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Elements of a Short Story Plot, Character, Setting, Atmosphere, and Style
The Five Elements of a Short Story • Plot • Character • Setting • Atmosphere • Style
Vocabulary Plot – the arrangement of incidents or events in a story; “what happens” in the story. Plot line – a way of visually demonstrating a story’s structure by plotting incidents along a line; plot lines can vary for different forms of fiction
Plot of a Short Story 4 5 6 3 crises 2 1
Plot of a Short Story • Exposition (or Opening Situation) – The reader is informed of the setting and is introduced to the main characters. • Inciting Force (or Complication) – A conflict is usually established between characters. This conflict “gets things started”. • Rising Action – The conflict between characters develops and becomes more pronounced. Involves a series of crises (conflicts).
Plot of a Short Story 4. Climax – The moment of greatest suspense; a point of conflict that will lead to the resolution of the main plot. 5. Falling Action – The result of the outcome of the climactic conflict. Can involve a crisis, but in a short story is usually very short. 6. Denouement (or Resolution, or Final Outcome) – The writer attempts to have the reader leave the story satisfied.
Assignment –Analyze “The Three Little Pigs” In your notebook, draw a plot line. Label the plotline with numbers and dots for the crises. Then, using the numbers as a “key” or guide, explain the plot of “The Three Little Pigs”. Also, jot down (in a couple of sentences) what you think is the author’s intention behind the story. How do you know? You may work with a partner on this.
Plot of “The Three Little Pigs” • Exposition (or Opening Situation) – The three pigs are introduced. Setting is minimal: “Once upon a time”, with talking/personified pigs. It is time for the pigs to go out into the world and seek their fortunes, so they leave home. • Inciting Force (or Complication) – The big bad wolf discovers the first pig in his house of straw, and wants to eat him. • Rising Action – The wolf visits the house of straw and the house of sticks, blows them down and eats the piggies (these are the crises).
Plot of “The Three Little Pigs” 4. Climax – Failing to blow down the brick house, the wolf tries a different tactic to get into the house. The wolf climbs down the chimney and dies. 5. Falling Action – The surviving pig invites his mother over, and she reinforces the lesson the pig (and reader) learned. 6. Denouement (or Resolution, or Final Outcome) – The pig learns his lesson and lives “happily ever after!”
“On the Sidewalk Bleeding” Plot POP Quiz! Outline the plot of the story using a plot line.
Test Answers: Sidewalk Plot • Exposition (or Opening Situation) – The boy Andy, protagonist, is introduced as wearing a purple silk jacket with The Royals on the back and his name on it. • Inciting Force (or Complication) – Stabbed ten minutes because he was a Royal. • Rising Action – As he lay dying, he encounters different people who don’t save him for various reasons. 1. Drunk man—doesn’t understand. 2. Young Couple—don’t want to be involved. 3. Elderly Woman—hearing issues.
Test Answers: Sidewalk Plot 4. Climax – “It seemed very important that he take off the purple jacket”. He takes it off despite much trouble. 5. Falling Action – Andy says “I’m Andy”, dies, Laura finds him, cop pronounces him dead, calls him a royal. 6. Denouement (or Resolution, or Final Outcome) – Laura: “His name is Andy”. But cop writes: “A Royal”.
“The Michelle I Know” Crossroads 10 pp. 16-23. Complete “Responding to the Story” and “Story Craft: Plot” chart p. 23.
Vocabulary Noun – a person, place, thing, or idea Adjective – a word that describes or limits a noun Verb – an action word Adverb – a word that describes how a verb is done; usually ends in -ly
Plot and Conflict Our lives are full of conflict. Likewise, the lives of characters are full of conflict. Think of a story as a look at a conflict and its resolution (for better or worse!). There is no story without conflict.
Plot and Conflict Really, the plot of a story is literally ALL about conflict. The inciting force and the crises (in the rising action phase), as well as the climax are all conflicts of some sort. (Note: There can be minor conflicts in the falling action, but in a short story these are rare.)
