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Elements and Characteristics of the Short Story

Short - Can usually be read in one sitting.

Concise - Information offered in the story is relevant to the tale being told. This is
unlike a novel, where the story can diverge from the main plot.

Usually tries to leave behind a single impression or Unity of effect.

Usually, though not always built around one character, place, idea, or act or

There is often an ambiguous ending, leading the reader to question what happened
to the characters after the story ended.

Components of the Short Story

5 Major components of the Short Story


•The action that takes place in the story.  It is a series of connected
happenings and their result.  
Stages of a Plot
•Introduction of characters, Setting
•Rising action – Primary Conflict is Introduced. heightened anticipation for the
•Climax - highest point of anticipation - “make or break” for the main character.
•Falling action/Conclusion/denouement.
The time, place and circumstance of a piece of literature

It is the background against which the incidents of the story take place.  Not
merely a place, it includes the place where, the time when, and social conditions
under which the story moves along.

This can include atmosphere, the tone and feeling of a story, i.e. gloomy, cheery, etc.
In one form or another, setting is essential to the story.  Often, setting is of
particular relevance in creating conflict or building character.

There are two main types of characters:
Dynamic/Round: Multiple character traits are revealed. (Usually the main
Flat/stereotyped characters: Only a single character trait is revealed and this
type of character exists primarily to interact with the main character and further
reveal the traits of the main character. 


•Actions or thoughts of the character.
•Conversations the character engages in.
•conversations of other characters about a third character.
•Author’s own opinion. This might be overt, or may be implied.
Point of View: The vantage point from which a story is told
•Third Person Omniscient (all knowing, all seeing).  The omniscient author, writing
in third person, sees whatever he wants to see, inside or outside his character, in
privacy or public, and interprets as he chooses.
•Third Person Limited: Author as an observer.  Involves objective treatment, as
though the story teller had no inner sight into the character’s thinking or behaviour.
Only actions and dialogue are revealed.
•First person (Author participant).  The author may be the main character, or could
be a secondary character.
The comment about people or life that the author wishes to make.

Without a theme, the story lacks meaning or purpose.

Sometimes the theme is stated, sometimes it is only implied. 
Theme is not specific to the story. Rather, the story is the means to the end; the
vehicle by which the author uses to convey his/her message about people or society.
*clichés such as, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side” should be
* A theme is a complete message and therefore, must be stated as such. “Life” is not
a statement of theme. However, “Life often leads us through conflicts which make us
stronger” is an acceptable statement of theme.

The struggle between two opposing forces.

There are two main types:

Internal - Man vs. Himself. This type of conflict is usually exhibited through
character description (wringing hands, shifting body position, crying, frowning,
downtrodden face, etc.)
External- Man vs. Man OR
Man vs. Nature
*Each type of external conflict recognizes that the character is experiencing a
struggle with a force over which he/she has little or no control.