in-depth exploration of each.
by

Patricia Wells

on 19 January 2013

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Transcript of Copy of Elements of a Short Story

As you can see from the main picture, the following are the basic elements of a short story:

Characters
Point of View
Setting
Plot
Theme

Let's examine these elements. Basic Elements of a Short Story By definition, characters are anyone or anything that affects the action within a story, but there is more to this simple concept.

Characterization

Dynamic or Static

Protagonist or Antagonist CHARACTERS Characterization refers to the way an author develops and presents characters. Characterization There are two types of Characterization:

Direct - the author tells the readers about the characters, providing descriptions about appearance and personality.

Indirect - the reader must make inferences (or decide for himself or herself) what the character is like based on the character's actions, thoughts, speech, etc.

Something to be noted is that not all characters are developed the same way within a story. For example, one character could be indirectly characterized while the others are directly characters.

Which would you prefer an author to use? Dynamic and Static refer to the individual characters and the changes (if any) they make throughout a story. Dynamic or Static Dynamic refers to a character that changes in some way in a story. This type of character also usually has more than one personality trait. Dynamic characters are also said to be round.

Static, or flat, characters are those that do not change during the course of the story and who usually have one primary personality trait. Within a story, there is always a protagonist and an antagonist, though they may sometimes be difficult to identify. Remember, a character is anyONE or anyTHING that affects the action in a story. Protagonist and Antagonist Protagonist is the main character in the story.

Antagonist is the opposing force in the story that is working against the protagonist.

It should be noted that a protagonist does not mean the good guy and the antagonist the bad guy. Whenever you think of plot, you shouldn't have any problems with coming up with the definition of it.

If after a movie that you went to with your friends, your parents ask you what the movie was about, they are asking you about the plot.

Plot, therefore, is the sequence of events in a story. PLOT While it would be great to leave the definition of plot right there, that explanation would be much too simplistic. Instead, we need to get into the elements of what comprises a plot. There are six elements, all of which you can see on Freytag's Pyramid.

Freytag's What?! FREYTAG'S PYRAMID Exposition:

Provides the introduction of the story in which background information is provided.

Both characters and the setting are usually introduced in this area. Even though the all characters are not necessarily provided, some of the more important characters are usually introduced in the exposition. EXPOSITION This section is also known as the place where the conflict is introduced.

When was the last time you read a story or watched a TV show or movie that didn't have a conflict? (Exclude nonfiction shows.) How was it?

Well, you should be thinking, "Everything I have ever watched had a conflict of some sort, large or small."

In order for a story to have a point and to make a reader want to read it, there must be some type of conflict. Inciting Incident Any action in the story that takes place between the inciting incident and the climax is the Rising Action.

Suspense, or the feeling of anxiety in a reader, builds tension in most cases so that the rising action naturally leads into the climax. Rising Action Climax, or the highest point of interest in a story, also can be related to a turning point. Something in the sequence of action happens so that you, as the audience or reader, know that there is a shift coming in the action and the conflict may be on its way to being resolved.

A climax can also be evident in the attitude change of a character or society.

What is interesting and must be noted is that there can be more than one climax for a story. If that were to happen, the pyramid would look more like a heartbeat on a heart rate monitor. Climax Falling action refers to everything that happens between the climax and the resolution. During this time, tension is released from whatever has been built during the story.

Additionally, the readers are able to see how characters are making their changes (if they are dynamic) as they continue to watch or read.

Note, the falling action is NOT the resolution. However, sometimes there are stories that do not have resolutions and leave the reader with an open ending or a cliffhanger. Falling Action Resolution is the point in the story where the conflict is resolved. Resolution does not mean that there is happy ending or that the lives of the people involved have gone back to normal. Instead, the conflict is resolved and there is no longer tension in the story line. Everything is back to normal in that the environment of those involved in the story has gone back to normal despite the changes that have happened because of the conflict.

A fancier word for resolution is the denouement. Resolution Exposition
Inciting Incident
Rising Action
Climax
Falling Action
Resolution Setting refers to where and when a story takes place.

That seems simple enough, right? Well, it is. However, you have to take into account what the where and what that when means to a story.

Let's look closer SETTING This concept relates to location, but it is more than just on the beach, in the city, in the mountains. You must go deeper to understand how that particular setting affects the characters and their actions. What happens in the city may not be able to happen in the mountains. How two characters who are in love decide to interact with one another on a city street (where they may have to yell over the roar of traffic) may differ from a quiet walk in the park (where they can whisper sweet nothings to one another).

It's also important to understand regions or countries as you explore the where of a setting because doing so will help you understand customs or social norms.

If an author takes time to mention and develop a setting, there is definitely a reason. You have to understand what that reason is. Where? Understanding when a story takes place is important as well, and it goes beyond time of day or time of year. However, both of those concepts are important to note.

Time of day: what happens at night may not be possible to happen during the day time, and the events that take place during that time may be contingent on the time of day.

Time of year: is it a holiday? Is it the Spring (a time of growth), the Summer (a time of passion), the Fall (a time of harvest), or the Winter (a time of death)?

When you read a story, examine how much of the time of year and time of day might be a factor in the story. Just like with location, if the author takes time to mention it, it's probably important. When? As you read a story, sometimes it is important to note the historical, political, or social time period and what is going on and how that time affects the characters and their actions.

If a story takes place in the deep South during the Civil Rights era, there will likely be racial tension (think of the movie "The Help" if you've seen it).

If a story takes place during the Vietnam War era and people have begun speaking out against the war, those events may cause the characters to act a certain way.

Just remember, the when and where are more important than just listing the time and the date. One more note about When... Point of view (POV) refers to the perspective from which a story is told.

There are three main types of point of view. POINT OF VIEW First person point of view occurs when the narrator is a person in the story telling the story.

This point of view is evident through the use of first person pronouns "I, me, my, myself, mine." Rarely will you have a collective narrator who refers to themselves as "we," but it can happen.

What might be some of the disadvantages to a story written in this point of view? First Person Point of View The third person limited point of view is a narrator who tells the story and knows the thoughts and actions of one main character.

This narrator cannot be a character in the story. Third Person Limited Point of View The third person omniscient point of view is a narrator who tells the story and knows the thoughts and actions of all of the characters.

Again, this narrator cannot be a character in the story.

What are the benefits of having this type of point of view? Third Person Omniscient Point of View The same concept that you learned about theme from the poetry unit needs to be applied here as well. THEME Remember that there are three elements to understanding and creating a theme in literature:

1. Universal - applies to everyone
2. Timeless - applies to any time period
3. Textual Support - ample support of the theme in the literature All right, so now you have the basics regarding the short story.

All of the first four elements p(lot, characters, setting, point of view) work together to help you understand the theme.

If you are able to show the way that each of them works, you will successfully arrive at the proper theme. You'll know the theme is correct because you'll have plenty of support for it. CONCLUSION It should be noted that these five elements work to make the overall short story; however, authors rely on more in order to create a successful story. As you read, remember those elements of figurative language, symbolism, imagery that you've examined thus far. Conflict, remember, is an essential part of a story because without it, the story may not seem to have a purpose.

Conflict is defined as the struggle between two opposing forces, and there are two main types of conflict: CONFLICT Internal Conflict - psychological turmoil that takes place within a character in the story. (also known as "man vs. himself")

External Conflict - the struggle that takes place between the man and something or someone. (also known as "man vs. man," "man vs. fate," "man vs. nature," "man vs. machine," and "man vs. society." These are just a few of the types of external conflicts that can arise within a story.
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