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Elements of a Short Story. OBJECTIVES. Identify elements of a short story Define elements of a short story Demonstrate mastery of short story elements. OVERVIEW. Short stories often contain structural and character elements that should be familiar to you.

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Elements of a Short Story

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Elements of a short story

Elements of a Short Story



  • Identify elements of a short story

  • Define elements of a short story

  • Demonstrate mastery of short story elements



Short stories often contain structural and character elements that should be familiar to you.

These elements can be used as guides to help you think about the actions, themes, and contexts of the story.

Elements of a short story

Elements of a Short Story

  • Plot

    - exposition statement

    - rising action

    - conflict

    - climax

    - falling action

    - resolution

  • Theme

  • Setting

  • Characters

  • Point of view

  • Characterization



  • The main idea of a literary work, usually expressed as a generalization and in sentence form.

  • Example: “Forgiveness is the key to true happiness.”


  • The time and place in which the story is set.


“Characters in the plot connect us with the vastness of our secret life, which is endlessly explorable.” – Eudora Welty


  • The point of writing stories: telling us what human beings are like.

  • Characters allow readers to “see” life from different perspectives and to “meet” new (or familiar) people.



The description of the personalities of the characters in the story and the ways in which authors reveal their personalities:

  • Speech

  • Thoughts

  • Effect on other characters

  • Action

  • Looks


Elements of a short story


  • The sequence or order of events in a story, each event connected to the next like a chain. Each event in a plot “hooks” our curiosity and pulls us forward to the next event.

  • Suspense builds as the series of related events hook our curiosity.

  • The plot includes the following (4) parts:

Types of linear plots

Types of Linear Plots

  • Chronological

  • Flashback

  • In media res (in the middle of things): when the story starts in the middle of the action without an exposition.

Chronological plot diagram



Rising Action


Falling Action



1 basic situation exposition

1. Basic Situation/Exposition

  • Exposition Statement – This is the part of the plot that tells how the story begins. The character, conflict, and setting are usually introduced.

  • Example ~ Cinderella

    The basic situation shows us Cinderella, a beautiful and good heroine, in a conflict with her evil stepmother and nasty stepsisters.

2 rising action complication

2. Rising Action/Complication

  • The part of the story in which the main character takes some action to resolve the conflict and meets with problems or complications: danger, fear, hostility, etc.

  • Example ~ Cinderella

    Cinderella wants to go to the ball. Her stepmother says “No,” but a Fairy Godmother promises to get her to the ball if she obeys one rule: “Be home by midnight.” Cinderella goes to the ball, the Prince falls in love with her, she flees at midnight, and she loses one of her glass slippers.

3 climax

3. Climax

  • Climax: the KEY scene of the story

    That tense or exciting moment when we realize what the outcome of the conflict is going to be.

  • Example ~ Cinderella

    The Prince makes a house-to-house search for the foot that fits the slipper and finds that foot on Cinderella.

4 falling action s

4. Falling Action(s)

  • All of the action which follows the climax

  • Example ~ Cinderella:

    Cinderella and the prince make preparations for their wedding.

5 resolution denouement

5. Resolution/Denouement

  • The final part of the story. (The French word, denouement, means “unraveling the knot”).

  • You learn how the conflict is resolved and what happens to the characters.

  • Example ~ Cinderella

    Cinderella marries the Prince and they live happily ever after. In the original Girmm story, you also learn that ravens peck out the eyes of the evil stepmother.

Conflict struggle

Conflict = Struggle



  • External Conflict:

    Conflict between a character and another person OR a character and something non-human.

    - Man vs. Man

    - Man vs. Society

    - Man vs. Nature



  • Internal Conflict:

    Conflict takes place inside a character’s mind

    Man vs. Himself (fears, self-doubts, etc.)



Now that we have identified and defined the elements of a short story, let us use the elements to analyze the short story by Ray Bradbury, “The Pedestrian”. You may use your notes from the PowerPoint presentation.



Dinneen, K. Elements of the Short Story. Retrieved Jun. 19, 2003, from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute:


Five Elements of a Story. Retrieved Jun. 19, 2003,


Guevin, D. Short Story Elements. Retrieved Jun. 19, 2003,http://www.uvm.edu/~dguevin/Elements.html

Anderson, Robert, Et. al. Elements of Literature. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1989.

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