Guide to Literary Terms

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What are the elements of a short story and what do they do?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Check the links below to view a diagram and powerpoint on this.  A visual might help you to understand the elements of a well-constructed story.  You asked what they do...they form the story itself.  The setting "sets" the scene.  It helps with the mood and tone the author is attempting to convey as well as the reader's interpretation of events which happen there.  It includes the place and time where the story takes place.  Setting may be given all at once or a little at a time in fragments/pieces as you read.  The plot is the story itself--what happens?  Why does it happen?  What factors build the story? The plot could not happen without conflict--both internal and external--which are the problems that arise which must be solved.  Internal conflicts are decisions that need to be made by one or more characters; external conflict is stuff outside the character--weather, enemies (human, nature, or otherwise), rabid dogs, paranormal appearances, and anything the character doesn't really control.  The problems are introduced in the exposition, worked on in the rising action, reach the summit of importance in the climax, and are solved in the resolution.  Between the climax and the resolution is the falling action in which loose ends are tied up and issued introduced in the story are more clearly understood.  While reading a story, think about the main ideas or themes also.  You can find these by saying ____ (story title) is a story about _____ (theme).

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rshaffer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are basically 6 elements to a short story:

1.  Setting: Time and location of when and where the story takes place.  Often significant in understanding the short story. Items to consider:  geographical location, historical period, social conditions, mood.

2.  Plot:  Arrangement of events to develop the author's basic idea.  It is the sequence of the story with a beginning, middle, and end.

  • Introduction: where characters and setting are revealed
  • Rising Action: where the conflict is revealed
  • Climax: highest point of interest and the turning point
  • Falling Action: where conflicts begin to resolve themselves
  • Denouement: the final outcome or untangling of events

3.  Conflict: essential to plot.  Two types: external- struggle with force outside self (man vs man, man vs circumstances, man vs society); internal- struggle within oneself (man vs himself)

4.  Character: Antagonist and Protagonist; establishes characteristics of a person. Dynamic- change for better or worse; Static- stereotype, never change

5.  Point of View: angle from which the story is told. 1st person told by protagonist, omniscient told by narrator to know what all characters are feeling and thinking etc.

6.  Theme: main idea in a story, usually a shared view of the author

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