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Elements of Short Stories

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The setting is the place where the story takes place. Setting includes the following:
The geographical location
For example: London, Cairo, Halifax, Vancouver

The time period

For example: 1865, during WWII, today

The socio-economic characteristics of the location

For example: wealthy suburbs

The specific building, room etc.

For example: a prep school, a log cabin, a bus, a military base

Can be used to tell readers about the characters:

That evening T.J. smelled the air, his nostrils dilating with the odor of the earth under his feet. Its spring, he said, and there was gladness rising in his voice that filled us all with the same feeling. Its mighty late for it, but its spring We were all sniffing at the air, too, trying to smell it the way that T.J. did, and I can still remember the sweet odor of the earth under our feet. It was the first time in my life that spring and spring earth had meant anything to me.


Antaeus by Borden Deal

Can be used to set the atmosphere for the story:


During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, though a singularly dreary tract of country.
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

The people (or animals, things, etc. presented as people) appearing in a literary work. Round Characters are convincing, true to life. Have many different and sometimes even contradictory personality traits. Dynamic Characters undergo some type of change or development in story, often because of something that happens to them Flat Characters are stereotyped, shallow, and often symbolic. Have only one or two personality traits Static Characters do not change in the course of the story


Protagonist: The main character in a literary work (for instance, Charles in Here There Be Tygers or Cinderella or Snow White in the fairy tales named for their characters) Antagonist: The character who opposes the protagonist (for instance, Miss Bird in Here There Be Tygers or the wicked stepmothers in the fairy tales)

Methods of Characterization
Direct Characterization: The author develops the personality of a character by direct statements.

Jack had been in basic training in Florida and Dottie was there on vacation with her parents. Theyd met on the beach and struck up a conversation. Dottie was the talker, the outgoing one the extrovert. Jack was too shy around girls to say much at all.
Furlough 1944 by Harry Mazer

Methods of Characterization
Indirect Characterization: Revealing a characters personality through: The characters thoughts, words, and actions The comments of other characters The characters physical appearance

Indirect Characterization through Thoughts

Moonbeam closed his eyes and pretended to sleep the rest of the way to Bamfield. He couldnt believe what he had gotten himself into. How had this happened? Hed never held a gun in his life, much less gone hunting for animals.
Moonbeam Dawson and the Killer Bear by Jean Okimoto

Indirect Characterization through Words

It was Kenny Griffen, smiling complacently. Miss Bird sent me after you cause you been gone six years. Youre in trouble yer constipated! Kenny chortled gleefully. Waitll I tell Caaathy!
Here There Be Tygers by Stephen King

Indirect Characterization through Actions

The boy held his breath; he wondered whether his father would hear his heart beating Through a crack in the counter he could see his father where he stood, one hand held to his high stiff collar I Spy by Graham Greene

Indirect Characterization through Appearance

Miss Kinney was young and blonde and bouncy and had a boyfriend who picked her up after school in a blue Camaro.
Here There Be Tygers by Stephen King


Plot is how the author arranges events to develop his/her basic idea. It is the sequence of events in a story or play. The plot is a planned, logical series of events having a beginning, middle and end.

Plot Components
Introduction: The start of the story, the situation before the action starts Rising Action: The series of conflicts and crisis in the story that lead to the climax Climax / Turning Point: The most intense moment either mentally or in action the reader wonders what will happen next; will the conflict be resolved or not? Falling Action: The events and complications begin to resolve themselves. (The events between the climax and the resolution) Resolution: The conclusion, the untangling of events in the story

Plot: Conflict
Conflict is the dramatic struggle between two forces in a story. Without conflict there is no plot.

Plot: Types of Conflict

Interpersonal Conflict Human vs. Human Human vs. Nature Human vs. Society Internal Conflict Human vs. Self

Point of View
The angle or perspective from which the story is told Who is telling the story?
For instance, is it a player on the home team or someone watching the game?

How do we know what is happening?

For instance, does a character tell us?

First Person Point of View

Told from the viewpoint of one of the characters, using the first person pronoun I. The thousands of injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I give utterance to a threat. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

Innocent Eye: The story is told through the eyes of a child (his/her judgment being different from that of an adult).
Stream of Consciousness: The story is told so that the reader feels as if they are inside the head of one character and knows all their thoughts and reactions.

Second Person Point of View

The main character in the story is referred to using the second person pronoun you.
Rubbing your aching head, you take in the scene around you. Nearby you see a narrow dirt road, and beyond it a fast-running brook. The road disappears into dense woods on either side of the field. You hear the sound of hooves, and a strange clanking noise. Someone is coming! You duck behind a tree as two men on horseback ride toward you. They are wearing shining metal armor. One of them carries a white banner with a golden lion on it. They must be knights! You watch as they rein in their horses and dismount just a few yards away.
Choose Your Own Adventure : The Forbidden Castle by Edward Packard

Third Person Point of View

The story is told using a narrator who is located outside of the action of the story and uses third person pronouns such as he, she, his, her, they etc. Third Person Point of View can be broken up into three different types: Omniscient Limited Omniscient Objective

Omniscient Point of View

The narrator has the power to show the reader what is happening though a number of characters eyes.
Myop carried a short knobby stick. She struck out at random at chickens she liked, and worked out the beat of a song on the fence around the pigpen. She felt light and good in the warm sun. She was ten, and nothing existed for her but her son, the stick she clutched in her dark brown hand, and the tat-de-ta-ta-ta of accompaniment. The Flowers by Alice Walker

Limited Omniscient Point of View

Third person, told from the viewpoint of a character in the story. They all laughed, and while they were laughing, the quiet boy moved his bare foot on the sidewalk and merely touched, brushed against a number of red ants that were scurrying about on the sidewalk. Secretly his eyes shining, while his parents chatted with the old man, he saw the ants hesitate, quiver, and lie still on the cement. He sensed they were cold now. Fever Dream by Ray Bradbury

Objective Point of View

Third person, told as if from a camera that follows the characters. Only what is said and done is recorded.
Jennifer stirred in bed. The cotton sheet clung to her body as she rolled to face the nightstand. With eyes half open, she reached over to switch the alarm clock off when the man in the shadows reached out and grabbed her arm. Her scream pierced the quiet night and died abruptly as she was forced violently back into the dark oblivion. Objective Point of View

Theme is the central idea or central message of the story. It usually contains some insight into the human condition telling something about humans and life. The theme can be stated directly or implied by the events and actions in the story.

Types of Irony
Verbal Irony: This is the contrast between what is said and what is meant. In other words: sarcasm. Dramatic Irony: This is the contrast between what the character thinks to be true and what we (the reader) know to be true. Sometimes as we read we are placed in the position of knowing more than what one character knows. Because we know something the character does not, we read to discover how the character will react when he or she learns the truth of the situation. Situational Irony: This is the most common in literature. It is the contrast between what happens and what was expected (or what would seem appropriate). Because it emerges from the events and circumstances of a story it is often more subtle and effective than verbal or dramatic irony.

A symbol represents an idea, quality, or concept larger than itself. A journey can A lion can be symbolize life a symbol of courage. Water may represent cleanliness and renewal A red rose can represent love.



This is a writers technique in which the author interrupts the plot of the story to recreate an incident of an earlier time (goes back in time; like giving the reader a memory). This device is often used to provide additional information to the reader.

This is a writers technique in which the author provides clues or hints as to what is going to happen later in the story. Its like the music in a scary movie when we know that something bad is about to happen.