Two Main Types of Conflict There are two main types of conflict: • Psychological Conflict • Physical Conflict
Categories of Conflict Conflict can be categorized as: Internal: Person vs. Herself/Himself OR External: Person vs. Person Person vs. Nature Person vs. Society Person vs. the Unknown Person vs. the Supernatural Person vs. Time
Brainstorm Conflicts Create a character in your mind. Choose his/her name, gender, age, and list a couple of details about him/her. Example: Henry – 23-year-old male construction worker. Loves to travel, has a dog named Rover, oldest of three brothers. Look at the kinds of conflict. For each type of conflict, create TWO examples of that kind of conflict that your character might be involved in. e.g. Person vs. Nature – on the construction site, Henry uncovers a prehistoric creature that tries to kill them all -- Rover is bitten by a rabid mouse and hunts Henry Person vs. Time – Rover is bitten by a rattler, and Henry must get him to a vet in time to save his life. Person vs. the Unknown – Called to a building project in Brazil, Henry’s co-workers start disappearing into the night… and no one knows why…
Divide your page into three equal parts. Beginning Middle End
Brainstorm for each part (15 mins.). In each space, cover the following questions: • Who is involved? • What is happening? • When is it taking place? • Where is it taking place? • Why is it taking place? • How is it happening? + any other details that pop into your head.
PlotOutline a Short Story (Pre-writing) Write an outline for your short story, including notes on the following elements: • Setting – Describe it. • Conflict – Inciting force; main problem. • Rising Action – Briefly describe 3 crises that lead up to the climax. 4. Changes – What changes about the main character from the beginning to the end? • Climax – What will be the point of highest tension? 6. Conclusion – How will it turn out? Have at least a sentence or two for each element.
Drafting Write a first draft of your story. Do the best you can, but do not “obsess” over every detail. Drafts are due TOMORROW. (Your final version of this story will be between 500—700 words.)
Divide your page into three equal parts. What Works What Needs Improvement What Needs Revision
Revising Workshop Swap stories with a classmate. First read: 10-15 mins: Read the story given to you and comment on: • What works really well in the story so far. • What works in the story, but needs some improvement. • What doesn’t work so well, and needs some revision. Second Read: 5-10 mins: • Indicate where you think the story would be improved by adding DIALOGUE. (Indicate it with a large “D?”.) • Wherever you see a NOUN, circle it. • Wherever you see a VERB, underline it.
Revising Workshop Return the Story to the Author for Revision (15-20 mins) • For every NOUN circled, write at least ONE adjective that could go with that noun. For every VERB circled, write at least one ADVERB that could make the image clearer. • Inject DIALOGUE into your story. Go through your story and find places where dialogue would add to the story. Re-write the scene with dialogue included. Remember: The idea of getting peer help is to IMPROVE your writing, not simply to criticize it!
Editing Swap your second draft with a classmate. Peer edit each other’s work. Make reference to the rubric provided. When finished, produce a final draft for publication.
Publish Your final version of this story is due Tuesday, September 27th, at the beginning of class. Include ALL steps from the writing process and include it in your personal journal.
Genre – Science Fiction Science fiction is a broad genre of fiction that often involves one or more of the following elements: • A setting in the future or in an alternate timeline. • A setting in outer space or involving aliens or unknown civilizations. • The discovery or application of new scientific principles or new technology, such as time travel or robots. Science fiction differs from fantasy in that its imaginary elements are usually possible within established laws of nature (although some elements might be entirely imaginative).
Ray Bradbury Ray Douglas Bradbury is an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer best known for The Martian Chronicles, a 1950 book which has been described both as a short story collection and a novel, and his 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.
“A Sound of Thunder” Answer all questions in complete sentences.
