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Novel Structure and Design-Plot Parts of a Plot

Antecedent The antecedent action is all that has happened before the initial

Action incident and includes the exposition.

Exposition Also known as "Expository Information," this is the beginning of the story where setting, characters, and nature of the plot are introduced. The exposition gives us background information necessary to understanding the story.

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Setting Setting is divided into two subcategories, universal and specific.

Universal setting can be understood as the general time and place the story takes place in; for example, a small town in the 18005. or a city in the future. Specific setting narrows the time and place into specific points; for example, Chicago, 1867, or Luna City, 2123. Time can mean era, year, season, andlor time of day.

Characters Characters are the players in the story, usually human, although characters can be animals, machines, or forces; for example, evil. There may be main and supporting (minor) characters.

Initial Incident The initial incident is the FIRST point of conflict in the story. It sets the story in motion and drives the plot ahead. The initial incident focuses on what the story will be about.

Plot The plot develops the question, "what is the story about?" It is the ordered sequence of events that the characters encounter and the obstacles they overcome.

Subplot A subplot is an episode within the major plot related to the major conflict, theme or subject. A subplot may appear several times throughout the course of the novel.

Rising Action This is the main body of the story. Rising action is the events and behavior of the characters as the plot is developed. The rising action has a series of episodes, usually three or more, that the characters encounter, all occurring between the initial incident and the climax.

Mood and Tone Mood IS the overall emotional impression created by the story.

Tone is the "voice" or emotional quality carried by the author's choice of words.

Conflict Conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces. ideas, or beliefs, which forms the basis of the plot. Conflict often occurs in the struggle between the protagonist and the antagonist. The contlict is resolved when one force-usually the protagonistsucceeds (or fails) in overcoming the opposing force (or gives up trying). There are four types of conflict that a character can find himself in:

• Character vs. another character;

• Character VS. the status quo (existing state of affairs);

• Character vs. self; and

• Character vs. the environment (physical and social, fate and the supernatural).

There may be many points of conflict in a novel. and these conflicts may be of various types.

Episode An episode is a unit of adventure, a series of related events. Each episode in the rising action should be more suspenseful or exciting than the last, increasing the dramatic tension. Character development occurs during episodes. This drives the plot forward and intensifies the story towards the climax of the story.

Dramatic The increasing suspense caused by sequential episodes in the rising

Tension action.

Epilogue The conclusion of a story may be followed by an explanation of situations and consequences not fully explained previously. In addition, an epilogue may suggest some form of speculation for the reader to consider.

Prologue A story may be preceded by a short passage that suggests what will be developed in the novel.

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Climax The climax is the highest point of action in the story. It is the final point of conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. It is directly related to the initial incident. The reader is no longer unsure of the outcome.


Falling Action




An outcome of a situation or series of events, by contrast to what was anticipated, that is ludicrous or disappointing. The anticlimax can often create a humorous or ironic effect.

This is the "wrapping up" of the story. The falling action is not as long as the rising action, the main body of the story being over. The story follows a natural conclusion from the climax, generally leaving the reader satisfied with the outcome. The falling action may include a denouement.

Also known as resolution, the denouement is the conclusion of the story. It is often very short. The author explains how and why everything turned out as it did.

(Usually the main character, usually associated with being "good.") The protagonist is a character who faces a problem and. in his attempt to solve the problem, comes into conflict with an opposing force.

(Usually associated with "evil.") The antagonist is a character or force that opposes the protagonist.

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Novel Structure and Design-Plot

Episode Analysis

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Novel Structure and Design-Point of View


When an author decides to write a story, he must choose a point or view to write from. Point of view is often referred to as the narrator, or the voice that tel1s the story. There are only four choices of narrator for the author.

1. First person narrator: The author chooses a character to tell the story using the "I" point of view and tells the story as it happened or happens to this person. We see the story and the other characters through the eyes of this person. Remember, when you are evaluating a story, that the author is different from the narrator. It would not be correct to say that the author does an action in the story when it is the narrator who does it. For example, the author can be a forty-year-old woman who tells the story through a first person narrator who is a fifteen-year-old boy. Author and narrator are not the same.

2. Omniscient narrator: An author may choose to tell the story through a "god't-like figure who knows everything. This narrator, who presents the narrative in a thirdperson voice, can reveal the past or the future and can see into the minds and souls of all the characters in the story. Whatever this narrator tells us must be accepted by the reader as absolute truth. Omniscient means "all seeing." First person narrators are human and subject to human error, while the omniscient narrator is never wrong.

3. The objective narrator: This point of view can be equated to a television camera. It deals with externals only-what characters look like. say, and what they do. This narrator never interprets or gets into the minds of the characters.

