Guide to Literary Terms

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What are the literary elements of plot, characterization, setting, and point of view?

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Plot is the overall story line of a piece of fiction.  It is what you would talk about if someone asked you what happened in the story.  Plots typically consist of set elements such as rising action, climax and falling action.

Point of view has to do with whose eyes the story is seen through.  Is it a narrator who is detached from the events?  Is it through the point of view of the hero?

Setting has to do with where and when the piece occurs.

Characterization, is the "drawing" of the personality traits of the people involved in the work.  This can be done by a discussion of what the person looks like, or by exploring how they react to certain situations in the plot, or in many other ways.

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booshwatnow | Student

Well there is also resolution, which is when things calm down, and the solution to the original problem, is presented.

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langlan | Student

There are four parts to plot: EXPOSITION (the background information you need to understand the story and introduction of characters) RISING ACTION (the complications that lead to the climax)  CLIMAX (the point of highest reader interest) and the RESOLUTION (how things are resolved).  Some people also say there is a falling action (between climax and resolution), but in modern literature, that is more and more rare. 

There are several types of characterization the two main types are DIRECT and INDIRECT.  DIRECT characterization is when someone in the novel or movie directly state what a character is like.  Example, "That guy is a real jerk!"  INDIRECT characterization can happen lots of ways.  It could be through what someone thinks, or says about someone else, the way someone acts, the way others react to a character, or just through the way a character appears - writers like to play on stereotypes that way. 

SETTING can include the place where the story is happening, the time in which the story is happening, and it can sometimes include the weather.

There are three main points of views.  There's FIRST PERSON: that's when the main character is telling the story.  In these stories you'll notice the story being told from that person's perspective and you'll notice the use of the pronoun "I" and "me" a great deal.  You'll only know what that character is thinking or feeling.  Then there's THIRD PERSON LIMITED: that's when it seems like someone's looking in on the story and telling what's happening to a character.  However, we still don't know what every character is thinking or saying - that's why it's called 'limited.'  You'll notice "he" and "she" used in the telling of the story rather than "I" or "me."  Lastly, there's THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT: this point of view is when the narrator knows everything about every character in the story and shares the information to advance the plot.  The narrator still uses "he" and "she" and also knows what every character is feeling and thinking.  There's also second person, but that is so rarely used that it's not worth going into detail about.

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