Elements of a Novel remember p. A. C. T. S

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Elements of a Novel


Plot: The plot is how the author arranges events to develop his/her basic idea; it is the sequence of events in a story of play. The plot is a planned, logical series of events having a beginning, a middle, and an end. (Remember: initial incident, rising action, climax, resolution/dénouement.)
Atmosphere: The mood or feeling that the story evokes in the reader. In a novel this may vary.
Characters: Persons in a work of fiction. The main character is known as the protagonist. The main opposing character is known as the antagonist. In order for a novel to seem real to the reader, its characters must seem real. Characterization is the information the author gives the reader about the characters themselves. That author may reveal character in several ways:

  • physical appearance;

  • what s/he says, thinks, feels, and dreams;

  • what he or she does/does not do;

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

There are several different types of characters:

    • Major: a character that plays a critical or important roles in the story;

    • Minor: a secondary character that is often used to help develop a major character;

    • Flat or Round:

Flat characters can be described with one or two traits or characteristics

Round characters have complex and multi-sided personalities

    • Static or Dynamic/Developing

Static characters do not change throughout the course of a novel

Dynamic characters under a permanent change from beginning to end

Topic and theme: A topic is a single word or phrase describing what the story is about. A theme is a complete statement or idea about what the author has to say on the topic. Normally a theme will be the author’s attempt to do one of the following:

  • teach a lesson about right and wrong;

  • teach about how people generally behave;

  • give practical advice about the safest or smartest way for a person to behave;

  • ask questions about things in life that people normally take for granted;

  • show how like would look from another point of view;

  • suggest that people question their accepted ideas or values.

Theme analysis: What generalization about life does a story illustrate? What lesson is the reader supposed to get? What is the message? To what emotion has the author appealed? Why has s/he tried to arouse this particular emotion?
Setting: Time (era) and place (location). A novel may take place over a long or short period of time, and move from place to place. Settings are chosen carefully for their effect. Some novels have a universal setting, where a specific time and place is not indicated, to make the story less likely to become dated and to focus attention on other elements; others use very specific settings to comment on a particular society.


Conflict: Conflict is essential to plot: Without conflict there is not plot! Conflict is the opposition of forces which tie one incident to another and makes the plot move forward. There are two types of conflict: external and external.

  • External Conflict: A struggle with forces outside one’s self. There are three basic types:

    • Person vs. person – conflict that pits an individual against another person

    • Person vs. nature – conflict that pits a person against the forces of nature be it the landscape, weather, animals, or other natural forces. On the one hand it expresses the insignificance of any one individual in the cosmic scheme of things, while on the other it tests the limits of a person’s strength and will to live.

    • Person vs. society – the values and customs by which everyone else in the society lives are challenged. The character may come to an untimely end because of his or her convictions. The character may, on the other hand, bring others around to a sympathetic point of view, or it may be decided that society was right after all.

      • Internal Conflict: A struggle within one’s self. A person must make some decision, overcome pain, quiet their temper, resist an urge, etc. Does a character give in to temptation or rise above it? Does s/he demand the most from herself or himself, or settle for something less? Does the character even bother to struggle?

Point of View:

First Person: The narrator is a character in the story who can reveal only personal thoughts and feelings and what he or she is told by other characters. He or she cannot tell us the thoughts of other characters. We can tell first person by the use of the pronouns “I”, or “We.”

Third Person Objective: The narrator is an outsider (i.e. not a character within the story) who can report only what she or he sees and hears. The narrator can tell us what is happening, but cannot enter the minds of any characters and tell us their thoughts.

Third Person Limited: The narrator is still an outsider, but can enter the mind of one character.
Omniscient: Omniscient means “all-knowing.” An omniscient narrator is one who is an all-knowing outsider who can enter the minds of more than one or even of all the characters.


Symbolism: A person, place, or object which has a meaning in itself but suggest other things as well – a suggestion other than the obvious literal meaning. Often times symbolism involves a commonplace item or character “standing in” for a much bigger idea or abstract concept.
Foreshadowing: An author’s use of hint or clues to suggest events that will happen later. It is not always obvious, and sometimes events are only hinted at by dialogue, description, or tha attitudes and reactions of characters.
Flashback: A technique for presenting a scene that had happened earlier to help explain the current situation.
Types of Endings: A novel can conclude in various ways, including:

  • Summary/Wrap-up ending (a conclusive outcome)

  • Open ending (inconclusive – one is not quite sure how things will turn out)

  • Ironic twist (the unexpected happens; a surprise)

  • Anti-climactic (a ‘light’ ending; somehow less than expected)

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