Elements of a Short Story

Five Elements of Fiction: A story has fi ve basic but important elements. These fi ve components are: Plot, Setting, Character, Point of View, Theme. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

I. Plot

The action that takes place in the story. It is a series of events and their result. In order to have a result, we must have an initial event, or conflict.The plot is a planned, logical series of connected happenings having a beginning, middle, and end. The short story mostly has one plot so it can be read in one sitting. There are five essential parts of the plot:

1) Exposition (introduction) – It is the beginning of the story and it reveals characters, background, and setting of the story.

2) Rising Action – When the events in the story become complicated; the conflict is revealed. These are events between
the introduction and climax.

3) Conflict – It is essential to the plot, opposition ties incidents together and moves the plot. Not merely limited to arguments, conflict can be any of struggle the main character faces. Within a short story, there may be only one central struggle, or there may be many minor obstacles within a dominant struggle. There are two parts of conflict:

i.Internal– It is the struggle within one’s self.

Character vs. Self – Struggles with your own soul, physical limitations, choices, etc.

ii External – It is struggle with a force outside one’s self.

• Character vs. Character – Struggles against other people.

• Character vs. Nature – Struggles against animals, weather, environment, etc.

• Character vs. Society – Struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of others

Climax – It is the turning point of the story. Readers wonder what will happen next; will the conflict be resolved
or not?

Consider the climax as a three-fold phenomenon:

• Main character receives new information.

• Main character accepts this information (realizes it but does not necessarily agree with it).

• Main character acts on this information (makes a choice that will determine whether or not objective is met).

4) Falling action – Resolution begins; events and complications start to fall into place. These are the events
between climax and denouement.

5) Resolution (Conclusion) – Final outcome of events in the story.

II. Setting

Time and location that a story takes place. For some stories, the setting is very important; while for
others, it is not. When examining how setting contributes to a story, there are multiple aspects to consider:

1) Place – Geographical location; where is the action of the story taking place?

2) Time – Historical period, time of day, year, etc; when is the story taking place?

3) Weather conditions – Is it rainy, sunny, stormy, etc?

4) Social conditions – What is the daily life of the character’s like? Does the story contain local colour (writing that focuses on the speech, dress, mannerisms, customs, etc. of a particular place)?

5) Mood or atmosphere – What feeling is created at the beginning of the story? Cheerful or eerie?

III. Character

There are two meanings for “character”:

1) a person in a fictional story; or

2) qualities of a person.

People in a work of fiction can be a(n):

Protagonist – Clear centre of story; all major events are important to this character.

Antagonist – Opposition or “enemy” of the main character.

Characteristics of a character can be revealed through:

• his/her physical appearance

• what he/she says thinks, feels, dreams and what he/she does or does not do

• what others say about him/her and how others react to him/her.

3) Characters can be …

Round – Fully developed personalities that are affected by the story’s events; they can learn, grow, or deteriorate by the end of the story. Characters are most convincing when they resemble real
people by being consistent, motivated, and life-like.

Flat – One-dimensional character.

Dynamic – Character who does go through change and “grows” during a story

Static – Character does not go through a change.

IV. Point of View

The angle from which the story is told. There are several variations of POV:

1) First Person -Story told by the protagonist or a character who interacts closely with the protagonist or other
characters; speaker uses the pronouns “I”, “me”, “we”. Readers experiences the story through this person’s eyes and only knows what he/she knows and feels.

2) Second Person – Story told by a narrator who addresses the reader or some other assumed “you”; speaker
uses pronouns “you”, “your”, and “yours”. Ex: You wake up to discover that you have been robbed of all of your worldly possessions.

3) Third Person – Story told by a narrator who sees all of the action; speaker uses the pronouns “he”, “she”,
“it”, “they”, “his”, “hers”, “its”, and “theirs”. This person may be a character in the story.

There are several types of third-person POV:

Limited – Probably the easiest: POV for a beginning writer to use, “limited” POV funnels all action through the eyes of a single character; readers only see what the narrator sees.

Omniscient– God-like, the narrator knows and sees everything, and can move from one character’s mind to another. Authors can be omniscient narrators by moving from character to character, event to event, and introducing information at their discretion. There are two main types of omniscient POV:

I) Innocent Eye/Naive Narrator – Story told through the child’s eyes; the narrator’s judgment is different from that of an adult.

II) Stream of Consciousness – Story told so readers solely experience a character’s thoughts and reactions.

V. Theme

Central message: The “moral of the story,” and underlying meaning of a fictional piece; may be the author’s
thoughts on the topic or view of human nature.

1) Story’s title usually emphasizes what the author. is saying.

2) Various figures of speech (symbolism, allusion, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, or irony) may be utilized to highlight the theme.

3) Examples of common themes occurring in literature, on television, and in film are:

• Things are not always as they appear to be.

• Love is blind.

• Believe in yourself.

• People are afraid of change.

• Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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