Working With Fiction

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					Working With Fiction
 When you read a story, you probably
  don’t consciously think about what the
  author went through to construct the text
 Looking for the creative elements in a
  work should help you understand the
 One of four types of composition
 Purpose is to recount events
 Two forms:
     Simple narrative – recites events
      chronologically as in a newspaper account
     Narrative – less often chronological and
      arranged according to the nature of the plot
      and the nature of the story being told
 The kinds of words, phrases, sentence
  structures, and figurative language that
  constitute any work of literature
 Writer’s diction can be analyzed under many
       Vocabulary and phrasing abstract or concrete
       Latin or Anglo-Saxon in origin
       Colloquial or formal
       Technical or common
       Literal or figurative
 Literally the collection of images in a literary
 Patterns of imagery, often without the
  conscious knowledge of the author or reader,
  are sometime taken to be keys to a deeper
  meaning of a work
 Some critics see “image pattern” as being the
  basic meaning of the work and a better key to
  interpretation than the explicit statements of
  the author or the more obvious events of plot
  or action
 The expression of a literary speaker’s attitude
  to his listener
 The way we speak reveals, by subtle clues,
  our conception of, and attitude to, the things
  we are talking about
 Tone may be critical or approving, formal or
  intimate, outspoken or reticent, solemn or
  playful, arrogant or prayerful, angry or loving,
  serious or ironic, condescending or
  obsequious, and so on through numberless
  possible nuances
        What does the title tell you? How does it
         prepare you for what’s to come? (Ex. “Happy
         Endings” by Margaret Atwood)
        Does it reveal anything about the time, setting,
         or characters in the work? (Ex. “A Souvenir of
         Japan” by Angela Carter)
        Is the title an allusion? Does it refer to
         something outside the work? (Ex. “My Oedipus
         Complex” by Frank O’Connor)
        Is the title conveying a belief or value
         judgment? (Ex. “Marriage is a Private Affair”
         by Chinua Achebe)
       What do you know about the author?
       Where is he or she from?
       When did the author live? Are the cultural or
        moral values of that period reflected in the
       Based on what you know about the author,
        what significant experiences in their education
        or personal life do you think may have
        contributed to this story?
      Does the story deal with moral or social issues?
      How do I feel about these issues?
      What do the actions of the characters reveal about human
      What does the story reveal about certain types of
      How do I feel about what’s going on in the story? Do I feel
       angry, sad, hopeful, or anxious?
      Are there any words or phrases in the story that sound like a
       message or an idea about the lives of the characters or about
       real life? If not, can I think of a concise (one to two sentences)
       way to explain the message or meaning to someone who
       hasn’t read the work?
      Can other elements such as tone, setting, atmosphere, and
       language help me understand the meaning of the work?
Characters and point of view
       What do I know about the characters? Where are they from?
        What are their ages?
       Are they directly involved with the action of the story or are
        they observing events and relaying them as they occur?
       Do I know how the characters feel? Who is telling me about
       Is the person telling me about the characters and events
        reliable or unreliable?
       What are the characters struggling for or against?
       Which characters contribute the most to the story through their
        words or actions?
       Which characters contribute the least?
       Which characters change and which stay the same?
       How do I feel about the characters? Can I relate to them? Do I
        feel sympathy for them?
          How does the story begin?
          Does it begin in the middle of an event?
          Is there little or no action at the beginning? If so, what
           happens to escalate or jump-start the action?
          How does action progress throughout the story.slowly,
           moderately, or quickly?
          Does the action seem to be leading to a confrontational
           or tense moment?
          Who or what does the conflict or struggle involve?
          Is it a philosophical conflict or a conflict within the mind
           of one character?
          Is it between characters, society, or nature?
          What steps are taken to resolve the conflict? How
           (does) it get resolved?
          Am I happy with the ending? Why or why not?
Setting, tone, and atmosphere
       Where does the story take place?
       When does the story take place?
       What might the place and time of the story reveal about
        the character’s values, motivations, and actions?
       Can I detect the author’s tone or attitude toward the
        characters, the setting, or the events?
       How would I describe the environment or atmosphere in
        the story? Is it cheerful and positive, depressing and
        negative, or does it vary?
       How are the elements of setting, tone, and atmosphere
        related to the theme of the story? In other words, does
        the message being conveyed seem to fit with the time
        and place?
       Does the emerging theme surprise me, given the
        atmosphere of the story?
Language and Imagery
       How would I describe the diction in the story? Is it formal
        or informal?
       How would I describe the speech of the characters?
        Does it reveal their regional, educational, or class
       How are the setting and atmosphere described?
       Is the language descriptive?
       Do I have a picture of the characters and the setting in
        my head?
       Does the author rely on figurative language, such as
        metaphors, symbols, or personification? What about
        allusions or irony?
       What is the overall affect of the language in conveying
        the theme?

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