1. How is the reader’s interest caught? 2. How does the exposition part of the story set up what is to follow? (setting, main character[s]) 3. What relationship does the material presented in the introduction bear to the conclusion of the story? 4. Describe as many conflicts as you can in the story. For each, label it as a “person vs. _____” conflict, and describe who/what is involved in it. Indicate the page(s) on which the conflict takes place. Try to identify what you think is the MAIN CONFLICT. 5. What is the climax of the story? Why do you think that part is the climax?
6. Paragraph assignment – Hand this in! (MLA) Bradbury’s stories are often thought to contain overt lessons for the reader. That is, one of the goals of this story is to teach, and Bradbury has a certain point of view of which he wants to convince his reader. What do you think is the main lesson or message of the story? In a persuasive paragraph, argue what you think is the message (or messages) being delivered through the story. Use evidence from the story to prove what you say.
The Essay: The Basics To understand the structure of any essay, remember this structure: Say what you are going to say. Say it. Say what you said.
The Essay: The Basics To understand the structure of any essay, remember this structure: Say what you are going to say. (Introduction) Say it. (Body Paragraphs) Say what you said. (Conclusion)
The Essay: The Basics - Paragraphs There are many ways to write paragraphs. For a general rule, follow this formula: Topic Sentence Say what you are going to say. Body sentences Say it (or prove it). Final sentence Say what you said AND/OR transition to the next paragraph.
Expository Essay • You either offer information or explain your point of view on a topic you already know something about. • The five-paragraph essay taught in high school English classes is of this type. • There are two basic types of expository essay: 1. one gives information, and 2. the other defends an opinion.
Expository Essay Basic structure: Paragraph One - Introduction: Announces the topic and builds to a thesis statement in which you state your point of view. Paragraphs Two to Four (or more) – Body Paragraphs: Supporting evidence and reasoned discussion. Final Paragraph – Conclusion: Restates the thesis more emphatically, and suggests wider implications. Do NOT simply summarize!
The 5-Paragraph Essay Introduction Body 1 Body 2 Body 3 Conclusion
Structure of the Introduction General Statement – Talk about the broader topic in general. Linking Statement – Name the text and author. Thesis Statement
Body Paragraphs Make three statements that support your thesis, and provide evidence or proof that supports those statements. These will be three paragraphs of roughly-equal length. They should follow strict paragraph structure, and the evidence you use to back up your topic sentences should be drawn directly from the text whenever possible.
Structure of the Conclusion Re-state Thesis Linking Statement – Name the text and author. General Statement – Talk about the broader topic in general, AND/OR leave the reader with something related to think about.
Notes and Tips • In general, except for in Personal Experience essays, avoid the first-person pronoun, “I”, in your essays. • Any sentence can be re-written to remove the self-conscious “I”, “me”, “mine”. • DO NOT write, “In my opinion,” “I believe”, “I feel”, etc. • NEVER write things like, “In the following essay, I shall try to prove…”, or “In conclusion…”
What is a Thesis? “C” Your thesis is the main point or central idea of your paper. It is the “backbone” of the paper. If you ask the question, “What is the main point of this paper?” your answer should resemble your essay’s thesis statement.
What is a THESIS?!? “C” • The core of an informational writing piece • The central message of the essay; the meaning in a nutshell • A clear, concise statement of what an author is going to say. • An argument with which others may agree or disagree.
A strong thesis… • gives both the reader and writer a sense of direction. • gets readers involved in the “conversation” of the essay – it alerts the reader to look for details, facts, and quotations that support the statement the thesis makes.
Where is your thesis statement? “c” • At the beginning of the essay, in order to: 1) establish your position, and 2) give your reader a sense of direction. • Usually the last line of paragraph #1. • In longer essays, may appear in paragraph #2.
The thesis for this assignment – copy and make changes. Many children’s books are written like short stories, and contain many of the same elements. Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne is a children’s story that demonstrates many short story elements. Plot structure, characterization, and use of flat and round characters to promote theme are important elements of both short stories and Dinosaurs Before Dark.