4. Limited omniscient narrator: This point of view is sometimes referred to as a thirdperson narrator. This point of view is a difficult style to keep consistent. The narrator is usually limited to one primary or secondary character who tells the story as it is happening to and around that character. The omniscient view can take us into the mind of this character. but we see all the other characters and their actions as interpreted by this third person. However. we know everything about the one character.

As a result of the choice of point of view. an author presents the story. action and characters either directly, or indirectly. When the author gives us insights directly (usually through the omniscient narrator) the author tens us what people are like. When the author shows us what characters do and say and allows us to interpret them. the

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Novel Structure and Design-Plot

Story Elements

Main characters:

~ Title and Author: _

Problem or Conflict:

Setting (Time and Place):



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Novel Structure and Design-Plot Story Chart

I Title

I Author





Conflict (The problem(s) or challengers) facing the main characters)


Episodes, Subplots

1. _

2. _

3. -------

4. _

5. ----_---


Denouement (How did the main character(s) solve the problem or meet their goal(s)?)

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Title of novel:


author is using indirect presentation. Therefore, the four points of view usually follow these patterns:

1. Omniscient narrator: usually direct presentation.

2. First person narrator: usually direct presentation for the central ''I'' character and a . mixture of direct and indirect for the other characters.

3. Objective narrator; always indirect presentation. We are never told what characters are like. We as readers must make our own interpretations.

4. Limited omniscient:1ike first person narration, can be a mixture of direct and indirect presentation.


Review the options from which writers choose when deciding on the point of view they will use in presenting a story. Some novels employ more than one point of view, alternating between first person and third person, or use more than one first-person narrator. Check A Writer's Handbook for examples of commonly-used points of view.

I _ From what point of view do events occur in the nove] you have read? Why do you think the author chose this particular point of view?

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Novel Structure and Design-Characterization

Good Characterization

Title of novel:


Chapters read so far: _

Name of character:

One of the key elements of storytelling is characterization. Writers who can create interesting characters achieve stories that we find compelling. An understanding of characterization takes us from generalities to specifics.

All stories have a central character called the protagonist. This person can be good or bad, but is the focus for the plot line.

The antagonist is the person or force that conflicts with the protagonist and provides the barriers against the protagonist achieving an easy goal.

The Five Types of Characters

I. Flat character - a character who can be summed up in one or two words; is seen in limited circumstances

2. Round character - many-sided and complex. Round characters are interesting and motivated. A round character mayor may not undergo change.

3. Static character - a character who stays the same throughout the story.

4. Stock character - a flat character who is stereotyped. A character type who appears so often in literature that his nature is immediately known.

5. Developing or dynamic character - a character who undergoes a major change in personality or outlook.

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Good characterization involves making the character

Consistent-the character's actions are convincing and consistent with preceding behaviour

Motivated-all the character's behaviour is motivated and clearly presented to the reader. The reader should always be able to understand why a character behaves as he does.

Plausible-the character has an as-if-real quality. The reader believes the character could exist.

What we fmd out about this character.

Something more we would like to know about this character at this point:

How the author makes this character Consistent:

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Novel Structure and Design-Characterization

Character Trait Map

Trait: Trait:

Think about:
· physical appearance
• relationships to others
Quote from book: • personality Quote from book:
• actions
• motives

Page: Page:

~ 1/

Title of Novel
.: I~

Trait: -: Trait: <,

Quote from book: Quote from book:

Page: Page:
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What does the character think?

Na~: _

Novel Structure and Design-Characterization Character Map

Dialogue What does the character say?

Appearance What does the character look like?

What does the character do?


Title of Novel

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Novel Structure and Design-Characterization

Revealing Personality

A writer may use a number of ways to reveal a character's personality in the course of a noveL These are some of the key strategies:

A. Direct description. For example:

Abner was probably the most miserable man who ever had maid service, a Cadillac, and a thriving business in .Johnsonville, Some doubted that he had cracked a smile in the last ten years ...

B. Actions. For example:

When the Barker family had their run of bad luck and got three months behind in the rent, Abner had them evicted.

c. What the character says and how he says it. For example:

"Government-subsidized housing," Abner snorted, "is simply stealing money out of an honest man's pocket to make things easy for shiftless no-goods."

D. What other characters say about him. For example: .

"T think if Abner ever dropped a doflar into a donation box, the skies would open up and a heavenly chorus would begin singing Hallelujah," Myrtle Flamgard told her church ladies' group.

