Elements of Literature
Short Story Unit
Plot is a series of related events, each
event connected to the next, like links in a
Plot (continued): Components
Exposition: the basic situation is outlined,
characters and main conflict are introduced
Rising Action: chain of events that takes place
as the character struggles to achieve his or her
goal, builds suspense and intensity
Climax: the point of highest emotional intensity;
sometimes the point at which we learn the
outcome of the conflict
Resolution (denoument): events following the
climax in which remaining issues are resolved
Plot (continued): Components
Climax: the turning point, the most
intense moment—either mentally
or in action
Rising Action: the series of Falling Action: all of the
conflicts and crisis in the story that action which follows the
lead to the climax climax
Exposition: the start of the story, Resolution: the conclusion, the
the situation before the action starts tying together of all of the threads
Climax is often defined as “the most intense moment” in
TIP: To find the climax, look for the moment where the
central question of the story is answered.
– Lord of the Rings
Central Question: Will Frodo succeed in destroying the ring?
Climax: Frodo throws the ring into the Cracks of Doom
Central Question: Will Cinderella end up with Prince Charming?
Climax: The shoe fits!
Flashback occurs when the story’s main
action is interrupted in order to tell of events
that took place in the past.
Foreshadowing is the use of clues to hint at
what is going to happen later in a story.
Suspense is the feeling of uncertainty or
anxiety about what is going to happen next.
Conflict is the dramatic struggle between two forces in a
There are four main types of conflict:
– Man vs. man
– Man vs. society
– Man vs. nature
– Man vs. self
The first three types of conflict are external—the
character struggles with a force outside himself.
Man vs. self is an internal conflict—the character
struggles with something inside himself.
Man vs. Man
– Cinderella has to escape her evil
stepmother’s attempts to keep her
locked away in her room in order to
live happily ever after with Prince
– In the book and movie Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows, Harry faces
Lord Voldemort in a final battle.
– In the T.V. series The Office, Dwight
and Andy compete for Angela, the
woman they both are interested in.
Man vs. Nature
– In the book Hatchet, Brian Robeson, a 13-year-old
stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash, must
survive on his own in a harsh environment.
– In the T.V. show Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls conquers
bridges, cliffs, caves, wildlife, and more.
Man vs. Society
– In the Bourne movie series (Bourne Identity, Bourne
Supremacy, and Bourne Ultimatum), Jason Bourne
works to uncover the truth about a government-
sponsored program that brainwashed him in order to
turn him into an assassin.
– In the book To Kill a Mockingbird (which we will read
this fall), lawyer Atticus Finch defends a black man
falsely accused of raping a white woman, even
though he faces resistance from the rest of his racist
town in Alabama.
Man vs. Self
– In the T.V. show Biggest Loser,
people fight their insecurities,
laziness, and bad habits in order to
lose weight and improve their quality
– In the Star Wars movie series, Luke
faces his own temptation to give in to
the anger and hatred of the Dark
– In the movie The King’s Speech, King
George VI of Britain has to overcome
his fear of public speaking in order to
address his country.
Setting tells us where and when a story
Setting may include
– The location of the story
– The time of day
– The time period (past, present, future)
– The weather
The purpose of setting is to
– Provide background and make the story seem real
– Reveal details about a person’s character
– Provide a certain mood, or atmosphere
One way that authors create setting is through
their diction (word choice).
Strong images help develop the setting. (An
image is something that appeals to one of our
five senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste.)
A character is a person in a story, poem,
The protagonist is the central character in
a story, the one who initiates or drives the
The antagonist is the opponent who
struggles against or blocks the hero, or
Characterization is the process of revealing the
personality of a character in a story.
There are six main methods of characterization:
1. Speech: The author lets us hear the character speak.
2. Appearance: The author describes how the character
looks and dresses.
3. Private thoughts: The author lets us listen to the
character’s inner thoughts and feelings.
4. Other characters’ feelings: The author reveals
what other characters in the story think or say
about the character.
5. Actions: The author shows us what the
character does—how he or she acts.
6. Direct characterization: The author tells us
directly what the character’s personality is like:
cruel, kind, sneaky, brave, and so on.
Characters are classified as flat or round, static or dynamic.
A flat character has only one or two traits, and these can
be described in a few words.
A round character, like a real person, has many different
A static character is one who does not change much in
the course of a story.
A dynamic character changes as a result of the story’s
Irony is a contrast between appearance or
expectation and reality.
Verbal irony is a contrast between what
someone says and what that person
actually means, or what is actually true.
EXAMPLE: Zaroff says, “Oh yes . . . I
have electricity. We try to be civilized
here” . . . but he hunts humans.
Situational irony is a contrast between
what is expected to happen and what
– Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter, was killed by a
stingray . . . which is normally harmless.
Dramatic irony is a contrast between what
a character onstage thinks is true and
what the audience knows is true.
EXAMPLE: In The Lion King, Simba
thinks that he is responsible for his father’s
death . . . but we, the audience, know that
Scar killed him.
POINT OF VIEW
Point of view is the perspective from which the writer tells a
First person point of view: One of the characters in the
story tells the story, using first-person pronouns such as
“I” and “we.”
Third-person limited point of view: An unknown narrator
tells the story but zooms in to focus on the thoughts and
feelings of only one character.
Third-person omniscient point of view: An “all-knowing”
narrator tells the story. Instead of focusing on one
character, this narrator can reveal the private thoughts
and feelings of many characters.
POINT OF VIEW
An unreliable narrator is a narrator who
we, as readers, do not trust to tell us the
Potential causes: the narrator’s actions,
motivation, tone (attitude), lack of
education or experience
A theme is the central idea of a story.
The theme of a story is NOT the same as the subject.
The subject can usually be stated in one or two words
(love, war, coming of age).
The theme makes some revelation about the subject.
A fully-developed theme statement should be a minimum
of one sentence.
Sample theme statements:
– Love is the most important gift of all.
– Coming of age is a painful process.
Usually, the theme reveals a truth about human
– EXAMPLE: As one grows old, death becomes less
The theme is usually implied rather than
– The reader must infer what the theme is by looking at
“clues” the writer gives.
Theme usually represents a conflict between
what ought to be and what is.
The reader should always evaluate the theme of
a work—is it true or false?
Helpful Hints: Developing Theme Statements
1. Brainstorm a list of subjects that the work
deals with; then ask yourself, “What does the
work reveal about this subject?”
2. Look for lessons learned by the characters.