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Short Story Terms and Literary Devices

Plot Diagram
A plot graph shows the development of a story

Short Story Terms

Setting the place, time, and duration of a story
Atmosphere the mood (eg. warm, tense, depressing, hilarious) which is established by action, dialogue, setting, and character

Character either a specific character in the story, or personality traits (not looks) of individual characters

Protagonist the main character
Antagonist the character who works against the protagonist Foil a character who contrasts with another, and in so doing, emphasizes the character traits of the other

Point of view

A story is told from the viewpoint of the narrator. The narrator can be:

first person First person pronouns (I, me, we, us) are used.
third person limited The narrator is outside the story, but the story unfolds mainly through the limited perspective of one character. third person omniscient The narrator is outside the story, and the story unfolds through the perspectives of several different characters.


a struggle between two forces

Four types of conflict are:

1. human vs. human a struggle between two characters
2. human vs. self an internal struggle within a character 3. human vs. nature a character struggles against forces of nature (harsh geography, weather, animals) 4. human vs. society a character struggles against social forces (racism, the economy, declaration of war)

Types of Endings:
1. wrap-up ending the conflict is clearly resolved; a satisfying ending 2. anti-climax ending there is some conflict resolution, but it is not complete; the reader is left with questions 3. open ending there is no resolution of conflict 4. ironic twist ending the unexpected happens

Other Literary Techniques:

Alliteration the close repetition of consonant sounds eg. The car crashed quite close to the curb, killing the kidnappers. Allusion- a passing or casual reference; an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication. eg. an allusion to Shakespeare.

Audience-The person or group to whom an author directs his/her piece of writing eg. The audience for the film Tangled is children.

Contrast-One element, object or idea is presented in opposition to another to create emphasis or clarity. eg. An author can contrast the difference between childhood and adolescence.

Diction-A word or a combination of words used to support a specific tone. eg. The diction meddling busybody would indicate a critical tone about a person. Euphemism- A gentler, more politically correct way of saying something that could be offensive or upsetting. eg. The man passed away at the advanced age of 91.

Hyperbole an extreme exaggeration, often used to convey an extreme emotion eg. We had to walk a thousand kilometres because we missed the bus. Irony occurs where there is a difference between what is expected and what actually happens. eg. Ahmed is called down to the office and he thinks hes in trouble. The Vice Principal congratulates him on his excellent Math mark.

The author writes in such a way that the readers senses are impacted. Imagery can impact any of the senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. eg. A putrid stench from the rotting food overwhelmed her.

Motif A recurring symbol, saying, event, word, phrase that has significance beyond the obvious and unifies a work.
eg. The motif of the conch is used throughout Lord of the Flies.

Onomatopoeia the word, often not a real word, conveys a sound eg. The water glglglgled down the drain. Oxymoron-When two words with opposite meanings are put side by side to create an effect. eg. jumbo shrimp

Parallel Structure
The use of the same grammatical form for words, phrases or clauses, that can emphasize contrast, create balance and rhythm and/or create a memorable beginning or ending.

Personification human qualities are given to something that is not human (animals, objects, plants, nature) eg. The ship sank and was swallowed by the sea.

Pun a play on the double meaning of a word eg. Being but heavy, I will bear the light. (Romeo) The meaning of light can be taken as the opposite of heavy, but it also refers to the brightness of the torch he carries.

Suspense a feeling of tension, anxiety or excitement resulting from uncertainty; used by the author to keep the reader interested

Symbolism an object represents more than the sum of its parts, and stands for something greater than itself

Satire - A literary work which attacks human follies or vices and holds them up for ridicule. Simile is the comparison of two unlike things using like or as. eg. He eats like a pig.

Stream of consciousness:
the unbroken flow of thought and awareness of the waking mind a special mode of narration that undertakes to capture the full spectrum and the continuous flow of a character's mental process 'interior monologue' an alternate term

Theme The central idea or universal truth that the story examines

Theme statement: a single sentence that attempts to explain the story's truth (what the story worries about).

Tone: the attitude of an author towards his or her piece. Serious or comic, satirical or tragic Tragedy: bad things may happen to a person or a community, but the ending reveals that the characters may have learned something important about their lives.