(Sometimes the dialogue of the character or another character considering that person's personality or appearance emerges in the form of inner thoughts: "If Abner ever dropped Q dollar into a donation box," Myrtle Flamgard thought, .. the skies would open up and a heavenly chorus would begin singing Hcllelujch,")

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Teacher Information

Novei Structure and Design-Theme

Teaching Theme

Theme is the hardest literary concept to teach. Theme involves two concepts that need to be handled separately.

1. Subject - Students need to understand that all subjects of a novel may be reduced to a single noun, A good exercise would be to ask students to describe parts of the story using only one word (must be a noun). They should finished this statement: "This (episode, chapter, part) deals with" ." You may get such words as greed, ambition, betrayal, revenge, freedom, etc. Because a novel has many episodes, many noun descriptors can be expected and accepted. Then ask if they can agree on the one most important noun. If, for example, they determine that the story is basically about ambition, then say that that is only a start in determining the theme.

The novel suggests that although ambition is a worthwhile attitude, too much ambition can cause a person to harm others and himself while seeking it.

2. Generalization about the subject - Now ask students to provide a judgment, conclusion, theory. or speculation about ambition that fits with the action of the story. They may eventually come up with a concept like this:

Emphasize that a theme statement involves a noun concept and a generalization that reflects on real life. It goes beyond a moral, such as "It is wrong to lie," in that it recognizes that there are no absolute statements about real life and real people.

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Reviewing the Theme

Novel Structure and Design-Theme

Title of novel:


A good novel will answer the Five Ws Plus One H:

Who~ where, when:




antecedent action initial incident rising action

results from the climax and contains the purpose of the story and the theme, if any

Not all stories have theme. Some stories are designed only to entertain. Many writers, however, state or imply a theme or point to be drawn from the action and outcome of a story. The theme is the purpose of the story.

Suggestions as to the theme are usually found near the end of a story and may be clearly stated by the author or merely suggested. Theme is often the unifying element of the story.

A theme deals with a subject or main idea such as jealousy, greed, pride, ambition, freedom. independence. individual rights, fairness. conservation, animal rights, etc. These terms in themselves are not statements of theme but are thematic. Theme emerges as the conclusions that we draw about these subjects as suggested by the story, and the relationship of these subjects to human nature. It is possible to express theme in a single sentence, or write a paragraph about theme.

The theme connects us: we see ourselves in the characters, in their actions. words, and deeds. We see ourselves in the characters and hope that we would (or would not) behave as tbeydo.

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Theme is the message the author is trying to convey about the human condition and what it means to be human. Theme should be stated as a generalization, a message about human nature. The central questions of all literature are "Wbo am I? What is my

purpose? What is my place in the universe?" And all theme should speak to those questions, directly or indirectly. Theme may be hidden or explicit.

Explicit theme: Explicit theme is theme that is self-evident, and is often stated directly in the story as a summary statement at the end of the book. In Little Red Riding Hood, the explicit theme is that appearances can be deceiving, and young girls should beware of (human) wolves.

Hidden theme: Hidden theme is theme that is embedded within the story. It is left for the reader to evaluate and analyze the story for its true message and purpose. When trying to discover a theme that is hidden, ask, "What is the author really trying to say?" In Little Red Riding Hood, the hidden theme is that we, as humans, have choices about how we are going to behave. Girls may see themselves as Red Riding Hood, and choose to accept danger or beware of it Boys can choose to be wolfish or not in their actions. The theme of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh is that we, as human beings, must be free to choose our own destinies. We will not be kept in cages (metaphorically or literally). but must have freedom and independence to discover who we are. The theme of Hatchet is that we, as human beings, will survive at all costs, and are continually demonstrating our determination and resourcefulness. The theme of The Giver is that it is important for human beings to retain freedom of choice even if there may be pain associated with the choices we make. The theme of The Yearling is that it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice something we have enjoyed as a child when we move beyond being a "yearling" to accepting adult responsibi1i ties.

The above short summaries are theme statements. They contain the subject or main idea of the story and a generalization drawn from the actions and outcome.

For the novel you have read, consider what message the author is conveying. Use the 5 W s Plus One page to help clarify your thoughts.

In a point form list, summarize the important ideas and information in the novel you have read.

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i' i


Five-Ws Plus One H of Story

Title of novel:


Story Action

Describe and briefly explain each. Then number them in the order they occur in the novel.

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Novel Structure and Design-Summary and Review

Quick Novel Review

Write complete answers to the following questions for the novel you have read. Use details of actions and outcomes to support your views.

Title of novel:


1. Who are the main characters and the significant supporting or minor characters?

2. What is the time and place setting for this novel and why is this particular time and place significant in terms of the subject of the novel?

3. What is the initial state of mind of the protagonist?

4. What is the occurrence in the novel which forces action from the main character?

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