Elements of Literature Notes I. Characters

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Elements of Literature Notes

I. Characters= story’s actors

A. Main Character= character at the center of a story’s


B. Minor Character= less important character

C. Dynamic Character= character that grows or changes

as the plot unfolds

D. Static Character= character who remains the same

throughout the story

E. Flat Character= character who has only one or two key personality traits and can be described in a single sentence

F. Round Character= character who is more complex,

fleshed out; there are more sides to this character’s

personality than can be described in a single


G. Stock Character= person who fits a preconceived

notion about a “type” (examples: villain, hero, damsel in distress, mad scientist)

H. Protagonist= main character in a story

I. Antagonist= character or force that conflicts with the


II. Characterization= development of characters

A. Direct Characterization= tells readers directly what a character is like (example: narrator’s comments)

B. Indirect Characterization= shows readers what a character is like

1. Physical description; appearance

2. Speech

3. Private thoughts; feelings

4. Motives (reasons why a character acts as he/she does; what causes behavior)

5. Actions

6. Speech, action, thoughts, feelings of other


7. Effect on other characters

III. Conflict= struggle between or within characters

A. External Conflict= conflicts caused by something

outside the character

1. person against person

2. person against nature

3. person against machine

4. person against society

5. person against supernatural beings

B. Internal Conflict= conflict caused when a person

1. struggles with something inside his own heart or

IV. Plot= chain of related events that take place in a story;

“framework” of the story

  1. Exposition (Basic Situation) = provides needed

background information; presents a character in a

situation that contains the possibility of action

B. Rising Action (Complication)= develops the basic

situation; the conflict intensifies

C. Climax= the most tense or exciting part of the story, the turning point of the action, when something happens to decide the outcome of the conflict

D. Falling Action (Denouement)= the action after the climax; conflicts are often resolved
V. Setting= when and where the story action takes place

VI. Atmosphere= mood or feeling in a story

  1. Theme= insight or idea about human life and human

nature that gives meaning to a story; central message in a work of literature

* What is a theme?

1. A theme must be stated in at least one complete


2. A theme must be expressed as a generalization about

life or human nature.

3. A theme should explain the whole story, not just parts

of it.

4. A theme is not the same as a moral.

* How is a theme determined?

1. Ask how the protagonist has changed during the

story OR

2. Think about the story’s title or statements in the story

that point to the writer’s view of the world or human


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