5 Important Elements of a Short Story

A short story is a short work of fiction. Fiction, as you know, is prose writing about imagined events and characters. Prose writing differs from poetry in that it does not depend on verses, meters or rhymes for its organization and presentation. Novels are another example of fictional prose and are much longer than short stories. Some short stories, however, can be quite long. If a a short story is a long one, say fifty to one hundred pages, we call it a novella. American literature contains some of the world's best examples of the short story. Readers around the world enjoy the finely crafted stories of American writers such as O. Henry, Stephen Crane, Jack London, Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe. What makes these authors such remarkable short story writers? They are true masters at combining the five key elements that go into every great short story: character, setting, conflict, plot andtheme. The ELLSA web-site uses one of these five key elements as the focus of each of the five on-line lessons in the Classics of American Literature section. In each lesson, you will explore a single American short story from the USIA Ladder Series and discover how the author uses a certain element. The definitions on the right are repeated on the first page of each short story lesson.

A character is a person, or sometimes even an animal, who takes part in the action of a short story or other literary work.
see The Green Door by O. Henry

The setting of a short story is the time and place in which it happens. Authors often use descriptions of landscape, scenery, buildings, seasons or weather to provide a strong sense of setting.
see The Last Leaf by O. Henry

A plot is a series of events and character actions that relate to the central conflict.
see The Open Boat by Stephen Crane

The conflict is a struggle between two people or things in a short story. The main character is usually on one side of the central conflict. On the other side, the main character may struggle against another important character, against the forces of nature, against society, or even against something inside himself or herself (feelings, emotions, illness).
see To Build a Fire by Jack London

y Plot: This is what happens in the play. and the content of the piece flows according to story. It is the characters who move the action. Spectacle is everything that the audience sees as they watch the play. of the play forward. the theme of a play is obvious. a poem may or may not have a story. costumes. as all of the effort put in to writing and producing a play is for the enjoyment of the audience. although you will notice that many of the elements remain the same. Aristotle's Six Elements of Drama Aristotle considered these six things to be essential to good drama. y Music/Rhythm: While music is often featured in drama. they are described below. The dialogue helps move the action of the play along. Plot refers to the action. y Genre: Genre refers to the type of play. a poem is something that follows a particular flow of rhythm and meter. this list has changed slightly. What is Poetry? When we begin analyzing the basic elements of poetry. theme refers to the meaning of the play. but the following additions are now also considered essential elements of drama. mystery and historical play. y Characters: Characters are the people (sometimes animals or ideas) portrayed by the actors in the play. In modern theater. etc. special effects. Some examples of different genres include. y Dialogue: This refers to the words written by the playwright and spoken by the characters in the play. . In short. comedy. theme and dialogue remain the same. other times it is quite subtle. character. we should first know what poetry is all about in the first place. Elements of Poetry There are several elements which make up a good poem. the basic storyline of the play. tragedy. where there is no such restriction.The theme is the central idea or belief in a short story. in this case Aristotle was referring to the rhythm of the actors' voices as they speak. y Audience: This is the group of people who watch the play. The list of essential elements in modern theater are: y Character y Plot y Theme y Dialogue y Convention y Genre y Audience The first four. or plot. Theme is the main idea or lesson to be learned from the play. y Convention: These are the techniques and methods used by the playwright and director to create the desired stylistic effect. y Spectacle: This refers to the visual elements of a play: sets. plot. Poetry can be defined as 'literature in a metrical form' or 'a composition forming rhythmic lines'. but definitely has a structured method of writing. In brief. y Theme: While plot refers to the action of the play. Many playwrights and actors consider the audience to be the most important element of drama. In some cases. Compared to prose.

Elements of Poetry . When you write poetry that has rhyme. it does not mean. though.anything which is what the poem is all about. or a description of something or someone . Of course. which includes the syllables in the lines. Theme: This is what the poem is all about. Metaphor: A metaphor is a method of comparison where the words 'like' and 'as' are not used. who has all these tools at his disposal. To modify the earlier example. something is said to be 'like' another it means that the poet is using Simile to convey his feelings about what (s)he is describing. Note that 'babbling brook' is an example of Alliteration. does not follow this system. Listen for the sounds and the music made when we hear the lines spoken aloud. Rhyme is basically similar sounding words like 'cat' and 'hat'. It depends entirely upon the poet. Within those blocks. For example. For example. A symbol can stand for many things at one time and leads the reader out of a systematic and structured method of looking at things. it means that the last words of the lines match with each other in some form. second and the fourth and so on. They are an essential part of what any good poem is all about. structurally. A poem is made up of blocks of lines. 'close' and 'shows'. in the statement 'Her laughter was like a babbling brook'. or a thought. in the sentence "Many minute miniature moments. It can be a story. if the statement had been 'Her laughter. in a poem. How do the words resonate with each other? How do the words flow when they are linked with one another? Does sound right? Do the words fit with each other? These are the things you consider while studying the rhythm of the poem. the poet is comparing the laughter of the girl to the sound made by a babbling brook. Alliteration: This is also used in several poems for sound effect. that all poems must have all these elements. Often a symbol used in the poem will be used to create such an effect. a babbling brook'. Meter: This is the basic structural make-up of the poem. Free verse poetry. Several words in the sentence may begin with the same alphabet or syllable sound. The best method of understanding this is to read the poem aloud." the sound of the alphabet 'M' is repeated in all the four words continuously. When you say those words aloud. 'house' and 'mouse' etc. Simile: A simile is a method of comparison using the words 'like' or 'as'. the sound effect generated is called Alliteration. Symbolism: Often poems will convey ideas and thoughts using symbols. to use in order to convey his ideas effectively. When. This is the meter or the metrical form of poetry. a structure of syllables which follow the rhythm has to be included. which convey a single strand of thought. Either the last words of the first and second lines would rhyme with each other or the first and the third. Do the syllables match with each other? Every line in the poem must adhere to this structure. The theme of the poem is the central idea that the poet wants to convey. Rhyme: A poem may or may not have a rhyme. then it would be the use of Metaphor. Conclusion These are the basic elements of poetry.Rhythm: This is the music made by the statements of the poem.

Onomatopoeia Words that sound like their meaning. Repetitions The repetition of the same word throughout the poem to emphasize significance.Elements of poetry can be defined as a set of instruments used to create a poem. Many of these were created thousands of years ago and have been linked to ancient story tellings. They help bring imagery and emotion to poetry. Example: buzz. Example:Pretty princess Assonance A partial rhyme which has the same internal vowel sounds amongst different words. haiku. either end sound. many of these versions still stem from some of the older. etc. Rhyme The repetition of sounds within different words. poets have tried to come up with new ways of adding elements.Example: The tundra left the man hungry for buns Metaphor A comparison which does not use the words like or as. and dramas. pow. middle or beginning. Rhythm The flow of words within each meter and stanza. In the 20th and 21st century. Example: loose goose. Includes length of meters. Here is a list of elements used within the writing of poems. Example: Life is a journey. tried and true elements. Nonetheless. Example: Life is like a box of chocolates. stories. point of view and idea of the poem. number of stanzas along with rhyme techniques and rhythm. resemblance or convention Theme The message. Simile A comparison using the words like or as. . ballad. Alliteration Two or more words which have the same initial sound. Style The way the poem is written. Symbol Something that represents something else through association. moo. Free-style. Example: Iambic pentameter.