Literary Elements Notes


Literary Elements Notes

English I


• • The sequence of events of a story, usually related to the solution of a problem or conflict.

What is it about the stories that we crave? Millions of people everywhere love to see heroes struggle to overcome obstacles. Nobody wants to read a story where the hero achieves his goal in the first scene.

Terms associated with plot

• • Conflict: A struggle between opposing forces, often in the form of complications/obstacles that stand between the hero (protagonist) and his/her goal Types of Conflict: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Beliefs


: The introduction of a story where the author gives any background information, a major character, and/or the setting.

Terms associated with plot (cont.)

• • • Inciting moment: The point at which the reader is first made aware of the central conflict (Rising Action begins here) Climax: The point at which the central conflict of a story is resolved – The hero either wins or loses.


of the story (pronounced: day-new-ma ): when the author ties up the loose ends at the end

Plot diagrams

• A “plot teepee” is a good way to map the events of the story.

• • • •

Plot: Devices used by authors

Suspense: a feeling of anxious uncertainty created by raising questions in the reader’s mind Foreshadowing: hints of what’s to come Flashback: break from current action to past events – Surprise ending: an unexpected outcome cliffhanger


• An idea or insight into life revealed within a story – – – “Man without laws is an animal.” “Coming of age is never easy.” “Life is a journey toward self-discovery.”


• An object, person, or event that represents something else that is usually abstract – The American flag

Types of Symbols

• • • metaphor: A comparison between two objects using “is” – “The media center is an oasis of calm and quiet.” simile: A comparison between two objects using “like” or “as” – “My love is like a red, red rose.” Literary Symbols: – The cat in “The Black Cat” may represent the narrator’s conscience, despair, or alcoholism.


• The author’s attitude toward the characters, situation, and the reader – respectful, sympathetic, challenging, sarcastic, formal, informal, etc.


• Mental pictures that the author creates with words by describing setting, characters’ actions, and other details from a text •


The atmosphere of the story, usually stemming from the details of the setting – dark, depressing, uplifting, joyous, stark, etc.


• The process by which an author introduces and describes the characters in a story

Methods of Characterization

• • • • • An author may develop a character by giving physical description relating the inner thoughts and feelings of a character using dialogue giving the opinions of other characters within the story

Types of Characters

• • • • – Flat characters: Characters we don’t get to know very well.

minor characters – Round characters: Characters we get to know well.

We know their fears, fantasies, history, etc.

Static characters: Characters who do not change within the context of the story Dynamic characters: Characters who change, grow, or develop within the context of the story

Point of View

• • The perspective from which the story is told First Person = When a story is told from the perspective of one of the characters in the story – Uses the pronoun “I.”

Third Person

• When a story is told from the perspective of someone outside the story looking in. – Third person limited: perspective is limited to what one character does, observes, or thinks.

Third person omniscient: the story is told from the perspective of someone who knows and sees all

Dramatic point of view

• • • Objective Story is not told by anyone other than the author. Reader is responsible for interpreting what actions of characters and events of story mean.

Unreliable narrator

• A narrator whose perspective may or may not be trustworthy for any reason (maybe the narrator is crazy). – Poe’s narrators are often “insane.” Can we trust them as witnesses?


• • Where and when a story takes place. Sometimes, we must guess the location or time period of a story from contextual clues, because the author does not tell us. – anachronism: a detail of a story that does not fit the setting • A computer in a Shakespearean tragedy would be out of place.


• • A general name given to literary techniques that involve surprising, interesting, or amusing contradictions 3 Types of Irony – Verbal irony: words are used to suggest the opposite of their usual meaning Ex: Sara gets a horrendous haircut and Jason tells her, “Your hair looks GREAT!”

Types of Irony (cont.)

• • Dramatic irony: a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the audience knows to be true Ex: Readers know main characters die in Romeo & Juliet.

Situational Irony: when an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the reader.

Ex: Olympic swimmer drowns in bathtub.

What is Suspense?

• • • • The tension and nervous uncertainty that some stories generate Keeps you guessing and turning pages wondering about the outcome Writers create suspense by withholding key details or hinting at events to come (foreshadowing) Can also create suspense by using vivid details to draw you into the tension of the moment